Former Deputy Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh Kameng Dolo has lost a legal battle in the Supreme Court, which rejected his plea against a Gauhati High Court order holding his election from Pakke-Kessang assembly constituency in 2014 as void. Dolo, who was a candidate of Congress party in the assembly polls, had moved the apex court against the high court’s February 8 judgement allowing the election petition of then BJP nominee Atum Welly, whose candidature for the election was allegedly withdrawn.
Dolo was the deputy chief minister of the state in the Kalikho Pul government in 2016. Dolo and Welly were the only two candidates who had filed their nominations for the election.
During the poll campaign, Welly was informed about the withdrawal of his nomination which was also displayed in the website of state election commission. Following this, Dolo was elected unopposed from the constituency. Welly had thereafter approached the high court, which had then held that the March 15, 2014 election was materially affected and declared its result as void under the provision of the Representation of the People Act.
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In its verdict, the apex court had observed that “illegal acceptance” of withdrawal of candidature for election has the potentiality to destroy the base of democracy and if this was done in transgression of the statutory provision, it would tantamount to “sacrilege of democracy”.
“We are disposed to think so, when in transgression of the statutory provision, a candidate’s candidature is allowed to be withdrawn, it will tantamount to sacrilege of democracy. That is why mandate of section 37 of the (RP) Act (relating to withdrawal of candidature) has been so carefully worded,” a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and A M Khanwilkar said.
“The legislature has taken pains to provide safeguards, since illegal acceptance of withdrawal has the potentiality to destroy the base of democracy and corrode its primary roots,” the apex court said, adding, “there is no merit in this appeal and the same stands dismissed”.
The bench also observed that the legislature has provided a number of safeguards before exercising the authority for acceptance of withdrawal of a candidate.
“The language employed in section 37 of the Act is absolutely plain, unambiguous and unequivocal. It only admits of a singular interpretation.
“It is because the intention of Parliament is that due care and caution has to be taken in letter and spirit so that no confusion is created. The issue of alert and careful exercise gains more significance when there are two candidates and that too from two national parties,” the apex court said.
In his plea before the high court, Welly had contended that the provisions of section 37 of the RP Act was complied with as prescribed format for withdrawal of candidature had not been delivered by him, his proposer or his poll agent.
Dolo had contested his petition in high court claiming that the BJP candidate was himself instrumental in withdrawing the candidature and the returning officer had found Welly’s signature in the withdrawal form to be genuine.