Benjamin Mate as new outer MP in Manipur

Manipur High Court on Friday declared BJP candidate Houlim Shokhopao Mate (HS Mate) popularly known as Benjamin Mate as the new Outer constituency MP. HC order passed by Justice MV Muralidaran following the mistakes made in Dr Lorho Pfoze’s nomination paper as null and void.

Benjamin filed an election petition under Section 100(1)(d) (i) &(iv) and under Section 100(1)(b) of the Representation of People Act, 1951 (the RP Act) to declare that the election of Lorho S Pfoze from 2-Outer Manipur (ST) Parliamentary Constituency to the 17th Lok Sabha, 2019 as null and void and to declare him as the duly elected member in the 17th Lok Sabha, 2019 from 2-Outer Manipur (ST) Parliamentary Constituency under Section 101 of the RP Act.

He pointed out that Lorho kept Column 5 of Para 4 of the affidavit in Form 26 dated 21.03.2019 as blank; gross total value disclosed by him at Para 7-A(ix) is incorrect; material information pertaining to his non-agricultural lands and other interest in immovable properties at Para 7-B (ii) and (v) despite owning immovable properties; failed to disclose the relevant details for showing a sum of Rs 1,12,50,000 at Para 7-B (vi); false information at Para (9B)(f); falsely shown Rs. 3,24,704 and Rs 2,20,648 respectively at Part-B, Para (11)8(A) for the candidate and his spouse; particulars shown at Para (11)8B(iii)(b) of Part B, as the first respondent disclosed only a sum of Rs 80,00,000 being the value of the inherited immovable property at Part A, Para 7B(iv).

Lorho S Pfoze’s mistakes in his nomination paper

Lorho admitted that the separate bank account for election was opened only on March 24, 2019 after an affidavit in Form 26 was submitted on March 21, 2019 and that he violated the ECI notification. He did not maintain his election expenditures as per the instructions/ guidelines of the ECI, the court said.

HC stated that “A candidate is not free to spend as much as he likes in the election. The law prescribes that the total election expenditure shall not exceed the maximum limit prescribed under Rule 90 of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961. For the State of Manipur in the 17th Lok Sabha Election, 2019, a candidate can spend up to Rs.70 lakh”. However, Dr Lorho’s expenses show Rs 74,13,218, which is beyond Rs70 lakh as prescribed by the ECI, is clearly beyond the permitted limit.

From the oral and documentary evidence, it is clear that the Returning Officer improperly accepted the nomination paper of Dr Lorho. It is the duty of the RO to check whether the information required is fully furnished at the time of filing of affidavit with the nomination paper since such information is very vital for giving effect to the right to know of the citizens.

It is also clear that the affidavit which was said to be accepted by the RO has not been uploaded in the official website of the ECI as mandated under law. Additionally, the non-dissemination of the affidavit in Form 26 dated 25.3.2019 through the website materially affected the election of Dr Lorho.

The HC opined that Lorho has violated the instructions/notification/guidelines of the Election Commission of India and the mandatory provisions of the RP Act in committing illegality in the election expenditures and also exceeded the maximum limit for expenditures as prescribed.

The act of Dr Lorho would amount to corrupt practice and therefore, it materially affected the result of the election of 2-Outer Manipur (ST) Parliamentary Constituency to the 17th Lok Sabha, 2019 as the affidavit in Form 26 filed by Lorho suffers from the defects of substantial character.

Lorho got 3,63,527 votes and Benjamin got 2,89,745 votes. The next person securing highest votes among contesters in the election is ThangminlienKipgen (National People’s Party) with 1,52,510 votes. The first respondent was declared as elected member of 2-Outer Manipur (ST) Parliamentary Constituency in the General Election to 17th Lok Sabha, 2019. The difference between Benjamin and Thangminlien Kipgen is 1,37,235 votes.

Benjamin Mate as new outer MP in Manipur

There were eight candidates in the fray, the claim of Benjamin to declare him as an elected member cannot be denied for the reason that among all the candidates contested, Benjamin secured the highest votes after Lorho, the Court said.

Consequent findings by the HC stated that the election of Dr Lorho is declared null and void and that Benjamin is entitled to be declared as elected member of 2-Outer Manipur (ST) Parliamentary Constituency in the General Election to the 17th Lok Sabha, 2019.

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