Dr Khushalchand Baheti
Aurangabad, June 7: “A corrupt voter cannot expect his leader to be honest,” Justice K Lakshman of Telangana High Court, Hyderabad observed while analyzing the importance of voting under the constitutional scheme.
The HC was deciding a petition related to "cash for vote scam case" pending before the special Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) Court.
Biennial Elections for Legislative Council were scheduled to be held on June 1, 2015. Elvis Stephenson was also a nominated MLA. One Revanth Reddy approached him and offered Rs 5 crore either to vote in favour of Telugu Desam Party candidate or abstain from voting by leaving the country at the time of voting. On the complaint of Stephenson, ACB officials laid a trap at his own residence. The accused came there and paid advance amount as offered by him. The amount of Rs 50 lakh paid by Reddy was seized by the ACB. The offence under section 12 of the Prevention of Corruption Act (to bribe public servant), section 120B (conspiracy of crime) read with section 34 of Indian Penal Code (IPC)was registered against Reddy and 4 others. The charge sheet was filed in special ACB Court.
Reddy filed a petition in the HC for quashing of charge sheet. It was contended that the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act are wholly inapplicable as the field of electoral malpractices is covered under Chapter IXA of the IPC. The ACB did not have the jurisdiction to register FIR and investigate the case. Furthermore, the right of an elector to vote is a statutory right. MLA exercising such a right is acting in his capacity as an elector and cannot be conflated with exercise of his public duties in his capacity as a public servant. So, Stephenson cannot be considered as public servant but has to be considered as only elector or voter. The logic behind this argument was that, if Stephenson was not in the role of public servant as MLA but was only voter of MLC election, Prevention of Corruption Act will not be applicable. Offences of malpractice in voting by voter can be dealt by the IPC but not the PC Act.
The bench quoted Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar to reject this argument. Dr Ambedkar had asserted that ultimately, democratic Government was inseparable from the right to vote, and it was voting that would prove to be the one of the harbingers of political education.
Relying on this quote, the HC observed that while expecting his leader to be honest, voter should be honest. The HC allowed trial court to conduct trial as per charge sheet.