SC notice on CPI(M) leader's plea against election of K Babu in 2021 Kerala assembly polls

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New Delhi, Jul 8 (PTI) The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a plea by CPI(M) leader M Swaraj seeking invalidation of the election of Congress leader K Babu from the Thrippunithura seat in the 2021 assembly polls for allegedly using the picture of Lord Ayyappa in voting slips.

A bench of justices Surya Kant and Ujjal Bhuyan issued notice to Babu and sought his response on the plea.

The top court was hearing a plea filed by Swaraj challenging the April 11 order of the Kerala High Court which rejected his plea saying that the CPI (M) leader failed to prove the allegation that Babu had indulged in a corrupt practice.

The CPI(M) leader, in his election petition, had alleged that the Congress leader ad former Kerala minister used the image and name of Lord Ayyappa in the voting slips distributed to voters in Thrippunithura on the eve of the election day and, therefore, it amounted to a corrupt practice according to provisions of The Representation of the People (RP) Act, 1951.

Referring to various Supreme Court judgments on the use of religious symbols to canvas votes, the high court had said that if a vote is solicited using the name of a god or a deity, "it would amount to an appeal to vote in the name of a religious symbol and is a corrupt practice".

In the instant case, the high court had said that depiction of the picture of Lord Sabarimala Ayyappa along with the election symbol of the party and a request for vote in the slips placed before it was "undoubtedly the use of a religious symbol for the furtherance of election prospects" and was prohibited under the RP Act.

The high court had also said in its 66-page judgment that there was no evidence to corroborate the oral testimonies of a few witnesses that such slips were distributed to electors on behalf of Babu by his election agents and with his consent and knowledge.

It had also said that the evidence given by the four witnesses, who supported the petitioner's claims, was not free from doubt as their answers in relation to many facts "were vague", but with regard to giving of slips, "their versions are parrot-like".

The high court had also questioned why no complaint with regard to the voting slips was made to cVIGIL, a portal of the Election Commission for complaining against election malpractices.

In response, Swaraj had contended that he had instead filed a police complaint as only the police could take immediate action.

Rejecting the argument, the high court had said, "That is not a satisfactory answer since action was admittedly taken in other complaints given by the petitioner (Swaraj) in cVIGIL." PTI PKS PKS RT RT