A single bench of the Manipur High Court on Friday set aside Dr Lorho S Pfoze's election as Outer Manipur MP following mistakes in his nomination paper and declared BJP candidate Houlim Shokhopao Mate @ Benjamin of the BJP as the new MP (Outer).
The order passed by Justice MV Muralidaran while allowing Benjamin Mate's petition declared Dr Lorho Pfoze's election as null and void.
An election petition was filed by the H S Mate @ Benjamin under Section 100(1)(d) (i) &(iv) and under Section 100(1)(b) of the Representation of People Act, 1951 (the RP Act) to declare that the election of Lorho S Pfoze from 2-Outer Manipur (ST) Parliamentary Constituency to the 17th Lok Sabha, 2019 as null and void and to declare him as the duly elected member in the 17th Lok Sabha, 2019 from 2-Outer Manipur (ST) Parliamentary Constituency under Section 101 of the RP Act.
Benjamin challenged the election of Lorho stating that during scrutiny, the Returning Officer of 2-Outer Manipur (ST) Parliamentary Constituency abruptly and improperly accepted the nomination papers of Lorho on March 21, 2019.
Benjamin pointed out that Lorho kept Column 5 of Para 4 of the affidavit in Form 26 dated 21.03.2019 as blank; gross total value disclosed by him at Para 7-A(ix) is incorrect; material information pertaining to his non-agricultural lands and other interest in immovable properties at Para 7-B (ii) and (v) despite owning immovable properties; failed to disclose the relevant details for showing a sum of Rs 1,12,50,000 at Para 7-B (vi); false information at Para (9B)(f); falsely shown Rs. 3,24,704 and Rs 2,20,648 respectively at Part-B, Para (11)8(A) for the candidate and his spouse; particulars shown at Para (11)8B(iii)(b) of Part B, as the first respondent disclosed only a sum of Rs 80,00,000 being the value of the inherited immovable property at Part A, Para 7B(iv).
The High Court after perusal of the affidavit in Form 26 of Dr Lorho found that Lorho kept Column 5 of Para 4 of the affidavit blank. Further in Para 7-A(ix), he has not correctly disclosed the gross total value for himself and his spouse. Similarly, in Para 7-B(ii) and (v), he failed to disclose information about non-agricultural lands and other interest in immovable properties.
Further, Lorho failed to disclose the relevant details for showing a sum of Rs 1,12,50,000 at Para 7-B (vi). He has also furnished false information in Para (9B)(f). Lorho falsely showed Rs 3,24,704 and Rs 2,20,648 respectively at Part-B, Para (11)8(A) for himself and his spouse. False particulars are shown at Para (11)8B(iii)(b) of Part B, as the first respondent disclosed only a sum of Rs. 80,00,000 being the value of the inherited immovable property at Part A, Para 7B(iv), the Court found.
The High Court noted that it is pertinent to point out that the provision of RP Act provides for filing of maximum four nomination papers, but as per Section 33A of the RP Act read with Rule 4A and that the candidate is required to file a duly sworn affidavit under Form 26 along with the nomination papers containing true and correct facts along with complete information, which cannot be different. The four nomination papers must be accompanied with the same affidavit under Form 26, the Court stated.
In the case on hand, as stated supra, Lorho left column 5 of para 4 of the affidavit in Form 26 dated 21.3.2019 blank, which was also admitted by the first respondent in his evidence. Acceptance of such unfilled and/or blank affidavit by the Returning Officer is against the provisions of law and also amounts to improper acceptance.
As per the instructions of the Election Commission of India, a separate bank account, exclusively for the purpose of election expenditure, is required to be opened to facilitate monitoring of the election expenditure. The officially uploaded affidavit in Form 26 of the petitioner is dated 21.03.2019. Thus, it is clear that on the date of filing of the nomination papers, i.e., March 21, 2019, no bank account was opened by Lorho. It clearly proves that he has violated the notification dated 15.10.2013 of the ECI.
Lorho admitted that the separate bank account for election was opened only on March 24, 2019 after an affidavit in Form 26 was submitted on March 21, 2019 and that he violated the ECI notification. That apart, he did not maintain his election expenditures as per the instructions/guidelines of the ECI, the court said.
“A candidate is not free to spend as much as he likes in the election. The law prescribes that the total election expenditure shall not exceed the maximum limit prescribed under Rule 90 of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961. For the State of Manipur in the 17th Lok Sabha Election, 2019, a candidate can spend up to Rs.70 lakh”, stated the HC.
Dr Lorho’s expenses of Rs 74,13,218, which is beyond Rs70 lakh as prescribed by the ECI, is clearly beyond the permitted limit, the HC stated.
From the oral and documentary evidence, it is clear that the Returning Officer improperly accepted the nomination paper of Dr Lorho. It is the duty of the RO to check whether the information required is fully furnished at the time of filing of affidavit with the nomination paper since such information is very vital for giving effect to the right to know of the citizens.
It is also clear that the affidavit which was said to be accepted by the RO has not been uploaded in the official website of the ECI as mandated under law. Additionally, the non-dissemination of the affidavit in Form 26 dated 25.3.2019 through the website materially affected the election of Dr Lorho.
The HC opined that Lorho has violated the instructions/notification/guidelines of the Election Commission of India and the mandatory provisions of the RP Act in committing illegality in the election expenditures and also exceeded the maximum limit for expenditures as prescribed.
The act of Dr Lorho would amount to corrupt practice and therefore, it materially affected the result of the election of 2-Outer Manipur (ST) Parliamentary Constituency to the 17th Lok Sabha, 2019 as the affidavit in Form 26 filed by Lorho suffers from the defects of substantial character.
Lorho got 3,63,527 votes and Benjamin got 2,89,745 votes. The next person securing highest votes among contesters in the election is ThangminlienKipgen (National People’s Party) with 1,52,510 votes. The first respondent was declared as elected member of 2-Outer Manipur (ST) Parliamentary Constituency in the General Election to 17th Lok Sabha, 2019. The difference between Benjamin and Thangminlien Kipgen is 1,37,235 votes.
There were eight candidates in the fray, the claim of Benjamin to declare him as an elected member cannot be denied for the reason that among all the candidates contested, Benjamin secured the highest votes after Lorho, the Court said.
Consequent findings by the HC stated that the election of Dr Lorho is declared null and void and that Benjamin is entitled to be declared as elected member of 2-Outer Manipur (ST) Parliamentary Constituency in the General Election to the 17th Lok Sabha, 2019.