Chennai: The Madras high court has upheld the validity of Rule 67 (1) © read with Rule 67 (2) © of the Tamil Nadu Panchayats (Elections) Rules, which provides for selection of winning candidates through draw of lots if two or more candidates secures equal number of votes.
The First Bench comprising Chief Justice A.P.Sahi and Justice Subramonium Prasad dismissed the petition filed by K.Devadoss, which sought to declare as null and void, Section 67 (1) © of the Tamil Nadu Panchayats (Elections) Rules, 1995.
According to petitioner, the election for the office of President of Adaiyur Village Panchayat in Tiruvannamalai district was held on December 27, 2019. There were five candidates. The petitioner and M.Kalaivani got 906 votes each resulting in a tie. The Returning Officer took recourse to Rule 67 (1) © read with Rule 67 (2) © of the 1995 Rules and drew a lot. The lot fell in favour of Kalaivani and accordingly she was deemed to have received an additional vote and consequently she was declared elected as President of the Village Panchayat, he added.
Petitioner’s counsel M.Radhakrishnan contended that a rule that surrenders itself to chance, instead of any rational procedure informed by reason, ought not to be followed and the only best option open was to hold a re-election. If votes have been cast in favour of the candidates in equal measure, then creating an imbalance by a legal fiction, that too which was irrational, was violative of Article 14 of the Constitution, he added.
State Government Pleader V.Jayaprakash Narayanan contended that the results of election cannot be challenged by taking recourse to and under the cover of a challenge raised to the vires of a Rule, which the petitioner had already acquiesced. If the statute provides for adopting a procedure which was equally advantageous to the petitioner and Kalaivani, it cannot be said to be so irrational so as to make it unacceptable, he added.
The bench said the Rule ensures that the drawing of lot ends in the selection of one candidate. There was, therefore, a predictability with the certainty if the selection of one candidate out of the two. Such an elimination process through a legal contrivance cannot be said to be a sheer gamble that culminates either in a mishap or a hazard. One of the candidates may, upon the turn of events after a lot has been drawn, experience a disappointment, but the same was not failure of democracy, the bench added.
The bench said it was true the voters have the right to decide and not a government officer. The decision was, however not by the government officer but was in accordance with the Rule, the lot whereof was drawn as per the procedure prescribed. The officer, therefore, has no role except to evidence the draw of lot. The lot was being drawn amongst the two names of the candidates who have secured equal number of votes. There was no third intervention. The outcome of the draw may give rise to a possible sense of injustice or a feeling of a defeat to one candidate in spite of having secured an equal support of the voters, but this exercise was merely a ranking of an option amongst the two candidates who had garnered an equal support. This legal option was neither abhorrent to reason nor can be termed as purely imaginative, in as much as it involves a physical selection of two real names of candidates who have secured equal number of votes. “To our mind, the legislature is empowered and legally competent to devise such a method, which can neither be termed as unjust nor arbitrary, so as to attract the wrath of Article 14 of the Constitution of India, the bench added.
The bench said in the instant case, the petitioner himself took a chance of facing the draw of lots and having failed to secure the lot in his favour, has now challenged the very Rule that provides for drawing of lots. This challenge has been raised after elections. “We find no merit in the contention that Rule 67 (1) © read with Rule 67 (2) © of the 1995 Rules is ultra vires either to the provisions of the Act or to the democratic principles of the holding of an election by exercise of right of franchise or even ultra vires Article 14 of the Constitution of India”, the bench added.