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V.R. Sreerama Rao Vs. Telugudesam, a Political Party and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectElection
CourtAndhra Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Case NumberWrit Petn. No. 4331 of 1982
Judge
Reported inAIR1983AP96
ActsConstitution of India - Articles 14, 29(1) and 226; Constitution of India (Sixteenth Amendment) Act, 1963 - Sections 3 and 4; People Act - Sections 123(3); Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 - Sections 153A; Criminal Law Amendment Act
AppellantV.R. Sreerama Rao
RespondentTelugudesam, a Political Party and anr.
Appellant AdvocateK.G. Kannabhiran, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateN. Chandramouli and ;K. Subrahmanya Reddy, Advs.
Excerpt:
.....with either on grounds of patriotism or law. the petitioner's argument that the use of the word telugu desam' arouses chauvinism and sectarian tendencies and helps to propagate secessionist ideas clearly runs counter to the very basis of the constitution of these states. the love for telugu language is inforn for them. the great vijayanagar emperor sri krishna devaraya accalimed it as the best among our languages. haldane found telugu to be technically the best equipped to be the lingua franca of our country. any movement, even a political movement for revival of love for such an ancient and hallowed language cannot, even applying the narrowest of standards of a bigoted vision, be adjudged as sectarian or secessionist. we have seen that the constitution of a regional party with its..........is to promote the all-rounded development of the telugu people. with that objective in view, the telugu desam decided to contest the state assembly elections. for that purpose it applied to the election commission of india new delhi, for the allotment of an election symbol. no individual either on his own or as a candidate of a political party can contest elections to the parliament or to the state legislatures without the contestant's name appearing on hte ballot paper. but in a largely illiterate country like ours, where voters can neither read nor write, appearance of a candiate's name on ballot paper would not help to ascertain the preference of the illiterate voter. voters' preferences can only be shown through their choice of election symbols. the possession of a symbol has thus.....
Judgment:
ORDER

1. N. T. Ramarao, the wellknown Telegu film star has recently formed a political party called 'Telegu Desam'. The avowed objective of this party as it can be gathered from the material papers filed in this case is to promote the all-rounded development of the Telugu people. With that objective in view, the Telugu desam decided to contest the state Assembly elections. For that purpose it applied to the Election commission of India New Delhi, for the allotment of an election symbol. No individual either on his own or as a candidate of a political party can contest elections to the parliament or to the state Legislatures without the contestant's name appearing on hte ballot paper. But in a largely illiterate country like ours, where voters can neither read nor write, appearance of a candiate's name on ballot paper would not help to ascertain the preference of the illiterate voter. Voters' preferences can only be shown through their choice of election symbols. The possession of a symbol has thus become necessary for contesting the elections. In fact, elections in our conditions, have become a battle for symbols. Under Article 324 of the Constitution and under the Election symbols (Reservation and Allotment) order 1968, the power to allot appropriate election symbols to the contesting candidate belongs to the election commission.

2. Now the petitioner, calling himself the president of a political party called 'sarvodaya congress' has filed this writ petition, opposing the allotment of any election symbol by the election commission to the telugu Desam. In a democratic society all public offices are open to all citizens to occupy and service to the people through public office is an honoured avocation. From the times of the Greeks nothing is valued by a democratic society more than the citizens's right to participate in political life. Yet the petitioner opposes the grant of an election symbol to telugu Desam on the ground that Telugu Desam preaches chauvinism and propagates successionist tendencies. In para 3 of his affidavit, the petitioner says:

'I am certainly agianst the promotion of chauvinism, propagation of sectarian ideas which invariably lead to senseless violence and the creation of illusions in the minds of the public that a state organied on purely linguistic basis can solve all multifarious problems arising at a given time in the society'.

Similarly in para 4 of his affidavit, the petitioner says that 'he is opposing the grant of an election symbol to the Telugu Desam on the ground that granting of an election symbol to the Telugu Desam would be contrary to the letter and spirit of the 16th constitutional Amendment Act 1963 and he consequential amendments made to articles 86 and 173 of the Constitution, and the forms of oath required to be taken by those elected to the parliament and to the state Legislature and also to section 153-A of the Indian penal code and section 123 clause 3 of the Representation of the people Act the petitioner in support of these allegations, stated that Sri N. T. Ramarao made a public speech on 11-4-1982 appealing to the majority linguistic group of the state while addressing a mammoth public gathering at Hyderabad. On that basis the petitioner prays that this Court should restrain the Election commission from allotting any election symbol to Telugu desam.

3. Mr. N. T. Ramarao has filed a counter-affidavit wherein he denied the right of the petitioner to sue him in this Court. He also denied the petitioner's allegations characterising them as wholly unfounded and baseless. He asserted that the Telugu Desam does not draw any distinction between the various linguistic denominations and he also said that Telugu Desam never preaches or propagates secessionist tendencies. According to him, the objectives of his party are not to secede from the rest of the country, but only to promote the welfare of the people of Andhra pradesh without reference to their linguistic or ethnic compositions. While admitting that his party as a regional party intends to devote itself exclusively for the Welfare of the people of Andhra pradesh he justifies it on the ground that the people on Andhra Pradesh require such an undivided attention from his party. He also stated that the formation of Telugu Desam as a regional party is fully in harmony with and is also agreeable to the federal principle which is a part of the basic structure of our Constitution. The examples of Muslim Mazlis in the uttar pradesh Akali league in the punjab and kerala congress in kerala are cited to show that regional parties, which are based even on entirely narrow sectarian considerations of caste and religion are already in the electoral field recognised by the Election commission as political parties with election symbols allotted to them Sri. Ramarao denied the relevancy of section 123 of the Representation of the people Act, or section 153-A of the penal code or the 16th constitutional Amendment to the decision in this case sri Ramarao finally stated that ' I have formed Telugu desam a political party as I wanted to serve the people and the state at large.'

4. The Election commission in tis formal counter opposed the grant of any relief to the petitioner.

5. Considering the fact that the issues raised by the writ petitioner are of paramount public importance to the democratic functioning of our society and taking into account the recent trends of law funnelled by several Court decisions freely upholding the right to sue as inhering even in those whose proprietary rights or personal interests are not directly affected, I reject the preliminary objection of Sri. N. T. Ramarao to the maintainability of this writ petition. The writ petitioner claims to be the president of a political party called 'Sarvodaya congress' and it undoubtedly appears to me that he is interested in a clean public life. He is not a mere interloper. The English Court of Appeal in Black Burn v. Attorney General, (1971) 2 All ER 1830 upheld the petitioner's right to sue complaining against the treaty of Rone signed by the British Government similarly the canadian Supreme Court in Thorson V.A.G. of canada, AIR 1974 SC 1281, upheld the applicant's right to sue on the ground that the litigation involved in that case related to the constitutional invalildity of a Federal statute. Our own Supreme Court in the recent judge's Transfer case : [1982]2SCR365 accorded standing even to the members of the bar to complain against the judges' transfer although those who were directly and immediately affected by such transfers are the Judges themselves. Following these recent trends in the constitutional law, I uphold the right of the applicant to file this application.

6. The next question and the more importance question in this case in whether the Election commission has the legal authority to refuse to allot election symbol to Telugu Desam and whether this Court can interdict the Election commision from according appropriate election symbol to Telugu desam.

7. It must be noted here that what the petitioner is asking for is virtually to debar the candidates of Telugu desam from contesting the forthcoming elections. It this Court accedes to the petitioner's request and directs the Election commission that it should not grant an election symbol to Telugu Desam or its candidates. It amounts to holding that the Telugu Desam should be debarred from contesting the elections. Passing of such an order will have serious constitutional repercussions, denying to the supporters of Telugu Desam an opportunity and a right to contest the elections as Telugu Desam candidates or even to vote for Telugu Desam the question is whether such a power to debar a political party from contesting elections exists under the Constitution in the election commission or any other authority so long as that particular party is not declared as an unlawful association.

8. Both in territorial dimensions and cultural diversity, India is undobutedly a huge sub-continent. The founding fathers of our Constitution having taken full note of the basic fact of this political and social life, refused to constitute India into a unitary state Instead they constituted India into a Union of states. They have thereby accorded constitutional recognition to the federal principle as applicable to our polity. Accordingly they distributed power and authority belonging to the entire indian people between a central Government and several federal units. According to that federal principle the Constitution divided all matters of legislative importance between the Union and the federal Units called the states, guaranteeing relative autonomy in their respective fields. Although in this arrangement the major share of legislative Jurisdiction, authority and power are given over to the union of India, yet those matters of minor importance, which the Constitution thought should be left to the units are allotted to the states which are the federal units. But what is important for our present purpose is the fact that the Constitution recognised the autonomy and independence of the federal units in those matters of legal importance given over to the federal units and left those matters to be governed and managed by the units of the federation called the states. The parliament, representing the whole nation has constituted many of the federal units, called states, principally on the basis of language. In order to give effect to this policy of creating federal units on the basis of language, the parliament has even dismembered the existing federal units without reference to the grounds of administrative convenience, but acting solely on the grounds of linguistic homogeneity. The states of Andhra pradesh, karnataka kerala and Maharashtra all owe their origin only to the implementation of this policy of linguistic division of this country into federal units. From the above two things two things follow. One is that local matters of state interest are intended to be dealt with locally. The second therefore, follow that the formation of a regional political party exclusively concerned with the state subjects and wholly devoted to the well-being of the people living within the territory of one such federal unit and based upon the particular language of that federal unit, cannot be found fault with either on grounds of patriotism or law. The same language divided and the same federal principle accepted and acted upon by the Constitution and the parliament cannot be denounced as chauvinistic or sectarian contrary to the Constitution When applied by section of our people in forming a regional political party concerned with the regional problems of the federal unit. The petitioner's argument that the use of the word Telugu Desam' arouses chauvinism and sectarian tendencies and helps to propagate secessionist ideas clearly runs counter to the very basis of the Constitution of these states. The formation of a regional political party under a federal Constitution should be considered as a legitimate political activity. The formation of such a regional political party wholly or partially devoted to the problems of a federal unit national political issues must be taken to have been envisaged and approved by the federal principle which underlie over Constitution. It follows, therefore, the Telugu Desam cannot be denied the allotment of an election symbol on any one of the two grounds that either it is a regional politcal party or it is based on appeal to telugu sentiment or Telugu language for its political support. It may be mentioned that in the candian Federation, the organisation of the co-operative commonwealth Federation party' mainly confined to the Western province of sasketchewan or the organisation of the social credit party mainly confined to the western province of Alberta or the organisation of the parti Quebecois in the French province of Quebec are never thought to be unlawful or antinational nor were they denied the right to contest the elections. The petitioner's opposition to the grant of an election symbol to the Telugu Desam cannot therefore be supported on principle or authority or history.

9. The petitioner's contention that the very use of the telugu desam excites passions of sectarianism and feelings of secession and is, therefore opposed to the spirit though not to the letter of the 16th constitutional amendment is a thoroughly misconceived observation of the Telugu political and social history. Telugus are one of the oldest living on this sub-continent. Their modes of living and mores of political activity are informed by a long historic continuity. Their history of sacrifice in the cause of the country's freedom is not easily excelled in this country. Their language is one of the treasures of ht Indian literary history preaching patriotism and social responsibility the praise of such settled and ancient institutions is not likely to lead the Telugus astray not to any disturbance of an ancient nation's basic equilibrium. The love for Telugu language is inforn for them. Who is there that is not thrilled and enthralled by the music of telugu poetry and the melody, purity and precision of Telugu phonetics? The westerners hailed it as the italian of the East. The great vijayanagar Emperor sri Krishna devaraya accalimed it as the best among our languages. The famous Tamil bard Bharathiyar sang the beauty of its diction. Rayaprolu subba rao, one of the narbingers of the modern Telugu poetry invoked God's help to make telugu as his mother tongue in his rebirth. J.B.S. haldane found Telugu to be technically the best equipped to be the lingua franca of our country. Any movement, even a political movement for revival of love for such an ancient and hallowed language cannot, even applying the narrowest of standards of a bigoted vision, be adjudged as sectarian or secessionist. The argument advanced by the petitioner that adoption of any linguistic name per se constitutes a violation of the spirit of the 16th constitutional Amendment and the consequential amendments brought about in the penal code and the Representation of the people Act should therefore, be rejected.

10. The 16th Constitutional amendment Act 1963 seeking to preserve, promote and maintain theintegrity and sovereignty of the nation no doubt amended sub-clauses (2), (3) and (4) of ARt. 19 and the form of oath prescribed to be taken by those appointed or elected to public offices. The broad effect of these constitutional amendments is to arm the state with authority to curtail and restrict the citizen' rights to free speech his right to assemble and his right to form associations, in the interests of nation's sovereignty and intergrity.

11. The legal effect of S. 123(3) of the Representation of the people Act, (3) of the Representation of the people Act, 1951 is to forbid a candidate at an election to canvass electoral support on the basis of language. The legal effect of S. 153-A of the penal code is to make it an offence for any one to promote feelings of enmity or hatred between different language groups.

12. On the basis of the above provisions of law. The petitioner argues that formation of Telugu Desam per se falls within the mischief of those provisions of law. This argument appears to me wholly misconceived.

13. Neither the 16th Constitutional Amendment nor the consequential statutory amendments made to the criminal law nor to the electoral laws have got the legal effect of proscribing the formation of any such regional political party or making of appeals for electoral support on the basis of one's own language. We have seen that the Constitution of a regional party with its objectives confined to the limits of a federal unit are clearly supportable by the abovenoted federal principle under which the powers are divided between the Union and the states and that the Constitution of such regional parties cannot be objected to even on the basis of language. We must not forget that the Constitution has always recognised and still recognises even to this day in Art. 29 clause (1) Indian citizen's right to conserving one's own language is to enlist political support for that cause. Political appeals made for conserving one's language either at the time of elections or before them or after clearly fall within the protection of Art. 29 clause (1) of the Constitution which is itself a part of the Gundamental Rights chapter. It follows, therefore that appeals made for resurgence of Telugu language or rejuvention of Telugu culture cannot be forbidden or proscribed so long as Art. 29 clause (1) continues to be a part of the fundamental rights chapter. Nor can the 16th constitutional Amendment which has nothing to do with that Article 29(1) be understood as authorising the forbidding of the exercise of a right guaranteed in absolute terms by art 29 clause (1) to conserve one's own language. What the Constitution has given in such absolute terms by one part of its Fundamental Rights chapter could not have been intended by implication to be taken away by another part of the same Constitution should be read together and harmoniously. Even if an intractable language is found to have been used preventing such a harmonious reading making the squaring up of the assertion of fundamental right with its denial, the courts, in my opinion should considering the paramountcy of the Fundamental rights, uphold the assertion of the Fundamental Right given in absolute terms. It follows, therefore, that Article 29 clause (1) must be given predominance over the 16th constitutional Amendment even if it is held that the 16th Amendment whittles down art. 29(1) of the Constitution. Accordingly any political movement, even those started solely for rejuvenation and resurgence of one's own language cannot so long as Art. 29(1) continue to be a fundamental right, be regarded as amounting to an infraction of the laws of our land Even otherwise it appears to me that the real purpose of the 16th Constitutional Amendment and the consequential provisions is not to forbid all election appeals based on language as such. Section 123 Cl. (3) of the Representation of the people Act, 1951 in any opinion, should be understood in the light of the 16th constitutional Amendment and the prohibition contained in S. 123 clause (3) of the Representation of the people Act should be read as applicable only to such language appeals that endanger the integrity of the nation. On my finding that ordinary appeals for rejuvenation of Telugu language and Telugu culture cannot imperil the nation's integrity, it must be held that the language of S. 123(3) of the Representation of the people Act lends no support to the petitioner's argument. In fact the entire argument of the petitioner, in my opinion is based on a false hypothesis that language appeals made at elections per se are forbidden by the 16th constitutional Amendment the criminal Law Amendment which is concerned with the maintenance of public tranquillity lends even much less support tot he petitioner's argument the petitioner relied upon. Kultar singh v. Mukhitar singh. : [1964]7SCR790 and the observations of Gajendragadhk C.J. made in the case. That is a case where S. 123 Clause (3) of the Representation of the people Act was invoked by the unsuccessful candidate against the successful candidate on the ground that the successful candidate made appeals based on religion at the time of elections. The observations of the Supreme Court must be understood in that context. There is a clear distinction drawn by the Constitution itself guaranteed to profess practice and propagate religion on the one hand and in the matter of a fundamental right guaranteed conserving one's own language on the other hand. While the former right guaranteed by Art. 25 clause (1) is given in relative terms, the latter right guaranteed by Art 29 Cl. (1) is given in absolute terms. Article 25 clause (1) has nothing to do with a right to make communal appeals at the elections. In my opinion Art. 25 Clause (1) does not enable the successful candidate in Kultar singh's case : [1964]7SCR790 to say that the defeated candidate was not a true sikh. This is so because such a statement cannot be regarded as forming part of the religious freedom guaranteed by Art 25 Clause (1) of the Constitution. In my opinion therefore Kultar singh's case (supra) affords no authority for holding that appeal on the basis of language can per se be unlawful. It is clear that Constitution provides for a different rule in the case of language. Para 17 of the judgment in Kultar singh's case (supra) itself notes the posibility of this difference.

14. In Jagdev singh v. Pratap singh, : [1964]6SCR750 , this position is made clear. The Supreme Court while ruling on the inter se relationship of the prohibition contained in S. 123 clause (3) of the Representation of the people Act against making any election appeals based on language on the fundamental right guaranteed by art 29 clause (1) to conserve one' own language observed (at p. 188):

'By S. 123 which was introduced for the first time in its present form by Act 40 of 1961, appeal by a candidate or his agent to vote or refrain from voting for a person on the ground of language is made a corrupt practice. This clause must be read in the light of the fundamental right which is guaranteed by Art. 29(1) of the Constitution, for in ascertaining the true meaning of the corrupt practice, the area of the fundamental right of citizen must be kept in view. The clause cannot be so read as trespassing upon that fundamental right. Art 29(1) of the Constitution has thereby conferred the right among others to conserve their language upon the citizens of India. Right to conserve the language of the citizens includes the right to agitate for the protection of the language political agitation for conservation of the language of a section of the citizens cannot therefore be regarded as a corrupt practice within the meaning of S. 123(3) of the Representation of the people Act. Unlike art. 19(1) Art 29 strictions. The right conferred upon the section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof to conserve their language script or culture is made by the Constitution absolute'.

According to the above judgment the corrupt practice based upon a language appeal under S. 123 of the Representation of the people Act can only be committed when an appeal to vote or not to vote is made on the basis of language and an appeal for the resurgence of a language or culture can never becomes a corrupt practice.

14-A. Further the provisions of the Representation of the people Act or the criminal law amendment Act would apply only to those particluar individuals who commit those forbidden acts. They have nothing to do either with the formation of a political party or a grant or a refusal of a symbol to such a political party by the Election commission.

15. Our Constitution proclaims India to be a sovereign Democratic Republic. The Constitution is enacted in the name of the people and ultimate political authority to govern this country belongs to them. The greatest safety valve in the functioning of such mechanism in a democratic form of Government is to be found in its free, fair and periodic elections. These elections regularly and fairly held and conducted generate certain degree of constitutional stability to the system and impart constitutional continuity to it by preventing breakdown and by admitting all necessary changes in law and the Constitution produced by a sufficiently strong majority of the community in gillow v. New York (1924) 69 law Ed 1138 at P. 1149 Justice Holmes made the following penetrating observations which would apply to the free elections in all democratic societies the great Judge said:

'If in the long run the beliefs expressed in proletarian dictatorship are destained to be accepted by the dominant forces of the comunity theonly meaning of free speech is that they should be given their chance and have their way'.

But for the effectuation of this entire vital and life-giving process, the participartion of organised political parties in these free and fair elections Is indispensable. Although Disraeli called political party merely as organised opinion a political party in th 20th century is decidedly more than that it is a great twentieth century mechanism designed not only to educate the mass of voters called the people in political affairs but is also intended to bring them into the political community. It is the political party that educates, arouses and organises the political will of the voters. It is for this reason that in democratic societies, law treats political parties as more than a sum total of its members and followers. Law accords a hierarchially superior status to the political parties in the matter of contesting elections while the law confines the right of the contesting candidate to seek power tot he limits of the existing legal mechanism, it freely allows a political party the right to make an appeal to the voters to change the law itself. There is no limit the law imposes on the election expenditure a political party the right to make an appeal to the voters to change the law itself there is no limit the law imposes on the election expenditure a political party can incur although such an expediture is ultimately incurred for the benefit of its candidates. Nor the legal limitations imposed on individual candidates by such provisions of law as section 123, clause (3) of the Representation of the people Act are made applicable to a political party. The reason is that the range of a political and election campaign run by a political party can permissibly be far wider and can legally encompass an entire change in the whole law and the system. In other words it is legally open to a political party to appeal to voters even to change the Constitution. It must, therefore follow that Telugu Desam cannot be denied an election symbol by the election commission even if the aims and objectives of the Telugu Desam are in conflict with any existing part of the Constitution or the existing law because any political party should have a legitimate right and chance to appeal to the voters to vote to amend or even to abrogate those parts of the laws and the Constitution. Denial of an election symbol to Telugu Desam by the Election commission would result in denying a right to that party and its supporters to appeal tot he voters for approval of its policies and programmes. It would also be contrary to the right to political equality guaranteed by Article 14 of the Constitution. The guarantee of Article 14 extends equally to all citizens to form political associations of their own choice. By denying any sec tion of these citizens the right to appear on the ballot or the right to contest the elections through their chosen political parties, they would be denied their right to exercise their franchise, that would clearly be an invidious and impermissible discrimination under Article 14 of the Constitution. See justice Black in Williams v. Rhode, (1968) 21 Law 2d 24, I am clearly of the opinion that no authority under the Constitution enjoys such a sweeping power. In fact to concede the exercise of such a power would tantamount to freezing the growth of political institutions at the present level allowing them to die only through the painful process of atrophy or rebellion. Surely that cannot be the intention of our Constitution.

16. For all the above reasons I dismiss this writ petition, but in the circumstances, without costs.

17. Petition dismissed.


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