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HC dismisses petition against EC notification for Karnal Assembly bypoll

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Chandigarh, Apr 3 (PTI) The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Wednesday dismissed a petition that sought quashing of the Election Commission's March 16 notification for holding the byelection to the Karnal assembly seat, from where Chief Minister Nayab Singh Saini is contesting.

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The plea claimed that the notification issued to declare the byelection is in contravention of Section 151 (A) of the Representation of People's Act which stipulates that the byelection for filling vacancies must be held within six months from the date of vacancy, except when the remaining term of the member is less than one year.

The new member will effectively have only about two months in office after the byelection, violating Section 151 (A) of the Representation of People's Act, the petitioner, a Karnal resident, had contended.

The court said that under Article 164(4) of the Constitution, Saini is obligated to get himself elected as a member of the Haryana Legislative Assembly within six months of taking oath as the chief minister.

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"It appears that Karnal constituency is the only vacancy available for holding of bye-election and considering the fact that the remainder term of the new incumbent chief minister being less than one year and the vacancy being available, no fault can be found with the impugned notification as regards the Karnal constituency...," it added.

On Tuesday, a division bench comprising justices Sudhir Singh and Harsh Bunger had reserved its verdict on the plea.

"The new Cabinet under Nayab Singh Saini, Chief Minister, took oath on 12.03.2024 and since Saini is not a member of the Legislative Assembly, therefore, in terms of Article 164(4) of the Constitution of India, he is obligated to get himself elected as a member of the State Legislative Assembly within six months... from 12.03.2024," the bench said it its order on Wednesday.

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The bench also said if the elections are not held in Karnal, the constituency shall "remain unrepresented until the determination of the term of the State Legislative Assembly which is in November 2024, despite the availability of the vacancy.

"That being the position, the Election Commission of India, cannot be said to have committed any error in declaring the bye-election to the constituency of Karnal, considering the mandate of Article 164(4) of the Constitution of India." "Accordingly, in the given facts of the present case, it is held that the provision of Article 164(4) is a valid consideration for the Election Commission of India, to declare holding of election for the vacant seat of a constituency in the State Legislative Assembly," noted the court.

The byelection is scheduled to be held on May 25 along with the polling for the 10 Lok Sabha seats in Haryana.

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The BJP has fielded Chief Minister Nayab Singh Saini, who was an MP from Kurukshetra in the outgoing Lok Sabha, for the by-poll to the Karnal assembly seat, vacated by former chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar.

The counsel for the petitioner had contended that no purpose would be served by electing a candidate for a short duration which is less than one year as the same would involve additional expenditure on the state exchequer and noted that the elections in Haryana are due in November 2024.

"We have considered the aforesaid submissions of the counsel for the petitioner, however, we do not find any force in the same," said the court.

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"In view of the above, finding no merit in the present petition, the same is hereby dismissed," said the bench in its order.

The BJP last month replaced Khattar, 69, with OBC leader Saini, 54, as Haryana chief minister in a swift switch in the state.

Khattar is contesting the Lok Sabha polls as the BJP candidate from Karnal parliamentary seat. He had on March 13 resigned as an MLA and said, "From today, our chief minister (Saini) will look after the Karnal assembly constituency". PTI SUN VSD RT

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