(1) This is an appeal against the order of the learned District Judge of Kanyakumari at Nagarcoil acting as the Election Tribunal, Tirunelveli in Election Petition No. 98 of 1957. The petitioner, who is the appellant before us, was one Kandaswami. He was a contesting candidate for the election to the Madras Legislative Assembly from the Sattankulam constituency. In the election he was defeated and the first respondent was declared elected to the said constituency.
Thereupon, the appellant filed an election petition before the said Election Tribunal questioning the validity of the election of the first respondent and praying that the election of the first respondent to the Madras Legislative Assembly from the Sattankulam constituency should be declared void and that he should be paid the costs of the petition.
(2) Though the petitioner sought the election of the first respondent to be declared void as required by the rules, the second, third and fourth respondents were made parties, as all of them were either contesting candidates or candidates, who retired from the contest. As a matter of fact, while respondents 1 to 3 were the contesting candidates for the said election, the fourth respondent and two others are said to have been candidates who either retired or withdrew from the election. The fourth respondent is said to have retired from the contest, while P.W. 10 is said to have with drawn his nomination to the election.
(3) It is not necessary for us in this appeal to go into the elaborate details of the various facts relating to the election in question. We think it sufficient to say that at the election for the said Sattankulam constituency, which was held on the 4th March 1957, the first respondent secured 33,636 votes as against the petitioner, who polled only 22429 votes. The third respondent is said to have polled only 1115 votes and the second respondent 1083 votes only. Consequently, the first respondent was declared elected by the Returning Officer as a result of the counting of the votes.
(4) In the petition filed by the appellant, several acts of bribery and corrupt practices coming within the scope of Rs. 123(1) of Act 43 of 1951 were alleged by the appellant These allegations have been elaborately referred to by an learned Election Tribunal in its order dated 9th February 1959. The petitioner also alleged against the first respondent and his agent that they had contravened S. 77 of the said Act 43 of 1951 in regard to expenditure incurred in connection with the election.
(5) The first respondent in his written statement contested the truth and validity of the various contentions raised by the petitioner and contended that his election was not liable to be set aside and that the petition had to be dismissed.
(6) Before the Tribunal respondents 2 and 3 remained ex parte. The fourth respondent, however, filed a written statement supporting the case of the petitioner and stating that he was promised a sum of Rs. 7500 if he would retire from the election but was actually paid only Rs. 500 and that the balance was promised to be paid later and that out of this balance the election agent of the first respondent paid him a further sum of Rs. 2,000, and that the balance of Rs. 5000 remained unpaid.
(7) On the petition and the counter statements filed by the first and the fourth respondents, the learned Election Tribunal framed as many as ten issues with various sub divisions to some of the said issues and taking into consideration both the oral and documentary evidence came to the conclusion that the petitioner failed to prove his case and dismissed the petition. For reasons, given in paragraph 209 the learned Election Tribunal did not award costs to the first respondent which he claimed he was entitled to as a consequence of the dismissal of the petition.
(8) The petitioner has therefore preferred this appeal, while the first respondent has preferred the memorandum of cross objections against the order as to costs.
(9) Both the appeal and the memorandum of cross objections have been ably argued before us by learned counsel appearing on both sides. Mr. Mohankumaramangalam for the petitioner has confined his arguments to three points on the whole and did not choose to press the other points urged in the petition. The points on which he has concentrated in the course of the arguments are (1) that the first respondent and his election agent bribed the fourth respondent to retire from the contest to the election, (2) that the first respondent and his election agent paid a sum of Rs. 10,000 to one Sri. M. R. Meganathan, a candidate for the Sattankulam and Tiruchengode constituency and induced him to withdraw from the said candidature at the said election, and (3) that the first respondent and his election agent incurred an unauthorised expenditure in contravention of S. 77 of the Act 43 of 1951, that the return of election expenses filed by the first respondent did not disclose the actual nature or the correct extent of the expenses incurred by him and that if the expenses actually incurred by him were to be added on to the expenses disclosed by the first respondent, the total expenditure would exceed the minimum prescribed by law. The first and the second of the points urged by the learned counsel for the appellant are covered by issues 2(a) and 2(b).
The third point is covered by issues 8(a) and 8(b). All these issues have been dealt with by the Election Tribunal in paragraphs 77 to 209 of its order.
(10) It has been urged by the learned counsel for the appellant that from the beginning of the election, the first respondent was anxious that he should secure "elephant" as his symbol at the election. He had this symbol in a previous election in which he was, however, defeated. But since the symbol had become popular and associated with the first respondent, it was his object to see that the "elephant" symbol was not secured by any other rival candidates.
But actually, the fourth respondent had applied for the "elephant" symbol along with the first respondent. This conflict was resolved by casting of lots and the fourth respondent got the "elephant" symbol for himself, while the first respondent got only "cock" as his symbol. In addition to securing the "elephant" symbol, the learned counsel for the appellant also stated, that the first respondent was very keen on the fourth respondent not contesting against him in the said election. If the fourth respondent were out of the scene, he would not only be able to get his symbol but would also be spared serious contest.
The allegation is that with a view to secure this object, on 18-2-1957, R. W. 3 and P.W. 8 went to the house of P.W. 1, the fourth respondent, to persuade him to retire from the contest. After negotiations, it was settled that the fourth respondent should be paid a sum of Rs. 7500 and Rs. 500 was paid then and there and the balance was promised to be paid after the retirement was effected.
It may be mentioned at this stage, that while the date for the nomination for the said election was the 29th January 1957 and the scrutiny was fixed for the 1st of February 1957, the withdrawn was to take place on the 4th February 1957. In addition to withdrawal, there is also a further step that is available to the candidates and that is retirement from the contest. The date for such retirement from the contest at the election was fixed for 22-2-1957, while the actual date of polling was fixed for 4-3-1957.
(11) In this contest it is alleged that on 19-2-1957 P.W. 1 presented his retirement letter to the Revenue Divisional Officer at Tiruchendur. He was, however, asked to go to Tuticorin and present the same to the Revenue Divisional Officer, and accordingly the fourth respondent presented his retirement letter on 20-2-1957, and thereby retired from the contest. On the same day, it is alleged, P.W. 1, the fourth respondent, went to the village of the first respondent to receive the balance of Rs. 7000 stipulated for his retirement.
The first respondent did not pay the balance and the fourth respondent met the first respondent on 23-2-1957 when the first respondent is said to have suggested to the fourth respondent that he might go to the Tahsildar's office and get him a few electoral rolls, which, it is stated, were available to the candidates at concessional rates. It is urged that the first respondent also gave P.W. 1 a letter addressed to his brother-in-law, one Ganapathi Nadar or Tiruchendur, asking him to help P.W. 1 to get copies of the voters' list from the Tahsildar at a concessional rate of Rs. 22 per copy, as against the normal rate of Rs. 40 for non-candidates. P.W. 1 did not find Ganapathi Nadar at Tiruchendur and he took upon himself the responsibility to approach the Tahsildar directly and asked for the lists.
He was told that since he had retired from the contest, he was not entitled to any copy at concessional rates. The letter written by the first respondent to his brother-in-law, Ganapathi Nadar, and the addressed cover are both marked as Exs. A. 2 and A. 3 respectively, before the Tribunal.
(12) The further story unfolded on behalf of the appellant is that the fourth respondent tried to meet the first respondent to secure the balance of Rs. 7000 still payable to him, but he did not succeed in his attempts. Thereupon on 26-2-1957, a notice Ex. A. 4 was sent by the fourth respondent to the first respondent, demanding the payment of the balance of Rs. 7000. It is quite evident and latter admitted that this Ex. A. 4 had been drafted by a lawyer but was actually signed by the fourth respondent and sent direct.
This demand notice stated that a sum of Rs. 7500 was fixed to be paid towards the election expenses of the fourth respondent, which he had incurred prior to 20-2-1957, and that Rs. 500 was paid thereof and that the balance was due. In case of default of payment, the notice stated that the fourth respondent would take proper steps with the Election Commissioner for setting aside the election that the dishonest act of the first respondent would be published in the newspapers and that propaganda would be made against him exposing him and his dishonest act and that action would also b taken in a civil court to recover the balance.
R. W. 3, who is no other than the brother and the election agent of the first respondent and also an advocate by profession, replied to this notice on 20-3-1957, and this reply is marked as Ex. A. 6. In this reply, R. W. 3 on behalf of his principal, the first respondent, denied every allegation contained in the said Ex. A. 4. Thereafter, a notice was caused to be sent by the fourth respondent this time through his lawyer, namely, Vaikuntamurthi, who had remained behind the scene at the earlier stage, when Ex. A. 4 was despatched to the first respondent by the fourth respondent.
In this notice Ex. B. 1, dated 10-4-1957, the lawyer alleged that the first respondent was very anxious that the fourth respondent should retire from the contest, that the "elephant" symbol should be released, that the first respondent promised in the presence of R. W. 3 to pay a sum of Rs. 7500 with the object of inducing the fourth respondent to withdraw from the candidature and that immediately a sum of Rs. 500 was paid and that the balance was promised to be paid to the fourth respondent on his filing his petition for his retirement with the returning officer at Tuticorin. Various other allegations are also made in this notice.
It becomes relevant to note in this connection as to how exactly a professional lawyer, like Vaikuntamurthi, could have sent the notice Ex. B. 1 in the terms contained therein. It is, however, pointed out by the learned counsel for the appellant that at the time the notice was sent, the position of law was that the receiving of a bribe in elections was not an offence but only the giving of a bribe was made an offence under the People's Representation Act governing elections.
In Adityan v. Kandaswami, 1958-1 Mad LJ 61 (AIR 1958 Mad 171) and Adityan v. Kandaswami, , it was also ruled that while the giving of a bribe in elections was an offence the receiving of a bribe was not such an offence. This statute of law was, however, altered after these decisions by an amendment in 1959 of the People's Representation Act, and at the present moment both the giving and the receiving of a bribe has been made a corrupt practice punishable under the law.
(13) Ex. B. 1 evoked a reply in Ex. B. 2 from R. W. 3 which, again, was a categorical denial of the allegations made in Ex. B. 1. At this stage, it has to be mentioned that the fourth respondent P.W. 1 also caused a notice dated 19-4-1957 signed by himself and his advocate R. W. 11 to be sent to the appellant complaining that he was instigated and induced to send Ex. A. 4 on the understanding and assurance that if he were to abide by the directions of the appellant and his associates, they would pay him Rs. 500 and secure him a big sum from the first respondent and that, instead of getting any amount from him as promised and assured, he got only a notice from the brother of the first respondent dated 20-3-1957, Ex. A. 6, repudiating his claim for payment of any sum.
This notice is marked as Ex. A. 7 and it also stated that a further notice sent to R. W. 3 in English was also of no avail and called upon the appellant that the sum of Rs. 500 promised by him should be paid immediately, failing which the amount would be collected through court with costs. This notice was however disowned by P.W. 1 when he was in the witness box. Thereafter, a further notice was sent by the fourth respondent though his lawyer Mr. Vaikuntamurthi to R. W. 3, the notice being signed by both, on 10-5-1957 to the effect that a panchayat was held at the office of the advocate, Mr. Vaikuntamurthi, on 29-4-1957, between himself and the fourth respondent, in the presence of one Abdul Wahab, not called in as a witness and another, that the panchayat decided that R. W. 3 should pay a sum of Rs. 7500 to the fourth respondent, that upto the date of the notice he had received only Rs. 2500 and that a sum of Rs. 5000 was still due, that the said balance was not paid in spite of repeated demands, and the arrangements should be made for the payment of the balance within a week from the date of the receipt of the notice and that in default the law would be sent in motion to recover the amount with costs.
This notice is market as Ex. A. 8 and is dated 10-5-1957. The significant development that falls to be noticed in connection with this Ex. A. 8 is that there is an allegation that a total sum of Rs. 2500 had been paid but it does not state as to when and where and by whom the sum of Rs. 2000 was paid to the fourth respondent. It has also to be noticed that this notice, as also Ex. A. 4 and B. 1 are quite contrary to the contents found in Ex. A. 7. Ex. A. 9 is a reply given by R. W. 3 dated 24-5-1957, denying the convening of the panchayat and the payment of any sum to the fourth respondent and also stating therein that two other persons mentioned in Ex. A. 8 might be the friends of the fourth respondent and that Rs. R. W. 3 had nothing to do with them.
This is all the documentary evidence relied upon the learned counsel for the appellant to prove that there was an inducement to the fourth respondent to withdraw from the contest, that there was a promise and an undertaking to pay as much as a sum of Rs 7500 that a part payment in the sum of Rs. 2500 was made towards the said agreed amount, that in pursuance of the said undertaking by the first respondent to pay the said sum of Rs. 7500 the fourth respondent withdrew from the contest and that such inducement on promise and payment of any sum was a corrupt practice resorted to by the first respondent which entitled the Tribunal to hold the first respondent's election void.
(13A) This documentary evidence was sought to be supported by the learned counsel for the appellant by the depositions of the 4th respondent figuring as P.W. 1 and another witness P. w. 8. P.W. 1 proved the several notices that passed between him and the 1st respondent and his brother and also spoke to the various events that are said to have transpired between himself and the 1st respondent and his brother R. W. 3. P.W. 8 was called in to corroborate the payment of the sum of Rs. 500 and also the previous negotiations that are said to have been carried on prior to the 4th respondent's withdrawal from the contest.
(14) As against the documents relied upon by the learned counsel for the appellant and the depositions of P. Ws. 1 and 8, the learned counsel for the first respondent relied upon the deposition of the first respondent as R. W. 1, R. W. 3 and that of Rs. W. 11, the advocate who sent Ex. A. 7 on behalf of the fourth respondent, P.W. 1. In addition to this, the learned counsel for the 1st respondent also relied upon the plea of alibi put forth by his client and the evidence in support thereof.
It was contended on behalf of the first respondent his learned counsel that his client was away from Sattankulam on the relevant dates, when he is said to have met the fourth respondent or made promise or payments of the sum of Rs. 500 or Rs. 2000 as alleged by the fourth respondent.
(15) In so far as the alibi evidence is concerned, the learned counsel for the appellant argued that the evidence was not conclusive and that the 1st respondent should have produced more clinching evidence to prove the alibi, than what was actually adduced by him. He urged that the respondent should have produced convincing evidence about his travel to Madras and about his presence in Madras on the 18th and 19th February, and that the evidence actually produced did not rule out the possibility of another man having travelled in his place and another person having booked the trunk telephone call from Madras to Sattankulam on his behalf.
(16) The learned Election Tribunal, however, accepted the appellant's case with regard to the motive of the first respondent to get the elephant's symbol out of the contest and about the first respondent asking the fourth respondent to fetch the voters' list and disbelieved the evidence of R. W. 11 in regard to Ex. A. 7. The learned Tribunal, having found so much in favour of the appellant, however, accepted the alibi evidence adduced by the first respondent and held that the case of the appellant so far as the bribe offered to the fourth respondent was concerned was not proved. The learned counsel attacked this finding of the learned election Tribunal.
(17-19) We have been taken through the entire evidence, both documentary and oral, which the learned Election Tribunal has relied upon, to come to the conclusion that the charge of bribery against the 1st respondent in relation to the fourth respondent was not proved. (His Lordships went through the evidence in this regard and in regard with the defence of alibi and proceeded).
(20) In this connection, the learned counsel for the appellant raised the question that under S. 90(1) and (2) of the Representation of the People Act, every election petition shall be tried by the Tribunal as nearly as may be in accordance with the procedure applicable under the Civil Procedure Code, 1908, to the trial of suits and that the provisions of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, shall subject to the provisions of the Representation of the People Act, be deemed to apply in all respects to the trial of an election petition.
Relying upon S. 93 of the Representation of the People Act, the learned counsel for the appellant also contended that a trial in an election petition before the tribunal shall be deemed to be more of the nature of a trial in a civil proceeding and very much less of the nature of a trial in a criminal proceeding. Questioning the applicability of the ruling in Vashist Narain Sharma v. Dev Chandra, ,
which has been relied upon by the learned Election Tribunal, the learned counsel for the appellant argues that, while the burden to prove the allegations made against the first respondent in regard to the offer of bribe lies heavily on the objector, viz. the appellant, still the appellant has discharged the burden in so far as he had succeeded in showing that the "alibi" evidence adduced by the first respondent was not free from doubt and did not rule out an alternative possibility of some one else having travelled and done the various other acts relied upon by the first respondent, and the first respondent taking advantage of the same to support his case.
The point urged by the learned counsel for the appellant is that the theory of preponderance f probabilities would apply to the circumstances of the present case, and that when once he had shown another probability, the burden would shift on to the first respondent to prove positively the plea of alibi. The basis of this argument by the learned counsel for the appellant would appear to be that since the Evidence Act and the Civil Procedure Code apply to the trial of an election petition by the Tribunal, the theory of the shifting of the burden would also operate, in which case, the first respondent was bound to prove his plea of "alibi" with more definite and positive evidence.
The substance of the argument of the learned counsel for the appellant seems to be that the trial of an election petition is essentially a civil proceeding as contemplated under sub-ss. (1) and (2) of S. 90 of the Representation of the People Act and considered in the light of S. 100 of the same Act and Ss. 3 and 4 of the Evidence Act. We do not think that we can agree with this contention of the learned counsel for the appellant. In our opinion, the trial in an election petition is a quasi-criminal trial and not a civil trial.
In Harishchandra v. Triloki Singh, (S) it was
observed that it should not be forgotten that charges of corrupt practice are quasi-criminal in character and that the accusation in relation thereto must be sufficiently clear and precise to bring home the charges to the candidate. Judged by that standard it is the duty of the appellant to prove beyond any reasonable doubt, that the first respondent could have been present on the relevant dates and could have resorted to the corrupt practice alleged against him.
The standard of proof in an election enquiry, in our opinion, is the same as could be achieved in a criminal trial. In Narasimha Reddi v. Bhommaji, , a Bench of the Andhra High Court held that allegations as to corrupt practices as those referred to in Ss. 123 and 124 are of a quasi-criminal nature and the standard of proof required to establish them is the same as pertains to proof in criminal case and that the onus of establishing a corrupt practice beyond reasonable doubt rests heavily on the petitioner.
Even so, in Inayatullah v. Diwanchand, , it has been held by a Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court that the trial of an election Tribunal is in the nature of an accusation and is a quasi-criminal action. If the same test is applied, then there would be a presumption of innocence and strict proof would be required before persons charged are held to be responsible.
No doubt, the procedure followed in enquiries in election petitions is civil in form, but in substance, it is a criminal trial, especially when one keeps in view the results and consequences that follow from the decisions in election petitions. Simply because the procedure to be followed is civil in form, it cannot be contended that the amount of proof required for bringing the charges home to the person against whom the accusation is made, is reduced to that of an enquiry in a purely civil proceeding so as to give room for the theory of the balance of probabilities or the shifting of the burden.
We do not think that it is open to the learned counsel for the appellant to contend that if he has proved a "prima facie" case against the first respondent, it is for the first respondent to rebut the prima facie case made out against him. The learned counsel for the appellant, in our opinion, ignores the distinction that has to be kept in mind, viz., the procedure that has to be followed by the Election Tribunal in accordance with the provisions of the Representation of People Act and the amount of proof that has to be adduced in order to establish the charges made in the petition against the successful candidate.
The object of an enquiry in an election petition, it must be remembered, is mostly punitive, though it may not be wholly so. The public policy involved in setting aside elections where corrupt practices are proved and the penalties that follow when such corrupt practices are established, is an important factor which has to be kept in view, when the nature of the enquiry in an election petition is to be determined.
If the enquiry is before a civil court, which follows the Civil Procedure Code, ordinarily no penalties ensue, and it cannot be said that the trial is a punitive one, but where the consequences partake of penalties such as disqualifications and fines, etc., it is futile to contend that the enquiry is still a civil one. In Ram Dial v. Santlal, , a Bench of the Punjab High court has held that a
charge of corrupt practice in election petitions has to be treated just like a quasi-criminal charge and if the language of any particular sub-section of S. 123 in terms is not attracted, the benefit should like all criminal trials, be given to the person charged with the commission of the alleged corrupt practice.
In Balwant Rai Tayal v. Bishan Saroop, 17 ELR 101, a Bench of the Punjab High Court has held that in election petitions, so far as they relate to charge of corrupt practice, there is a very great similarity to a criminal trial, and where a long list of witnesses is given as being the persons who will support a particular charge, witnesses produced thereafter whose names are not on such list are more or less in the same position as witnesses produced in criminal trials whose names have not been revealed in the first information report.
It goes without saying that in a civil proceeding there are two parties involved. Their mutual rights and obligations which came up for determination are purely of a civil nature, and the result of a decision in such a dispute does not involve fines or penalties or disqualifications or loss of status and position. Such civil proceedings cannot be compared with election petitions filed under the Representation of People Act, where the terminology used is "election offence", "proof or guilt", "Accusations". "charges", "penalties", and so forth, indicating beyond any doubt that the trials of election petitions are of a criminal nature, though governed by the Civil Procedure Code and the Evidence Act, in so far as the form of the trial is concerned.
Therefore, we are unable to agree with the learned counsel for the appellant that he has attained the standard of proof that is required in order to demolish the plea of alibi set up by the first respondent. We think that the appellant has failed to discharge the burden that lay heavily upon him to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the plea of alibi is not substantiated and that therefore it should not have been accepted by the Election Tribunal.
(21) The next ground that has been urged by the learned counsel for the appellant is the one which relates to the withdrawal from the election by P.W. 10 and the alleged payment of the sum of Rs. 3000 by the first respondent on 4-2-1957. Even in this case, the burden to prove the alleged payment of Rs. 3000 was on the appellant and this burden is sought to be discharged by the oral testimony of P.W. 10 and also of an entry made by P.W. 1 in the return of election expenses filed by P.W.
10. P.W. 10's statement was that R. W. 1 gave him Rs. 3000 at Tuticorin on 4-2-1957 and thereupon he withdrew from the election by presenting Ex. A. 20.
He also stated that the first respondent had promised to pay him a total sum of Rs. 5000 and that having paid Rs. 3000 on the day of the withdrawal of the nomination, the first respondent had promised to pay the balance later. In regard to this statement of account, Ex. A. 21, P.W. 10 has stated that he has disclosed a sum of Rs. 3000 as having been received from the first respondent on 4-2-1957, and that those accounts have been accepted by the election commissioner. He denied that he withdrew from the election at the request of the appellant.
He referred to three meetings having taken place before the actual payment of Rs. 3000 was made, between himself and the first respondent and his brother. But he stated that they were all between 1st and the 4th February 1957. He was a candidate for the Tiruchendur constituency and so a sum of Rs. 5000 was agreed to be paid to meet his election expenses for the said constituency. We have been taken through his evidence in its entirety, but in the light of the evidence that the first respondent has adduced to support the plea of alibi set up by him, we do not think that what P.W. 10 says could be believed. (After discussing the evidence His Lordships continued).
In our opinion, the learned Election Tribunal was quite warranted in not attaching any weight to the testimony of this P.W. 10 If the alibi evidence of the 1st respondent is to be believed--and we see no reason to disbelieve the same--we do not think that it can be held that the case of the appellant that the first respondent had paid Rs. 3000 to P.W. 10 for inducing him to withdraw from the election, could be said to have been proved.
(22) the next point urged by the learned counsel for the appellant is that the return of election expenses filed by the first respondent through his election agent R. W. 3 does not comply with S. 77 of the Representation of the People Act. Under S. 77 every candidate at an election shall, either by himself or by his election agent, keep a separate and correct account of all expenditure in connection with the election incurred or authorised by him or by his election agent between the date of publication of the notification calling the election and the date of declaration of the result thereof, both dates inclusive; and the account shall contain such particulars, as may be prescribed; and the total of the said expenditure shall not exceed such amount as may be prescribed.
The maximum amount prescribed as permissible election expenses for a single member constituency is Rs. 9000 under rule 135(2), so far as the Madras State is concerned. Sub-clause (6) of S. 123 provides that the incurring or authorising of expenditure in contravention of S. 77 will be a corrupt practice for the purposes of the Representation of the People Act. Paragraph 4-B of the petition filed by the appellant stated that the returned candidate hired or procured motor vehicles about 34 in all specifically mentioned in that paragraph, besides several other vehicles which were used on 4-3-57 the date of poll, in almost every village throughout the constituency, for the purpose of conveying the electors to and from the polling stations and places fixed for the poll, and that most of them were used for election purposes even from the date of notification.
Special reference was made to the first respondent having used three specified motor vehicles, viz., MDT 2042, MDT 2301 and MDT 268 for conveying the voters to and from the polling booth situated in the T. D. T. A. school in Christianagara, and two vehicles, viz., MDT 3365 and MDK 890 at Megnanapuram. In paragraph 4-E the allegations made by the appellant against the first respondent were that the first respondent and his election agent had incurred and authorised expenditure in contravention of S. 77 of Act 43 of 1951, that the return of election expenses filed by the first respondent did not show the actual nature of the correct extent of the expenses incurred by him, that the first respondent spent monies to the extent of nearly two lakhs of rupees for his election, that substantial sums paid by him for the hire of motor vehicles mentioned in paragraph IV-B, petrol for them and for the hire of mike sets used by him for propaganda, for printing charges, that is for publicity, costing about Rs. 30,000, for the entertainment of the voters and workers, for bribing the voters and candidates to withdraw, retire and not to stand, the entire expenses for public meetings, rents for election offices at every village, have all been either suppressed or minimised or have not been shown in the return of election expenses, and that if these expenses were added to those disclosed by the first respondent, the total expenses will exceed the minimum prescribed by law.
(23) The first respondent contended in paragraph 11 of his counter that paragraph 4-B of the petition did not allege or make out any valid ground to make the return of this first respondent void and that the allegations therein did not amount to any corrupt practice and that the said paragraph was devoid of the necessary particulars. The first respondent denied that except in respect of motor vehicles MDZ 1168, MDP 8114 and MDT 3380, the first respondent hired or procured the motor vehicles mentioned in paragraph IV-B of the petition or that he used the vehicles mentioned in the said paragraph or any of them, for the purposes of conveying the electors to and from the polling stations on 4-3-1957.
He also denied that the said vehicles were used for election purposes. In regard to paragraph IV-E the first respondent denied that he or his election agent had incurred or authorised expenditure in connection with the election exceeding the amount prescribed by law or that he spent as much as a sum of Rs. 2 lakhs for his election or that his return of election expenses was false and suppressed any items of expenditure. Every one of the allegations contained in regard to the falsity of election expenses was denied by the first respondent in toto in his counter.
(24) At this stage, it may be observed that there is no more scope for any controversy as to whether the breach of sub-secs. (1) and (2) of S. 93 would also be covered by S. 123(6). In a judgment in C. M. A. No. 255 of 1958 dated 19-2-1959 (unreported) a Bench of this Court presided over by the learned Chief Justice has held that though in s. 123(6) only S. 77 is referred to, still it is only a contravention of sub-clause (3) of S. 77 that would come under the scope of that section, viz., 123(6). Even so, under S. 100(b) a corrupt practice involved in contravention of sub-sec. 3 of S. 77 will be a ground for setting aside an election--vide an unreported judgment in Muthiah Chettiar v. Ganesan, C. M. A. No. 21 of 1959 dated 1-5-1959: , by the learned Chief Justice and Ganapatia Pillai J.
(25) In the course of the hearing of the appeal, the learned counsel for the appellant restricted the scope of his argument only to the use of 13 motor vehicles throughout the period of the election by the first respondent. (His Lordships went through the evidence and proceeded).
(26) The learned Election Tribunal has discussed the question about the vehicles in paragraphs 168 to 189 of its order, and he has held in respect of each of these vehicles that though there might be suspicion about the use of these vehicles for the purpose of election, still there was no positive evidence adduced by the appellant that these vehicles were used for the election. (His Lordship went through the findings of the Tribunal and continued).
The learned Election Tribunal was of the opinion that the proper view to take on the quality and quantum of evidence let in by the appellant in regard to the use of the motor vehicles, and the petrol purchased therefor, was that the appellant had not satisfactorily proved that these vehicles were used for election purposes during the relevant period. Mere suspicion alone with regard to the use of these vehicles could not dispense with the need for positive reliable evidence.
(27) We have been taken through the relevant paragraphs of the order of the Election Tribunal in regard to the use of the motor vehicles, quantity of petrol purchased and the hire charges etc., paid therefor, and having considered the same in the light of the arguments advanced by the learned counsel for the appellant, with particular reference to the statements filed by him, we do not think that there is much scope for us to dissent from the conclusions to which the learned Election Tribunal himself came, in regard to this aspect of the case.
The learned counsel for the appellant argued that the learned Election Tribunal was wrong in holding that the materials placed before him were not adequate to support the conclusion that the motor vehicles in question had been actually used, that the petrol had been purchased for them, that hire charges had been paid therefor and also that hire charges were incurred for the set of mikes installed in the motor vehicles used during the election time, and that there should have been more specific, definite and positive evidence to establish these facts.
The learned advocate contended, once again, that once he let in evidence as to the possession of the cars by the first respondent during the relevant period and that they were plying on the roads within the constituency in connection with the election, he had discharged the burden that lay on him and the learned Tribunal should have acted on the broad probabilities of the case and came to the conclusion, that at least 13 vehicles referred to in the statement, if not all those that were mentioned in the petition itself, were actually in use for the purposes of the election of the first respondent.
(28) The learned counsel for the appellant also pressed into service S. 106 of the Evidence Act and contended that it was incumbent upon the first respondent to prove the facts which were within his special knowledge, viz., use of petrol for the cars, the charges paid therefor, the mileage that the vehicles did during the election period, the exact mileage in connection with the actual election, and how much was for purposes other than the election and so forth and if the first respondent and his election agent, within whose knowledge these facts were, failed to prove the same, adverse inference should have been drawn against the first respondent and the appellant should be deemed to have proved the case of corrupt practice in regard to the motor vehicles and the use of them.
We do not think that in a case like this, where a charge against the first respondent is made that he resorted to a corrupt practice in that he did not include in the return of election expenses the expenses that he had incurred in connection with the petrol and the hire charges for the motor vehicles and also the charges incurred by him in regard to the use of the mikes, the burden was on him to prove anything of the kind that has been contended for by the learned counsel for the appellant. In paragraph 182 of the order, the election Tribunal has discussed the point as to the burden of proof and has largely relied upon the decision in .
We see no reason to differ from the view expressed by the Election Tribunal that it is not permissible for the appellant to say that any duty lies on the successful first respondent to explain the fact within his knowledge, the burden of proving the corrupt practices mentioned in S. 123 being wholly upon the appellant, who charges the respondent with the same. Exceeding the maximum prescribed by the rules framed under the Representation of People Act being a corrupt practice, as defined by S. 123(6) and being made a ground for setting aside the election under S. 100, the burden is heavily only on the person who alleges the corrupt practice and it could not be that the charging person simply proves certain suspicious circumstances and then calls upon the person charged to explain those circumstances on the ground that these facts about which suspicion has been raised are within the special knowledge of the accused person.
(29) True, it may be difficult for the person, who accuses the successful candidate of corrupt practices, to prove positively that the motor vehicles had actually been used for the purposes of the election, that he actually incurred the petrol expenses in connection therewith or that the applications which he made for permits or licences for the use of the mikes and so forth. But impossibility of proof of the actual election expenses, which go to make up a contravention of rule 3 of S. 77 would not dispense with the need for actual proof of the allegations.
No question of any rebuttal of the suspicious circumstances raised by the appellant against the first respondent would arise in a case, where the burden is heavily upon the appellant to bring home the guilt to the first respondent by cogent, positive, specific and definite evidence, if he is to succeed is establishing the corrupt practice alleged against the first respondent, which would entail his election being declared void. The first respondent cannot be called upon to prove a negative position, if the appellant has not succeeded in placing before the Tribunal sufficient evidence to enable it to come to the conclusion that the charge has been proved.
(30) The analogy relied upon by the learned counsel for the appellant of the evidence that should be required in regard to an enquiry in a claim for mesne profits cannot certainly hold good in a case like the one before us. The standard of proof in a civil action where a claim for damages for fraud or for mesne profits is made will certainly depend upon the balance of probabilities.
But it cannot be the same as what is required in a criminal or a quasi-criminal trial, where the complainant has to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the offence has been committed by the person charged with the offence. The learned counsel for the appellant invited our attention to a decision in Hornal v. Neuberger Products Ltd., 1957-1 QB 247, and the observations at page 259. We do not think that the principles laid down in that decision which have relevancy only to a civil action would apply to the case before us, it being remembered that if a corrupt practice is proved, not merely the election itself is liable to be declared void but a further penalty of a disqualification for a minimum period of six years is imposed after S. 141 of the Representation of People Act. In an unreported judgment dated 23-4-1958 in C. M. A. No. 42 of 1958 a Bench of this court presided over by the learned Chief Justice and to which one of (Ramaswami, J.) was a party, a similar point arose for consideration, and the Bench held that there could be no reason to distrust the accounts of the petrol expenses sown by the successful candidate in regard to motor vehicles, which might have been lent to the successful candidate for the purposes of election.
The Bench also held that there was always a tendency to exaggerate the expenses, the number of trips, the mileage covered and the batta and salary paid to the drivers and so forth, in order to utilise it for making out a corrupt practice for unseating the successful candidate. With respect we agree with the observations made in the said judgment and we think that in regard to the instant case also, the position seems to be more or less similar, so far as the vehicles that had been borrowed from friends are concerned. But so far as those vehicles which are said to have been hired out, we do not see any sufficient reason to differ from the opinion of the Election Tribunal that the quantum and quality of proof adduced by the appellants is neither adequate not sufficient to justify the conclusion that such larger expenses had been incurred than what was actually shown in the return of election expenses.
The evidence, both oral and documentary, is regard to the use of the motor vehicles, the petrol consumed and the hire charges and the salary etc., paid in connection therewith and also the hiring of the mikes has been discussed by the learned Tribunal and has also been traversed before us by the learned counsel for the appellant. We do not think that when the evidence that has been adverted to by the learned counsel in regard to each of the 13 vehicles is considered in all its bearings it would to prove that any extra expenditure had been incurred beyond what has been shown in the return of election expenses.
We are not convinced that the appellant has established a case either in regard to the hire charges for the vehicles or the quantity of petrol consumed or the hire charges paid for the mike sets that any extra expenditure had been incurred which had not been shown in the return of election expenses; nor has it been satisfactorily shown that the election Tribunal has gone wrong in the appreciation of the oral evidence adduced before it. As has been held in Paru Ram v. Smt. Prasani, , that High Courts should normally attach
importance to the findings of fact recorded by the Tribunal, when the said findings rest solely on the appreciation of oral evidence. We do not think that there is any serious defect or flaw pointed out to us by the learned counsel for the appellant in the appreciation of the evidence by the Election Tribunal.
(31) In the result, we do not think that the appellant has made out any case for our interference with the decision of the Election Tribunal, and we have no alternative but to dismiss the appeal and it is accordingly dismissed with costs. Rupees two hundred and fifty is fixed as costs.
(32) The memorandum of cross objections is against the refusal of the learned Election Tribunal to award costs to the first respondent in consequence of his having dismissed the election petition. We have read the reasons given by the learned election tribunal for declining to award costs. We do not think that there is sufficient ground for us to interfere with that order. The memorandum of cross objections will therefore stand dismissed without costs.
(33) Appeal and cross-objections dismissed.