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Bansidhar Prashar Vs. Shaligram Srivastava and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectElection
CourtSupreme Court of India
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Appeal No. 1325 of 1973
Judge
Reported inAIR1976SC460; (1976)2SCC785; 1976(8)LC196(SC)
ActsRepresentation of the People Act, 1951 - Sections 123(4); Indian Penal Code (IPC) - Sections 332, 353 and 427
AppellantBansidhar Prashar
RespondentShaligram Srivastava and anr.
Appellant Advocate R.N. Balgotra,; S.K. Dhingra,; S.K. Jain and;
Respondent Advocate B.Sen, Adv.
Prior historyFrom the Judgment and Order dated July 3, 1973 of the Madhya Pradesh High Court in Election Petition No. 34 of 1972
Excerpt:
.....to those statements also the petitioner must be held to have had good reason to believe them to be..........relevant, the appellant challenged respondent 1's election on the following grounds:(1) that in a meeting held on march 2, 1972 which was largely attended by voters belonging to the harijan and muslim communities, respondent 1 made a speech assailing the personal character of the appellant in regard, particularly, to his attitude to the harijans.(2) that immediately after respondent 1 finished his speech in the, aforesaid meeting, his agents and supporters distributed a booklet called 'atma ki pukar' which contained aspersions against the personal character of the appellant.(3) that on the 3rd and 6ih march, 1972 respondent 1 delivered similar speeches and on the 3rd march he published a pamphlet under the title 'panch khas baten', attacking the appellant's personal character and.....
Judgment:

Y.V. Chandrachud, J.

1. In the elections held to the Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly in 1972, respondent I who contested as an independent candidate defeated the appellant, a Congress (R) candidate, by a margin of 2600 votes. The appellant filed an election petition challenging the election of respondent 1 but that petition was dismissed by the Madhya Pradesh High Court by a judgment dated July 3, 1973. This appeal is directed against that judgment.

2. The High Court framed 19 effective issues out of which issues 1 to 7 and 10 to 14 are pressed before us. In so far as relevant, the appellant challenged respondent 1's election on the following grounds:

(1) That in a meeting held on March 2, 1972 which was largely attended by voters belonging to the Harijan and Muslim communities, respondent 1 made a speech assailing the personal character of the appellant in regard, particularly, to his attitude to the Harijans.

(2) That immediately after respondent 1 finished his speech in the, aforesaid meeting, his agents and supporters distributed a booklet called 'Atma Ki Pukar' which contained aspersions against the personal character of the appellant.

(3) That on the 3rd and 6ih March, 1972 respondent 1 delivered similar speeches and on the 3rd March he published a pamphlet under the title 'Panch Khas Baten', attacking the appellant's personal character and conduct.

3. Apart from himself the appellant examined Habib Khan (P.W. 7), Mankhan (P.W. 8), Devlal (P.W. 9) and Ramnath Gandhi Sewak (P.W. 14) in support of his case that respondent 1 made a derogatory speech on March 2, 1972 at the Purana Motor Stand, Nasrullaganj, and that the pamphlet Alma Ki Pukar was distributed at the meeting. Respondent 1 is alleged to have stated in the meeting that the appellant did not believe in the principles for which his party stood, that he looked down upon the Harijans, treated them as untouchables, that his brother was involved in a communal riot in Suker was for which he was prosecuted and that the appellant's co-worker, Ramnath Gandhi Sewak, was also communal minded. Respondent 1 admitted that he had addressed an election meeting on the particular day at Nasrullaganj but he denied that he had made the statements attributed to him or that any pamphlet was distributed at the meeting. It is significant that the version of respondent 1 is corroborated by Motilal Patel (R.W. 2) who is a member of the Congress (R) and who held various offices in the organisation from time to time. He was President of the Block Tehsil Congress Committee of Nasrullaganj from 1967 to 1972 He has stated in his evidence that respondent 1 did not make any of the statements attributed to him and that no pamphlet was distributed during or at the end of the meeting. In fact, Binder (P.W. 10), who is a Harijan, did not fully support the case of the appellant in regard to the statements said to have been made by respondent 1 in the meeting.

4. Apart from the question whether respondent No. 1 did make the particular statement and assuming that he did so, it would appear that in view of the antecedents of the appellant, respondent No. 1 bad reason to believe that the statements were true. The appellant admitted in his evidence that a criminal case under Sections 353 and 332 of the Penal Code was pending against him in connection with an assault on a police constable, that a shopkeeper had filed a criminal complaint against him under Section 427 of the Penal Code and that an inquiry was being held against him by a Tehsildar on the charge that he embezzled public funds while he was the President of the Salkanpur Trust from 1966 to 1969 At Ex. R-9 is a certified copy of the proceedings of the Vidhan Sabha dated July 31, 1972 which shows that in answer to a question, the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh stated that by an audit report the appellant was charged with having committed numerous irregularities and misappropriation of public funds, that an inquiry was held into those charges and that necessary action was being taken on the inquiry report. Considering these facts and circumstances, the case cannot fall under Section 123(4) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 under which the corrupt practice contests of the publication of a statement which is reasonably calculated to prejudice the prospects of a candidate's election and which the maker of the statement 'either believes to be false or does not believe to be true'.

5. The High Court has recorded a finding that the booklet Atma-ki-Pukar' was distributed by respondent 1 and his agents but it is clear from the evidence that the offending portion of that publication was a mere reproduction of what was stated in a memorandum submitted by Motilal Patel to the Congress High Command. The Block Congress Committee of Nasrullaganj had recommended three names for Congress candidature from the Budni constituency. Respondent 1 was amongst those three but the Provincial Congress Committee added the name of the petitioner to the list. Motilal Patel has stated in his evidence that he drafted a petition complaining against the appellant and distributed the copies thereof to the members of the All India Congress Committee. Motilal Patel says that the imputations which he made against the appellant were true to his personal knowledge and that every one concerned knew the whole truth. Banvirsingh Chatak who was examined as a court witness admitted that he composed the booklet partly on the basis of his personal knowledge and partly on the basis of what was stated in the memorandum submitted by Motilal Patel to the Congress High Command. In these circumstances, the High Court was justified in coming to the conclusion that, at any rate, respondent 1 had good reason to believe the imputations to be true.

6. The statements attributed to respondent 1, said to have been made by him in the meetings of the 3rd and 6th March, 1972 and in the pamphlet 'Panch Khas Baten' are more or less on the same pattern. In regard to those statements also the petitioner must be held to have had good reason to believe them to be true.

7. In these circumstances, the High Court was right in dismissing, the election petition. The appeal, therefore, fails. The High Court deprived respondent I of the costs of the election on the petition the ground that he falsely disowned all connection with the pamphlet 'Atma-ki-Pukar'. We must deny to respondent 1 the costs of this appeal for the same reason. The appeal shall therefore stand dismissed without any order as to costs.


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