Before The Elections Are Announced, Election Officials Have No Jurisdiction To Search Or Seize Any Material- Karnataka HC
The Karnataka High Court has observed that the Returning Officer or the election officials would not get any jurisdiction to search or seize any material before the announcement of elections.
The bench of Justice M. Nagaprasanna said that "The Returning Officer or the election officials would not get any jurisdiction to search or seize any material before the announcement of elections"
“...Merely because they are appointed as Officers for conduct of elections, they cannot use the said power before the declaration of elections. After the declaration of elections, the entire domain would be open, but not till then.”, the Court added.
Advocate Syed Ummer appeared for the petitioner and CGC S.R. Dodawad appeared for the respondent.
In this case, the petitioner, a prominent social worker involved in charitable activities like distribution of food and clothes to the needy in the area where he resides, had moved the plea to sought direction directing the respondents to release 530 bags of rice which were seized by the Returning Officer and a Police Inspector without any jurisdiction.
A notice was issued to the petitioner and justification was submitted by way of reply, but the rice bags were not returned to the petitioner. Aggrieved of it, the petitioner approached the High Court.
The Counsel for the Election Commission contended that the petitioner had hoarded the rice for distributing the same for the purpose of gaining votes in the election.
The High Court noted that the petitioner has been distributing rice bags to needy for the last 15 long years during all festivals of all religion. And, when the seizure took place, the elections for the Karnataka Legislative Assembly were yet to be notified, which were later declared on March 29, 2023.
The Court said that the seizure was to be exercised by the authority/officers under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, under normal circumstances. But the search was conducted usurping the powers of Officers under the Essential Commodities Act and the very seizure was without any jurisdiction.
“...The Returning Officer and the Inspector of Police, who have conducted the search in the case at hand were not vested with such authority and their action is therefore, illegal.” held the Court.
Accordingly, the Court issued the writ of mandamus to the respondents to release the seized rice bags to the custody of the petitioner.
Cause Title- Isthiyak Ahmed v. Election Commission Of India & Ors.