1. This is an application under Article 226 of the Constitution by Sahiram in an election matter.
2. Sahiram stood as a candidate for election for the office of Sarpanch of the Village Panchayat of Dalpatpura. There was an objection by another candidate Kurdaram that he was disqualified under Section 11(g), Rajasthan Panchayat Act, 1953. This objection was upheld by the returning officer.
The present application is directed against this decision of the returning officer. The applicant contends that he has no remedy under Rule 19 of the Panchayat Election Rules, 1954 by means of an election petition and has, therefore, come to this Court.
3. We agree that the applicant has no remedy under Rule 19 of the Panchayat Election Rules and his application is, therefore, maintainable before us, as he is not a defeated candidate.
4. Section 11 prescribes qualification of Panchas and under Clause (g) it is provided that any person who has been convicted by a competent Court of an offence Involving moral turpitude shall not be eligible. There is a proviso to this clause which lays down that any person may be declared eligible for election by a general or special order of the State Government in spite of a disqualification under this clause.
It is not in dispute that the applicant was convicted under the Customs Act of the former State of Bikaner and sentenced to fine for evasion of customs duty. What is, however, urged is that conviction for customs duty does not involve moral turpitude and, therefore, the applicant was not disqualified under Clause (g) of Section 11. We cannot accept this contention. Evaders of customs duty must be held to be guilty of an offence involving moral turpitude.
The returning officer was, therefore, right in rejecting the nomination of the applicant. It was then urged that the conviction took place in 1940 more than fifteen years ago and that under the circumstances, the returning officer could have ignored this conviction. Our attention in this connection is drawn to Section 7, Representation of the People Act (43 of 1951) which provides that any person sentenced to imprisonment for two years or more is disqualified unless five years have elapsed since his release.
There is, however, no similar provision in theRajasthan Panchayat Act, and therefore, unless therewas a general order of the Government making persons convicted, say more than five years before theelection, eligible, the disqualification will remain. In this view of the matter, there is no case for interference and the application is hereby dismissed.