Ahead of the Lok Sabha Elections 2024, the Supreme Court refused to entertain a Writ Petition filed by Jawahar Kumar Jha, an independent candidate from Banka Parliamentary Constituency in Bihar, against his nomination being rejected by the Returning Officer (RO).

Jha, in his plea, vehemently contested it as 'arbitrary and illegal'. The polls for the Banka parliamentary constituency are scheduled for April 26.

While refusing to entertain the plea, the Bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice JB Pardiwala said, "Same yardstick applies across; somebody whose nomination paper is rejected cannot come under Article 32 Petition; you have to file an Election Petition."

At the outset, Counsel for Election Commission of India (ECI) pointed out, that Jha has invoked Article 32. He submitted, "Under Section 300 of the Representation of People's Act, there is a provision for challenging the improper rejection of a nomination in an election petition."

CJI asked the Counsel for Petitioner, "Why have you come here? Your nomination paper has been rejected and you come here under Article 32."

"We can't start entertaining Article 32 Petitions where a nomination paper is rejected. There will be chaos in the Elections if we start doing this," the Court said.

Counsel for the Petitioner contended, "My difficulty is this: a person whose nomination has been rejected in Gujarat or Madhya Pradesh his Writ Petition is being maintained by the respective High Courts, but me being in Bihar, my Writ Petition is not even being registered."

The Bench said, "Even if we issue notice and hear the matter, it will go beyond the date of Election. No point in us hearing it right now." The Court further stated that in Election law, you have to follow the jurisprudence of Election law.

Consequently, the Court ordered, "We are not inclined to entertain the Petition under Article 32 of the Constitution against the rejection of the nomination of the Petitioner as an independent candidate for the ensuing Parliamentary Elections from Banka Lok Sabha Constituency. The Petitioner will be at liberty to follow such remedies that are open in law."

The Writ Petition filed through Advocate on Record (AoR) Alakh Alok Srivastava sought directions to the ECI to curb 'arbitrary' rejections of nomination papers.

"Issue urgent appropriate Writ, Order, or direction to specifically define the defects of substantial character within the meaning of Section 36(4) of the Representation of the People Act," the plea stated. Jha also sought a direction to the poll panel and the RO of Banka to quash "the press release... dated April 5, 2024, issued by the Public Relations Office, Banka, vide which the nomination of the Petitioner was arbitrarily rejected" and declare him as a valid candidate.

"The said Section 36 (4) of the Act, 1951 states that the returning officer shall not reject any nomination paper on the ground of any defect which is not of a 'substantial character'. "However, there is no specific definition to specify as to what will constitute a defect of substantial character," the plea read.

Cause Title: Jawahar Kumar Jha v. Election Commission of India & Ors. [W.P. (C) No. 237/2024]