Introduction - Antecedents to the CaseBhanu Kumar Shastri v. Mohan Lal Sukhadia
is a leading election law case. This
case arose from the Appeal under Section 116-A of the Representation of The
People Act, 1951 from the Judgment and Order dated 10-5-1968 of the Rajasthan
High Court in Election Petition No. 8 of 1967. It was overruled by the case of
Surinder Singh v. Hardial Singh and Ors.
This case deals with the election corrupt practices under Sections 116A and 123
of the Representation of People Act, 1951 and Order XXXXI Rule 22 of the Civil
Procedure Code, 1908.
There are two parties to this case. Mr. Bhanu Kumar Shastri is the Appellant and
Mr. Mohan Lal Sukhadia is the Respondent in the instant case. Bhanu Kumar
Shastri (29 October 1925 – 24 February 2018) was a member of Lok Sabha from
Udaipur in Rajasthan state in India in 1977. He also served as the president of
Rajasthan state unit of Jan Sangh. In the instant case, the Appellant has been
represented by Advocates A.S. Bobde, Gumanlal Lodha, J.S. Rastogi, Jogdish
Pandya and M.L. Vaidya.
Mohan Lal Sukhadia (31 July 1916 – 2 February 1982) was an Indian politician,
who served as the Chief Minister of Rajasthan state for 17 years (1954–1971). He
became chief minister at age 38 and was responsible for bringing major
transformations and advances in Rajasthan. For this, he is still commonly
well-regarded as the founder of modern Rajasthan.
Later in his career, Sukhadia also served as the Governor of Karnataka, Andhra
Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
In the instant case, the Respondent has been represented by Advocates S. Mohan
Kumaramangalam, I.L. Gobhil, K. Baldev Mehta, M.B.L. Bhargava and S.N. Bhargava.
As this case is an appeal in the Supreme Court of India, the Bench consists of
Supreme Court Judges. This case has been decided by a Division Bench consisting
of Justice A. N. Ray and Justice G. K. Mitter. The judgement has been written by
Justice A. N. Ray and Justice G. K. Mitter has signed and agreed to the same
reasoning provided by Justice A. N. Ray in the judgement.
Summary of Facts
This appeal was against the judgment of the Rajasthan High Court dated 10 May,
1968, dismissing the Election Petition filed by the appellant against the
respondent Mohan Lal Sukhadia. The election of respondent Mohan Lal Sukhadia to
the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly from the Udaipur City Assembly-Constituency
was challenged. The appellant contested the election on Jan Sangh ticket. The
respondent contested on Congress ticket.
The respondent was the Chief Minister
of Rajasthan at the time of the election. Respondent No. 2 Mohan Lal also
contested the election but obtained only 1262 votes. For the purpose of this
appeal we are concerned only with the respondent Mohan Lal Sukhadia.
took place on 15 February, 1967. The result was declared on 21 February, 1967.
The respondent polled 24272 votes. The petitioner obtained 20841 votes. The
respondent won by a margin of 3434 votes. After the election the Congress Party
was reduced to a minority. The respondent Sukhadia who was the Chief Minister
tendered his resignation.
Representation of The People Act, 1951 – Sections 100(b) , 116A , 116B , 116C ,
123(1) , 123(2) ,123(4) , 83 , 98 , 99.
The only issue raised in this case is that of:
“Whether or not the allegations made against the Respondent in the instant case
are correct and if so, whether the Respondent committed ‘Corrupt Practice’ under
Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951?”
Crux of Judgement
The verdict in this case has been decided in the favour of the Respondent.
Further, the Ratio Decidendi of this case is that:
Detailed Commentary on Issues
- Representation of People Act, 1951 - Section 116C--Civil Procedure
Code--Order 41, Rule 22--Respondent may support decision on any ground
decided against him--Non-consideration of entire evidence for arriving at a
finding is an additional reason for allowing respondent to support judgments
of findings against respondent.
- Representation of People Act, 1951 - Section 123--Corrupt
practice--Allegation should not be lightly made--Bonafide acts of a Minister
should be separated from abuse of power--Held, there were long standing public
grievances and there was not sudden outburst of public activity to win voters.
For the purpose of ease, and as per the judgement, the one issue as mentioned
above may be divided into two sub-issues
- Are the allegations made in paragraphs 8, 9, 10 and 11 of the Election
Petition correct? If so, did the respondent No. 1 commit the corrupt
practice specified in Section 123(1) or Section 123(2) of the Representation
of the People Act, 1951?
As per the judgement, the allegations made in paragraphs 8, 9, 10 and 11 of the
Election Petition include allegations of corrupt practice of bribery and undue
influence concerned with the construction of certain works of general public
utility to the inhabitants of Udaipur like the covering of Baluchistan Colony
Nallah, construction of road at Tekri, installation of water-taps in Udaipur
City and the grant of Pattas to the inhabitants of the Raigar Colony.
present appeal the appellant pressed allegations first about Pattas in Raigar
Colony; secondly, about roads in Tekri; thirdly, covering of Nallah in
Baluchistan Colony; fourthly, construction of water-taps; and fifthly, about Ex.
8-A as defamatory of the personal character and conduct of the appellant.
The gist of the allegation is as follows: The respondent Sukhadia, his agents
and other persons with the consent of Sukhadia promised the voters of the Raigar
Colony, Udaipur at a meeting that he would get them Pattas issued at a nominal
rate of Re. 1/-only for the construction of their houses and under this
inducement he asked the Raigar voters to vote for him. Because of this
inducement many Raigar voters voted for the respondent Sukhadia.
The respondent Sukhadia by his undue influence as Chief Minister got issued an order No.
66/5077 dated 10 February, 1967, from the Director, Social Welfare Department,
Jaipur to grant Pattas to Raigars of Thakker Bapa Colony for construction of
houses at a nominal price of Re. 1/-for each patta. The respondent Sukhadia thus
committed corrupt practice as defined under Section 123(1) of the Representation
of the People Act. Girdhari Lal, election agent of the respondent Sukhadia
arranged a meeting on 5 February, 1967 at the Raigar Colony. About 100 persons
The High Court held that it had not been proved that the respondent Sukhadia
made a bargain with the people of Raigar Colony on 5 February, 1967, that if
they promised to vote for him he would arrange for the grant of Pattas to them
at a nominal charge of Re. 1/-each Patta.
Under Section 123(1) of the Representation of the People Act, 1953, bribery
is mentioned as a corrupt practice and bribery is any gift offer promise by
a candidate of any gratification to any person whosoever with the object of
directly or indirectly inducing (b) an elector to vote in an election.
The High Court held that there was no tender and that the work was split to
restrict the contract to the competence of the Assistant Engineer. It is,
therefore, correct to hold that the amount spent was within the limit and these
were valid piece-work agreements and all Bills, Vouchers and Measurement Books
indicate that there was no irregularity.
The High Court held that there was no evidence that it was the respondent
Sukhadia who got the work on Tekri road started by Chhail Behari Mathur. The
High Court further held that there was no evidence of bargain for voting at the
That finding is correct and we do not find any reason to take a
contrary view. The various records about the construction of Tekri road indicate
that this was a long standing grievance. If a roller was used on the date of the
election that should not be interpreted to mean that the Chief Minister was
utilising his position to obtain votes Such a view would suspend and paralyse
normal activities of the State. We agree with the High Court that there was no
- Are the allegations mentioned in paragraphs 12, 13, 14 and 15 of the
Election Petition correct? If so, did the Respondent No. 1 commit corrupt
practice specified in Section 123(4) of the Representation of the People
The appellant alleged that the respondent addressed meetings at Dholi Basri and
Moti Chohtta on 10 February, 1967 where the respondent orally made defamatory
statement about the appellant making an encroachment upon the Government land.
Narain Lal and Shanker Singh gave evidence on behalf of the appellant and said
that the respondent in their presence made the statement that the appellant had
constructed a house on Government land.
The High Court did not accept the oral
evidence on behalf of the appellant. Counsel for the appellant submitted that
though the respondent denied that he held a meeting at Dholi Basri and Moti
Chohtta on 10 February, 1967, there was mention of meetings at those places in
the police report. The High Court held that the respondent might have contacted
the people at the places mentioned but rejected the appellant's version that the
respondent said that the appellant had encroached upon the Government land. We
do not see any reason to take a different view.
The last allegation on which the appellant relied as an instance of corrupt
practice was Ex. 8, which was a leaflet. The leaflet contained a statement The
Vice-President of Jan Sangh Shri Bhanu Kumar Shastri took illegal possession of
Government land in Shivaji Nagar by force and left a road of 9 ft. width only.
It was said that the statement of fact related to the personal character and
conduct of the petitioner and was, therefore, an offence within the meaning of
Section 123(4) and Section 100(b) of the Representation of the People Act.
High Court held that the statement of fact contained in Ex. 8 that Bhanu Kumar
Shastri encroached on government land and constructed his house at Shivaji Nagar
was false and the respondent Sukhadia believed the statement to be false. The
High Court also held that the statement related to the personal character of
Bhanu Kumar Shastri but it was not reasonably calculated to prejudice 'the
prospects of his election and the leaflet was not printed or distributed with
the consent of the respondent Sukhadia or his election agent.
It was never suggested to Girdhari Lal that the leaflet was printed with his
knowledge or consent. Bhagwati Prashad Bhatt and Madho Lal gave evidence on
behalf of the respondent. Bhagwati Prasad said that the leaflet was printed by
him for the District Congress Committee.
If the High Court has unheeded significant and critical documents or oral
evidence, such evidence will justify this Court to support the arguments of the
respondent that the findings of fact arrived at by the High Court are against
clear and cogent proof of facts. this Court will, therefore, be justified in
recording the correct findings on ample and abundant materials which have been
overlooked and ignored by the High Court. In the present case, the Supreme Court
had occasion to deal with these aspects on the rival contentions and recorded
In Ghasi Ram v. Dal Singh and Ors
. and Om Prabha Jain v. Abhash Chand
. this Court considered acts of Ministers, who were candidates at
elections in relation to using discretionary fund on the eve of the election.
Allegation of corrupt practice is a charge of criminal nature. The provisions in
the Representation of the People Act are envisioned to reservation the
transparency of the election, but at the same time these provisions should not
be undermined for the contaminated determinations of slandering candidates who
happen to be in the Government on the eve of the election.
The normal bonafide
acts of persons who happen to be Ministers have to be kept separate from abuse
of the opportunities of power and resources which are not available to their
Under Section 123(1) of the Representation of the People Act, bribery is said to
be a gift, offer or promise by a candidate of any gratification to any person
with the object directly or indirectly of inducing an elector to vote at an
election. The ingredients of bribery are, therefore, first gift or offer or
promise of gratification to an elector, second, the gift or offer or promise of
gratification is for the direct or indirect purpose of inducing an elector to
It was said on behalf of the respondent that if Ministers on the eve of
the election render public or social service by redressing grievances of the
public in relation to construction of roads or installation of water taps or
closing of insanitary drains or pits, these acts should not be interpreted to be
either gift or offer or promise of gratification. It is difficult to lay down an
abstract proposition. Ordinarily betterment of grievances of the public appears
to be innocuous.
If, however, there is evidence to indicate that any candidate
at an election abuses his power and position as a Minister in the Government by utilising public revenues for conferring advantage or benefit on a particular
group of people for the purpose of obtaining their votes, different
considerations will arise. The Court is always vigilant to watch not only the
conduct of the candidates and to protect their character from being defamed but
also to see that the character and conduct of the public is not corroded by
corrupt motive or evil purposes of candidates. The genuine and bonafide aims and
aspirations of candidates have to be protected on the one hand and malafide
abuse and arrogance of power will have to be censured on the other.
This case was overruled by the case of Surinder Singh v. Hardial Singh and
Sections 100 and 123 of Representation of the People Act - appeal against
setting aside election of appellant - Act is complete code by itself on subject
of elections to Parliament and State Legislature and election declared void only
if one of grounds mentioned in Section 100 attracted - if corrupt practice
committed by returned candidate or his election agent or by any other person
with consent of returned candidates or his election agent, election of returned
candidate declared void - supported of party accompanied appellant in course of
canvassing for votes - legal requirement for finding corrupt practice not
Judged by the tests laid down in these decisions it has to be found out as to
whether the respondent Sukhadia did any act which can be construed to be out of
the ordinary or with a view to entering into an election bargain with the
voters. In all the three instances relied on by the appellant at Raigar Colony,
Tekri and Baluchistan Colony, it is manifest that there were long standing
public grievances and the Government from time to time made suggestions and
recommendations for redress of the grievances and amelioration of the condition
of the people.
It cannot be said that on the eve of the election there was any sudden or
spontaneous out-burst of public activity in the shape of diverting public money
to win electors on the side of the respondent Sukhadia by throwing baits or
giving them any particular and specially favoured treatment.
For these reasons, the Appellant was not entitled to succeed.
List of Similar Judgements
- Ramanbhai Ashabhai Patel v. Dabhi Ajitkumar Fulsinji and Ors.,
- T.N. Angami v. Smt. Ravalu Reno M. Shaiza, (Civil Appeal) No. 1125 of
- Ghasi Ram v. Dal Singh and Ors., 3SCR102.
- Om Prabha Jain v. Abhash Chand and Anr., 3SCR111.
- Bhanu Kumar Shastri v/s Mohan Lal Sukhadia & Ors., 1971 Air 2025