1. This is an application under Article 226 of the Constitution for the issue of a writ of prohibition or any other appropriate writ directing the respondent, the Election Authority, from holding the election for Presidentship of the Marancherry Panchayat in accordance with the orders issued on 6th November, 1953.
2. Marancherry Panchayat is a minor panchayat governed by the provisions of Madras Act X of 1950 and the rules framed thereunder. The Election Authority notified 22nd October, 1953, as the date on which the elections were to be held for the membership of the panchayat as well as the office of the President of the Panchayat. I am concerned now only with the question of the regularity of the proceedings adopted by the Election Authority to conduct the election to the office of the President of the Panchayat. The first notice issued by the Election Authority directed that all the voters entitled to vote and whose names were borne on the electoral rolls of the panchayat as a whole should assemble at the places specified. The notice specified five different places for the five different wards of the Marancherry Panchayat. Whether a voter of ward No. I for instance had a right under this notice, to assemble along with others in ward No. II and vote for the President, the notice left obscure. But I am not resting my decision on this feature of the case; nor am I expressing any opinion on the question whether to conduct the election of the office of the President, the Election Authority can assemble voters in different places within the same panchayat. On 22nd October, 1953, after the nominations had been received, votes were counted by show of hands as required by the rules in all the wards other than ward No. II. Apparently the election of the President could not be completed on 22nd October, 1953, i.e., by counting the votes of the electors who had assembled in the place specified in ward No. II. What the Election Officer did was to issue a further notice on 6th November, 1953, directing the electors who were residents of ward No. II to assemble at the place specified in ward No. II on 18th November, 1953, so that the votes of those so assembled could be counted. Meanwhile, the petitioners filed this application to quash the proceedings of the Election Authority, i.e., notice, dated 6th November, 1953.
3. Rule 6 of the Rules for the Conduct of Elections of Presidents of Minor Panchayats runs:
If a poll has to be taken the Election Officer, or in his absence, the person deputed by him for this purpose (hereinafter referred to as Presiding Officer) shall preside at the meeting of the electors in each of the wards, one after another in the order in which the wards are serially numbered.
That itself would imply that the Election Officer should have begun counting of the votes of the electors in ward No. II immediately after the counting of votes of electors in ward No. I had been completed, and after dealing with the electors in ward No. II, the Election Officer, or the Presiding Officer, should have had to count the votes of the electors in ward No. III. Rule 8 provides for ascertainment of the wishes of the electors primarily by show of hands.
4. Rule 9 provides:
After the completion of poll of all the wards of the village, the Presiding Officer shall proceed in the office of the Panchayat or the place at which he received the nominations of candidates and shall work out the total number of electors in the village who are in favour of each of the candidates in respect of whom the poll is taken and shall declare the candidate to whom the largest number of votes have been given to have been duly elected.
Rule 11 recites that immediately after the declaration under Rule 10, the Presiding Officer shall publish the name of the candidate duly elected as President on the Notice Board of the office of the panchayat concerned where there is one or else in any conspicuous place in the village.
5. The Rules, it should be remembered, govern election to the office of the President of Minor Panchayats, i.e., those with a population of less than 10,000 and naturally the registered number of electors should be less than 10,000. I am unable to see anything in the Rules, or even in the scheme underlying the Rules, which provide for piecemeal polling, an election being a continuous process; that is with the commencement of the nomination, it should end with the declaration of the result of the polling and also the publication under Rule 11 of the Rules. In the case of Marancherry Panchayat it was not possible to complete the election on the date originally notified, viz., 22nd October, 1953 and the votes of the electors assembled in the specified premises situate in ward No. II could not be counted that day. If the election could not be completed as a continuous process after its commencement at the appointed hour on the appointed day, 22nd October, 1953, there seems to be no alternative, with the Rules as they stand, except to commence the whole process of election afresh, i.e., to count the votes of the voters in the various wards in the course of a single transaction. As I said, there is nothing in the Rules which author rises the Election Officer to postpone or to adjourn the election with reference to one ward alone of a Minor Panchayat. I therefore hold that the Election Officer had no jurisdiction to issue the notice he did on 6th November, 1953. If any election had been held or completed on the basis of that notice that would have been void as contrary to the rules framed by the Government for the conduct of election of Presidents of Minor Panchayats.
6. There is one other feature to be noticed. Some of the petitioners claim that though they were registered voters residing in wards other than ward No. II, they had assembled in ward No. II on 22nd October, 1953 and since the subsequent notice, dated 6th November, 1953, required that only voters resident in ward No. II should assemble in ward No. II to vote on 18th November, 1953, they had been deprived of their right to exercise their franchise. In this connection reference was made to the original notice appointing 22nd October, 1953, for the election which did not specify that though the voters should assemble at five different places, only voters who are residents of each ward should assemble at the place specified in that ward.
7. The rule is made absolute. The petition is allowed. There will be no order as to costs.