Section 83(1)(c) of The Representation of the People Act, 1951 (“Act”) reads as: “Contents of Petition – An Election Petition – shall be signed by the Petitioner and verified in the manner laid down in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908) for the verification of pleadings: Provided that where the Petitioner alleges any corrupt practice, the Petition shall also be accompanied by an affidavit in the prescribed form in support of the allegation of such corrupt practice and the particulars thereof.”
In the event of an Election Petitioner alleging corrupt practices, therefore, not only should his Petition be verified in the manner laid down in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (“Code”) but should also be accompanied by an affidavit, in the prescribed form, in support of the allegation of such corrupt practices.
In P.A. Mohammed Riyas v. M.K. Raghavan, [(2012) 5 SCC 511] (“Md. Riyas”) it was argued that an Election Petitioner is required to file two affidavits, thus – one affidavit in support of the allegations of corrupt practices and the second affidavit in compliance with the requirements of Order VI, Rule 15(4) of the Code. Hon’ble Justice Altamas Kabir, as he was then during the pronouncement of the Judgment, accepted that contention. It was held that in a case where the proviso to Section 83(1)(c) of the Act is attracted, a single affidavit would not be sufficient to satisfy the requirements of both Section 83 of the Act and Order VI, Rule 15 of the Code.
A Full Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, consisting of Hon’ble Justices R.M. Lodha, J. Chelameswar and Madan B. Lokur, in M. Siddeshwar v. Prasanna Kumar, (2013) 4 SCC 776 (“Siddeshwar”) has however held that Md. Riyas has not laid down the law correctly; that unfortunately, “reasons have not been given by this Court for arriving at the conclusions that it did.” It has been clarified that an Election Petitioner may very well file a composite affidavit, both in support of the averments made in the Election Petition and with regard to the allegations of corrupt practices. Filing of two affidavits is a requirement that “does not exist”, “is not necessary” and “is not warranted” by the Act.
Most curiously, Hon’ble Justice J. Chelameswar who was the other half of the Division Bench in Md. Riyas, decided on 27 April, 2012, again found himself on a Bench deciding a similar issue on 8 March, 2013. Only now, the Full-Bench in Siddheswar had a more Refined Opinion. It might be very useful to find more instances such as these – with clever scrutiny of the Judge Compositions – in order to find a pattern of how frequently or infrequently an SC Judge alters or refines his Opinion/Judgment during his tenure. Especially if he has held one under a (Future) Chief Justice. It might very well be “indicative”.