The Supreme Court in a judgment dated October 19th, has upheld the order of the Andhra Pradesh High Court which had allowed the application of Respondent No. 1 for amendment of the Election Petition through which the election of the Appellant -Returned Candidate named Yendapalli Srinivasulu Reddy was called into question.

The Bench of Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice JK Maheshwari held that allowing such an amendment of the Petition did not change its character and this observed-

"It cannot be said that the ground as sought to be pleaded does not have any foundation whatsoever in the petition as filed; or that pleading of such particulars would change the character of the election petition. That being the position, we are at one with the High Court that the amendment as prayed for was required to be allowed."

The Election Petition was filed by Respondent No. 1 essentially on two grounds; i) One being of improper acceptance of the nomination of the returned candidate, i.e., the Appellant, and ii) the second being of improper receipt of invalid votes and improper rejection of valid votes.

The second ground was not relevant for the purpose of deciding the appeal filed before the Court.

The Election Petitioner – Respondent No. 1 had urged before the High Court that the nomination paper of the Appellant ought to have been rejected for not being accompanied by a proper affidavit, particularly when the verification part was not carrying the signature of the Appellant.

There were also other grounds that were urged by the Petitioner in relation to the Affidavit and it was finally submitted that the nomination was required to be rejected.

On March 27th, 2018, the Petitioner moved an application seeking permission to amend the Election Petition to incorporate certain averments. The application was contested by the Appellant essentially with the submissions that after the expiry of the period of limitation for filing of the election petition, it was not permissible for the election petitioner (Respondent No. 1) to amend the petition so as to include any other and new ground of challenge to the election.

The High Court after examining the rival contentions had allowed the Petition.

The Apex Court had on February 14, 2020, stayed the operation of the impugned order of the High Court.

Senior Counsel P. Vishwanath Setty appeared for the Appellant while Counsel Byrapaneni Suyodhan appeared for the Respondents before the Apex Court.

The Counsel for the Appellant had referred to Sections 33A, 86(5), 100(1), and 125A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and contended before the Court that the amendment as sought for by the Respondent No.1 relates to the allegations of corrupt practice and for the fundamental reason that there had not been any allegation of corrupt practice in the petition as originally filed, no averments in that regard could be inserted by way of amendment.

The Court while referring to certain precedents noted –

"Applying the principles aforesaid to the facts of the present case with reference to the pleadings already taken in this matter, we are unable to find any fault in the approach of the High Court in allowing the amendment as prayed for. This is for the simple reason that the election petitioner (respondent No.1) had never taken "corrupt practice" as a ground to challenge the election of the appellant. The grounds, as noticed above, have precisely been of improper acceptance of the nomination form of the returned candidate and improper acceptance of invalid votes as also improper rejection of valid votes."

Further, the Court added, "That being the position, the pleadings sought to be taken by way of amendment so as to indicate that the nomination form was not to be accepted for yet another reason, that is, for non-compliance of the statutory requirements, cannot be said to be of introduction of any new cause of action or new ground of challenge."

Accordingly, the Court dismissed the appeal and upheld the impugned order of the High Court.

Cause Title - Yendapalli Srinivasulu Reddy v. Vemireddy Pattabhirami Reddy & Ors.

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