(1)In this petition, issues Nos. 1 (a) and 1 (b) have been argued by the parties as preliminary issues. These issues are : -
1(a). Is the affidavit filed by the petitioner defective?
(b) If yes, is the petition liable to be dismissed?
2. The facts, which are not required to be stated in detail, in this case are that the respondent No.1 Ramu son of Mhatang Patel, was elected from the Melghat (S.T.) Assembly Constituency No. 110 at the General Elections to the State Legislative Assembly held on 5th March 1972. The petitioner, who claims to be an elector in the said Constituency, has filed this election petition challenging the election of the respondent No.1 on the ground that the respondent No.1 was guilty of corrupt practices under Section 123(4) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (hereinafter referred to as the Act). This election petition is filed under Section 80 of the Act . Section 83 of the Act deals with the contents of an election petition, and under the proviso to sub-section (1) of Section 83, where the petitioner alleges any corrupt practice, the petition is also required to be accompanied by an affidavit in the prescribed form in support of the allegation of such corrupt practice and the particulars thereof. The form of the affidavit is prescribed under Rule 94-A of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 (hereinafter referred to as the Rules). This rule provides that the affidavit referred to in the proviso to sub-section (1) of Section 83 shall be sworn before a magistrate of the first class or a notary or a commissioner of oaths and shall be in Form 25. Form 25 requires statements to be made by the deponent showing which parts of the statements in the petition are true to the personal knowledge of the deponent and which parts of the statements regarding the particulars of corrupt practices are true to his information. The petitioner in this petition has filed an affidavit along with the petition in which he has stated that the statements made in paragraphs 4, 6 and 7 of the accompanying petition about the commission of corrupt practices were true to his personal knowledge, while those made in paragraphs 8 to 11 about the same were true to the information received by him and believed to be true. One of the contentions raised by the respondent No.1 in his written statement filed in reply to the allegations made in the election petition is that the affidavit filed by the petitioner is defective and, therefore, the petition should be rejected without making any inquiry into the allegations with regard to corrupt practices. In view of this contention, the issues which are now being tried as preliminary issues were taken up at the instance of the respondent No.1 and I have heard arguments of the parties on these issues.
3. The learned counsel appearing for the respondent No.1 contends that the affidavit filed by the petitioner is defective because it was necessary for the petitioner to state the source of information and the grounds of belief on the basis of which the averments with regard to the corrupt practices are made in the petition and were believed by the petitioner to be true. IT is not disputed that the affidavit which is filed is in full compliance with the requirements of Form 25 prescribed under the Rules; but what is contended is that though the form does not require the source of information and the grounds of belief to be disclosed in the affidavit, the petitioner was duty bound to disclose these in view of the provisions of Order 19, Rule 3 of the Code of Civil Procedure. Order 19, Rule 3 (1) provides that affidavits shall be confined to such facts as the deponent is able to his own knowledge to prove except on interlocutory applications, on which statements of his belief may be admitted, provided that the grounds thereof are stated. This contention is based on the decision of the Supreme Court in Virendra Kumar Saklecha v. Jagjiwan, : 3SCR955 on which the respondent No.1 has placed heavy reliance, and according to the learned counsel for the respondent No.1, the observations made by the Supreme Court in paragraph 14 of the judgment in that case must be read to mean that in all cases even though the form prescribed by the Central Government under the Rules does not require the source of information to be disclosed, the provisions of Order 19 Rule 3 of the Code of Civil Procedure require the disclosure of such information, and where such information is not disclosed there cannot be said to have been any compliance with the provisions of Section 83 of the Act. Since the contention is founded on the decision in Saklecha's case, : 3SCR955 , it is necessary to refer to the facts of that case.
4. In an election petition the High Court of Madhya Pradesh had held Saklecha guilty of corrupt practice under Section 123(4) of the Act with reference to certain speeches made by him. He was also held guilty of corrupt practice under Section 123(3) and Section 123(2) of the Act. In appeal before the Supreme Court it appeals that one of the contentions raised was that the affidavit filed by the election petitioner before the High Court did not disclose the source of information in respect of the speeches alleged to have been made by the successful candidate. While noticing this contention the Supreme Court referred to Rules 7 and 9 framed by the Madhya Pradesh High Court in respect of election petitioners. Rule 9 of the Madhya Pradesh High Court Rules stated that the Rules of the High Court shall apply in so far as they are not inconsistent with the Representation of the People Act, 1951, or other rules, if any, made thereunder or of the Code of Civil Procedure in respect of all matters including inter alia affidavits. Rule 7 of the Madhya Pradesh High Court Rules stated that every affidavit should clearly express how much is a statement and declaration from knowledge and how much is a statement made on information or belief and must also state the source or grounds of information or belief with sufficient particularity. The Supreme Court took the view that the High Court Rules gave effect to the provisions of Order 19 of the Code of Civil Procedure, and though Form 25 of the Conduct of Election Rules required the deponent to state which statements were true to knowledge and there was no specific mention of the source of information in the form, the form of the affidavit and the High Court Rules were not inconsistent. In other words, the Supreme Court held that the requirement of Rule 7 of the High Court Rules under which it was necessary to disclose the source of information was not inconsistent with Form 25. Then the Supreme Court discussed the importance of setting out the source of information in affidavits and after referring to some of the decisions of the Supreme Court, it was observed that in A. K. K. Nambiar v. Union of India, : 3SCR121 it was held that the importance of verification was to test the genuineness and authenticity of allegations and also to make the deponent responsible for allegations. Thus far there is no doubt that the Supreme Court was dealing expressly with the requirements of Rules 7 and 9 of the Madhya Pradesh High Court Rules. The learned counsel, however, relies on the observations in paragraph 14, from which he wants to spell out the proposition that in every case though the sources of information are not required to be disclosed by the Form 25, they must be so disclosed as required by the provisions of Order 19 of the Code of Civil Procedure. In paragraph 14 of the judgment the Supreme Court was dealing with the contention that non-disclosure of sources of information in the affidavit was a fatal defect and that the petition should not have been entertained. In paragraph 14 the Supreme Court observed :
'Counsel on behalf of the appellant contended that non-disclosure of the sources of information in the affidavit was a fatal defect and the petition should not have been entertained. It is not necessary to express any opinion on that contention in view of the fact that the matter was heard for several months in the High Court, and thereafter the appeal was heard by this Court. The grounds or sources of information are to be set out in an affidavit in an election petition. Counsel on behalf of the respondent submitted that the decisions of this Court were not an election petitions. The rulings of his Court are consistent. The grounds or sources of information are to be set out in the affidavit whether Code applies or not. Section 83 of the Act states that an election petition shall be verified in the manner laid down in the Code. The verification is as to information received. The affidavit is to be modeled on the provisions contained in Order 19 of the Code. Therefore, the grounds or sources of information are required to be stated.' Now, it is no doubt true that in the concluding part of this paragraph the Supreme Court has observed that the affidavit is to be modeled on the provisions contained in Order 19 of the Code and, therefore, the grounds or sources of information are required to be stated. But on a careful reading of this judgment it appears to me that these observations must be read in the context of the earlier observations in paragraphs 11 and 12 of the judgment. In the case before the Supreme Court the rules made by the Madhya Pradesh High Court positively required the statement about the source or grounds of information or belief when the affidavit in support of an election petition was to be filed. It was because of the positive rules made by the Madhya Pradesh High Court that it was found that an additional requirement in addition to the contents of the form prescribed was to be satisfied by the deponent before the affidavit could be said to be proper.
5. Admittedly, there are no such rules prescribed by the Bombay High Court. The subject of filing the affidavit along with an election petition is not covered by any of the rules which are made by this Court for purposes of dealing with election petitions under the Act. The only additional requirement is contained in Rule 5 and that rule provides that every election petition shall, in addition to the contents required by the Act, contain information as to the date of election of the returned candidate or if there be more than one returned candidate at the election and the dates of their election are different, the later of the two dates and shall also show that the election petition is within time as prescribed in Section 81 of the Act. Under the Act the Legislature had left it to the Central Government under Section 169 to make rules for carrying out the purposes of the Act. So far as the procedure before the high Court regarding the trial of election petitions was concerned, under Section 87 of the Act every election petition is required to be tried as nearly as may be in accordance with the procedure applicable to the trial of suits; but this is made subject to the provisions of the Act and the Rules made thereunder. If the Central Government which was the rule making authority had intended that the deponent must disclose the source of information as required by the Code of Civil Procedure, then nothing prevented it from making an express provision to that effect in Form 25. The absence of any requirement to disclose the source of information in Form 25 clearly indicates that if the affidavit was made in the prescribed form without disclosing the source of information, the proviso to Section 83(1) must be treated as complied with.
6. It may be pointed out that the affidavit which is required to be filed along with the election petition is not intended to be used as evidence as is contemplated by Order `9, Rule 3 of the Code of Civil Procedure. It provides that where an affidavit is made in support of an interlocutory application, the affidavit containing a statement of his belief may be admitted provided the grounds for that belief are stated. The purpose appears to me to be obvious that on interlocutory applications certain matters are required to be decided on the basis of statements which are made in the affidavits because evidence is not recorded for deciding interlocutory matters normally. The purpose of being required to file an affidavit in support of an election petition is however, entirely different. The main purpose for requiring an affidavit to be filed in the case of an allegation of a corrupt practice being made is to prevent wild allegations of corrupt practices being made against the successful candidate, so that some restraint is exercised on the person making those allegations because the deponent is liable to be prosecuted in case those allegations are found to be false. Thus, the affidavit filed in support of an election petition is not intended to be treated as evidence of the facts stated in the affidavit itself because ultimately the election petition is decided on the evidence recorded by the High Court. Thus, it appears to me that in view of the fact that no mention is made in the form prescribed by the Central Government and the purpose which the affidavit is intended to serve when it is required to be filed along with an election petition, the failure to disclose the source of information does not render the affidavit in any way defective.
7. There is another reason why I am inclined to take this view. Section 86 of the Act provides that the High Court does not comply with the provisions of Section 81 or Section 82 or Section 117 of the Act. The affidavit is required to be filed by the proviso to sub-section (1) of S. 83, because that is the only provision which expressly refers to an affidavit in support of the allegations of corrupt practices. If it was intended that an affidavit which does not disclose the sources of information should be treated as no affidavit at all, with the result that the election petition itself is rendered incompetent, that would have been a defect for which the Legislature would have provided for dismissal of the election petition. The failure to comply with Section 83 does not entail any consequence in the nature of dismissal or for the matter of that, the consequences are not set out anywhere in the Act at all. Mr.Deshpande, however, contends that the requirement of the affidavit in order to make the petition a valid one is essentially a requirement of Section 81 itself and, therefore, the failure to file a proper affidavit must be treated as a defect in the presentation of the petition, and Section 86 will in such a case be attracted. Section 81 is marginally headed as 'Presentation of petitions.' It provides for the presentation of an election petition to the High Court and the period of limitation is stated, and the grounds on which the election may be challenged are also stated. The contents of the petition are, however, separately dealt with independently in Section 83, and it is a part of the provisions regarding the contents of the petition that the proviso regarding affidavit is included and that is restricted only to the averments regarding corrupt practices. Whether a petition complies with Section 83 or not cannot be decided with reference to Section 81 at all. Thus, the Legislature clearly intended that even if there is a defect in complying with any of the provisions of Section 83, the petition was not liable to be rejected. Thus, apart from the fact, that there is no defect in the affidavit since it complies with Form 25, though it is not necessary to decide the second contention raised by Mr.Deshpande, namely, that the petition is liable to be rejected, if necessary, the finding is that the petition is not liable to be rejected.
8. The view which I am taking in supported by certain observations in the very case on which Mr.Deshpande relied namely, Saklecha's case, : 3SCR955 . In that case, the Supreme Court observed in paragraph 15 :
'The non-disclosure of grounds or sources of information in an election petition which is to be filed within forty-five days from the date of election of the returned candidate, will have to be scrutinised from two points of view. The non-disclosure of the grounds will indicate that the election petitioner did not come forward with the sources of information at the first opportunity. The real importance of setting out the sources of information at the time of the presentation of the petition is to give the other side notice of the contemporaneous evidence on which the election petition is based. That will give an opportunity to the other side to test the genuineness and veracity of the sources of information. The other point of view is that the election petitioner will not be able to make any departure from the sources or grounds, if there is any embellishment of the case it will be discovered.'
Now when the Supreme Court observed that the non-disclosure of the grounds indicated that the petitioner did not come forward with the sources of information at the first opportunity, it appears to me that it was implied in those observations that the sources of information could be disclosed later.
9. I may usefully refer to a decision of the Supreme Court in which it was held that failure to disclose the sources of information and the grounds of belief in the verification clause or the affidavit is not a fatal defect. That view was taken by the Supreme Court in Murarka Radhey Shyam v. Roop Singh, : 3SCR573 . One of the defects in the verification of the election petition which was pointed out to the Election Tribunal was that though the verification stated that the averments made in some of the paragraphs in the petition were true to the personal knowledge of the petitioner and the averments made in some other paragraphs were verified to be true on the basis of advice and information received by the petitioner from legal and other sources, the petitioner had not stated in so many words that the advice and information received was believed by him to be true. The Election Tribunal took the view that the defect in verification was matter which came within Clause (c) of sub-section 91) of S. 83 and the defect could be removed in accordance with the principles of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. Originally the provision which permitted dismissal of an election petition for non-compliance with certain provisions was Section 90 (3) which provided that the Tribunal shall dismiss an election petition which does not comply with the provisions of Section 81, Section 82 or Section 117 notwithstanding that it has not been dismissed by the Election Commission under Section 85. Section 81 dealt with presentation of petitions; Section 82 dealt with parties to the petition; and Section 117 dealt with deposit of security. The contents of the petition were dealt with in Section 83. Clause (c) of sub-section (1) of S. 83 provided that an election petition shall be signed by the petitioner and verified in the manner land down in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, for the verification of pleadings. The Election Tribunal in that case had held that the defect did not attract sub-section (3) of S. 90 inasmuch as that sub-section does not refer to non-compliance with the provisions of Section Section 90 (3) as a ground for dismissing an election petition. The Supreme Court referring to this view of the Tribunal, observed in paragraph 8 : 'We agree with the view expressed by the Election Tribunal.' The Supreme Court then pointed out that originally sub-section (4) of S. 90 referred to three sections, namely, Sections 81, 83 and 117, and it provided that notwithstanding anything contained in Section 85 the Tribunal might dismiss an election petition which did not comply with the provisions of Section 81, Section 83 or Section 117. Section 90 was then amended by Act 27 of 1956. As amended sub-section (3) provided that the Tribunal shall dismiss an election petition which does not comply with the provisions of Section 81, Section 82 or Section 117 notwithstanding that it has not been dismissed by the Election Commission under Section 85. Having regard to the fact that Section Section 90 (3) was omitted from the provision which enabled dismissal of the election petition, the Supreme Court observed :
'It some clear to us that reading the relevant sections in Part VI of the Act, it is impossible to accept the contention that a defect in verification which is to be made in the manner laid down in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, for the verification of pleadings as required by Clause (c) of sub-section (1) of S. 83 is fatal to the maintainability of the petition.'
In the same case, another argument which was advanced was that an election petition under Section 81 must comply with the provisions of Section 83, and unless it complied with those provisions it was not an election petition under Section 81. This argument was also rejected.
10. It is really not necessary to refer in detail to some decisions which are cited on behalf of the petitioner. I might, however, refer to two decisions. The first one is the decision of the Division Bench of the Rajasthan High Court in Satish Kumar v. Election Tribunal, in which the Division Bench observed :
'The Legislature also considered it proper that the Central Government should be prescribed the form of affidavit so that the petitioner may be able to present affidavit in that form. This does not, however, mean that if an affidavit substantially complies with the form prescribed it must be thrown out simply because it does not tally with the prescribed form in immaterial particulars.' In that case, though certain paragraphs of the election petition were stated to be true and correct to the personal knowledge of the patina, with regard to paragraph 5 he had stated that 'the contents of para No.5 and its sub-paras (a) to (f) are verified as true partly on the basis of my personal knowledge and partly on the basis of the information gathered from my workers.' The argument was that this part of the affidavit was not in order and that the election petitioner should have stated clearly which facts were true to his personal knowledge and which he believed to be true on the basis of the information gathered from other persons. The election petitioner was permitted to file another affidavit and the High Court declined to interfere with the discretion exercised by the Election Tribunal in permitting the filing of another affidavit in the prescribed form according to law.
11. The Allahabad High Court has gone a little further and has held that even though an affidavit does not accompany the election petition, the affidavit could be allowed to be filed later on by the Election Tribunal to whom the election petition was sent for trial. In Brij Mohan v. Z. A. Ahmad, : AIR1964All523 the Division Bench held that it was not mandatory that the affidavit required by the proviso to Section 83(1) should accompany the election petition when the petition was presented before the Election Tribunal to receive the affidavit when the petition had been transferred to it for trial, and hence the election petition could not be dismissed on the ground that the affidavit as required by Section 83(1) proviso did not accompany the petition but was filed later before the petition came on for trial. The Allahabad High Court also considered the absence of mention of Section 83 in Section 90 which was the section parallel to section 86.
12. In the view which I have taken issue No.1 (a) is answered in the negative. So far as issue No.1 (b) is concerned, the finding is : 'Does not arise. If necessary. No.' The trial of the petition will not proceed further.
13. Order accordingly.