Coalition between Political Parties & Independent Candidate is a Coalition

The Kerala High Court on 5 July, 2012 in Sheeba James Vs. T.C. George held that “even if a candidate has filed the nomination as an independent candidate, if the election is contested with the support of the coalition and won, then such a member is deemed to be a member of the coalition.

Justice Antony Dominic observed that a coalition between political parties and an independent candidate is a coalition as defined in Section 2(ii) of the Act.

# Coalition

# Section 2(ii) of the Kerala Local Authorities (Prohibition of Defection) Act, 1999, which reads as follows:

“2(ii) “coalition” means a coalition made between more than one political parties or between more than one political parties and one or more independents or between one political party and one or more than one independents or between more than one independents for the purpose of contesting any election of a local authority.”

Explanation: A member who stood as a candidate in an election with the support of any one of the political parties or coalition shall be deemed to be a member included in that political party or coalition.”

A reading of this provision shows that a coalition between political parties and an independent candidate is a coalition as defined in Section 2(ii) of the Act. Further, in view of the explanation to the section, an independent member who stood as a candidate in the election with the support of coalition shall be deemed to be a member included in that coalition.

# Facts of the Case

Case of the petitioner is that she had requested the Congress President to field her as a candidate of Indian National Congress in Ward No.II of Kadamakudy Grama Panchayat. However, she was denied the seat and therefore she submitted nomination as an independent candidate.

The nomination was accepted and she contested the election as an independent candidate with gas cylinder as her symbol and won with a majority of 125 votes. Thereafter, she contested the election to the post of President of the Panchayat with the support of LDF coalition and defeating the rival candidate fielded by the UDF coalition, she was elected as the President of the Panchayat.

The 1st respondent, the elected member from Ward No.V of the Panchayat, who is also the parliamentary party leader of UDF coalition filed petition under Section 4 of the Kerala Local Authorities (Prohibition of Defection) Act, 1999 before the Kerala State Election Commission seeking to disqualify the petitioner under Section 3(1)(b) of the Act.

Petitioner filed objection reiterating her contention that she fought and won the election as an independent candidate without the support of any political party.

The Kerala State Election Commission passed order holding that the petitioner contested the election as an independent candidate with the support of UDF coalition. It was held that violating the whip, with the support of LDF coalition, she contested and was elected as the President of the Panchayat and hence committed defection. It is this order which is under challenge in this writ petition.

# Whether an independent candidate who contest the election with the support of a coalition is deemed to be a member of the coalition.

The Kerala Election Commission has made reference to the register maintained by the Panchayat under Rule 3 of the Kerala Local Authorities (Disqualification of Defected Members) Rules, which states that the petitioner is an independent member without any support of any political party or coalition.

On this aspect, the Commission has rightly held that as per Rule 5(3) of the Rules, for the purpose of disposing a petition for disqualification filed under Rule 5(1), the Commission may, if it deems necessary, examine the veracity of the declaration filed by the member concerned under Rule 3(2) or may also examine as to whether the member belongs to a political party or to a coalition or is an independent member not included in a political party or a coalition, and the decision that the Commission may take on the basis of such examination in the matter shall be final.

Therefore, the Commission has rightly found that the entires in the register made on the basis of the declaration made by the candidate, is not a determinative factor and that it is for the Commission to take a final decision on the issue having regard to the provisions of Rule 5(2) mentioned above.

Further, the Commission has also taken note of the fact that while submitting her nomination before the Returning Officer, the petitioner had represented that she was contesting the election as an independent candidate without the support of any political party or coalition.

In this context, learned Senior counsel contended that since the petitioner filed her nomination as an independent candidate, even if she was supported by a political party or coalition subsequent to the filing of nomination, that will not affect the independent status of the petitioner.

Explanation to Section 2(ii) shows that a member who stood as a candidate in the election with the support of a coalition shall be deemed to be a member of the coalition. Therefore, the question to be considered is whether the candidate contested the election with the support of the coalition and not whether the candidate had the support of the coalition at the time of filing the nomination.

Consequently, even if a candidate has filed the nomination as an independent candidate, if the election is contested with the support of the coalition and won, then such a member is deemed to be a member of the coalition.

# Whether the petitioner is guilty of defining a whip validly issued by the UDF parliamentary party.

Section 3 (1)(b)(ii) reads thus:-

“3. Disqualification on ground of Defection: (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Kerala Panchayat Raj Act, 1994 (13 of 1994), or in the Kerala Municipality Act, 1994 (20 of 1994), or in any other law for the time being in force, subject to the other provisions of this Act.

(b) if an independent member belonging to any coalition withdraws from such coalition or joins any political party or any other coalition, or if such a member, contrary to any direction in writing issued by a person or authority authorised by the coalition in its behalf in the manner prescribed, votes or abstains from voting,-

(ii) in a meeting of a Panchayat in an election of its President/Vice President, a member of a Standing Committee or the Chairman of the Standing Committee; or in a voting on a no confidence motion against any one of them except a member of a Standing Committee;

While dismissing the writ petition the Court held that the petitioner was an independent member of the UDF coalition. In the election to the President and Vice President, she voted contrary to the directions given in writing by the 1st respondent, who was the person authorised by the coalition in that behalf. This therefore shows by her conduct, she has withdrawn from the coalition and therefore she was liable to be disqualified in view of the provisions contained in Section 3(1)(b) of the Act.

Thus the findings of the Kerala Election Commission that the petitioner was an independent member of the UDF coalition and that she has defied the direction given by PW1 and became the President with the support of the members of the LDF coalition is not vitiated on any of the grounds urged. If that be so, petitioner has rightly been disqualified under Section 3(1)(b) of the Act. Therefore, Ext.P4 order allowing Ext.P1 petition filed by the 1st respondent does not suffer from any infirmity warranting interference by the Court.

Therefore, once it is found that the petitioner contested the election with the support of the UDF coalition, in view of the explanation to Section 2(ii) of the Act, she has to be deemed to be a member included in the UDF coalition. For this reason, the 1st respondent failed in making out a case that the petitioner was a member of the UDF coalition.

Senior Advocate S. Sreekumar, P. Prijith, K.K. Jayaraj Nambiar and P. Martin Jose appeared for the petitioner and Standing Counsel of Kerala State Election Commission advocate Murali Purushothaman appeared for the respondent.

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