Thursday, February 22, 2024

Manipur High Court disposes PIL seeking rectification of voter lists shifted to another constituency

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The Manipur High Court disposed of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed seeking direction to the respondents to rectify the voter lists that were shifted to another/different Constituency by renaming the village names, as per the Delimitation Act, 1972 and the report of the Delimitation Commission 1973.

The case of the petitioners is that the voter lists of Horton, Soraland, Phyngton, Leihaopokpi, Risophung and Ngarumphung villages are either shifted/placed wholly or partly under different village by renaming the said villages and their voting rights were shifted to differentConstituency which is in contradiction to the Delimitation Act, 1972 and the report of the Delimitation Commission, 1973.

According to the petitioners, the authorities and some individuals, without following due process of law for their political gain, have intentionally misused the power of public office and have acted against the Delimitation Act, 1972 by shifting the voters of one village to another village by renaming the village and have transferred the voters under different Assembly Constituency which is not recommended by the Delimitation Commission.

On 11.11.2021, the first petitioner has sent a legal notice, followed by a representation dated 20.11.2021 to the first respondent for rectification of the illegal transfer of voters from one Constituency to another Constituency by renaming the village name and by placing one village voters in two villages. Despite receipt of the representation and the legal notice, the respondents have failed to take any steps till date. Hence, the petitioners have filed the present petition.

The Division Bench of Acting Chief Justice MV Muralidaran and Justice A. Guneshwar Sharma have considered the rival submissions and also perused the materials available on record.

According to the petitioners, Horton village, which is under 46- Saikul (ST) Constituency Part No.51 in respect of Legislative Assembly election was renamed as Nambashi Horton and Horton Vaiphei and voters are shifted to 43-Phungyar Constituency Part No.42; Soraland, which is under 46-Saikul (ST) Constituency Part No.52 after renaming as Shungriphai, all the voters are shifted to 43-Phungyar Constituency Part No.42; Phungton village, which is also under the Saikul (ST) Constituency was renamed as Chakama and shifted the voters to 43-Phungyar (ST) Constituency Part No.42; Leihaopokpi village was renamed as K.Leihaoram and shifted the voters to 43-Phungyar (ST) Constituency Part No.42. Thus, according to the petitioners, the respondents have illegally renamed the above mentioned villagers and shifted the voters of the said villages to the new villages without notifying or without consent of the voters and against the intention and spirit of the Delimitation Act, 1972.

It is also said by the petitioners that on 20.11.2021 they have submitted a representation for rectification of the transfer of voters from one Constituency to another Constituency and the said representation has not been considered till date.

On the other hand, the respondents contend that the representation of the petitioners dated 20.11.2021 was considered and a decision thereon was communicated to the petitioners on 12.8.2022 and the same has been referred to by the respondents.

On a perusal of the communication dated 12.8.2022, the Bench noted that pending petition only the representation has been considered and disposed of. Though the representation of the petitioners is dated 20.11.2021, the respondent authorities have taken almost 9 months to take decision on the representation. Since the representation of the petitioners has been considered by the respondents, the plea of the petitioners that the representation of the petitioners has not been considered has no legs to stand.

In the affidavit-in-opposition filed by the first respondent (The State of Manipur) , it has been stated as under:

“12. That with regards to the averment made in the para no. 11 it is humbly to submit that the answering Respondent have not indulged in any kind of illegal or inappropriate renaming of any of the villages. It may be pertinent to place before the Hon’ble High Court that there were ethnic Clashes in earlier part of 1990’s and as a result of the said clashes many villagers had to be shifted and relocated for security reason to difference places. Perhaps this may be some good reason how this new location might have come under Ukhrul District (prior to bifurcation) and subsequently those displaced newly migrated voters might have applied for inclusion in new Assembly Constituency.”

The counsel for the petitioners submitted that the socalled ethnic clashes erupted during 1990’s between certain communities in Manipur has nothing to do and no connection with the issues raised in the present public interest litigation. Therefore, the same requires no discussion. For security reason, the villagers in the earlier part of 1990 might have shifted and relocated to different places. However, the same is not a matter to be considered in the present litigation.

“There is always a room for objection to the inclusion and deletion of the name from existing electoral list under the Electors Registration Rules, 1960 and also the Representation of People Act. Any aggrieved electors or voters may approach the concerned officials for ventilating their grievances before approaching the Court, as there are remedies available with the voters. Admittedly, the affected voters are not before us. The petitioners are stated to be the social activists who are working for the welfare of the general public. For the reason that the petitioners have taken the cause in public interest, particularly for the people whose voting rights are alleged to have been misused, they have not exhausted the remedy available and filed the present public interest litigation. Nothing has been produced by the petitioners to show that the present public interest litigation has been instituted after exhausting the remedies available under the relevant law.”

As rightly argued by the Government Advocate, any voter, as and when shifted to a new place of residence, has to get himself registered in his new place of residence as per the provisions of the Representation of People Act and the Electors Registration Rules, 1960. The process of registration of electors is carried out after following due process of law and the rule contained in the related election law , held by the High Court.

In view of the above, the Court is of the considered view that if someone is aggrieved by inclusion or deletion of new elector in a particular village, there is enough scope and provision to make objections. In the absence of any materials, it cannot be said that the respondent authorities and the officials of the Election Commission of India have acted contrary to the provisions of law, as alleged by the petitioners.

According to the petitioners, the delimitation is the act of redrawing boundaries of Lok Sabha and State Assembly seats to represent changes in population. In this process, the number of seats allocated to different States in Lok Sabha and the total number of seats in a Legislative Assembly may also change. The main objective of delimitation is to provide equal representation to equal segments of a population and it also aims at a fair division of geographical areas so that one political party does not have an advantage over others in an election.

The respondents contended that all the boundaries of State Assembly as well as the Parliamentary Constituencies in the State of Manipur set up are still intact and unmodified and there has not been any deviation or alteration of boundaries. Nothing has been produced by the petitioners before the Court to show that the boundaries have been altered and/or changed.

Since the aggrieved person in regard to the inclusion or deletion of new elector in a particular village has scope and provision to make objection and the fact remains that without approaching the concerned authorities ventilating their grievances the petitioners have approached this Court, the Court directed the petitioners or the affected voters to approach the concerned authorities as may be permissible under law to redress their grievances. Exercising jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, the High Court cannot issue any direction to the respondent authorities to include and/or to delete the voters from the particular village as prayed for by the petitioners

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