(1.) THIS petition under Article 226 of the Constitution raises an important question with regard to the validity and legality of the holding of elections to the cantonment Board. Jullundur Cantonment, which are scheduled to be held on the 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th of November 1957.
(2.) THE petitioner claims to be a voter duly qualified to vote in the election of members to the Cantonment Board, Jullundur Cantonment. He is entered as a voter in ward No. III in the electoral roll for the elections. He has also been an elected member of the Board for the years 1946 to 1954 and he was Vice-President of the said Board for about three years during that period. According to the Cantonments Electoral Rules, 1945, as amended and published in gazette of India, part II, on 2-10-1954, provisions have been made for preparation of the electoral rolls on the basis of which election of the elected members is to take place. Rule 6 provides that the Board, or where a Board is not constituted, the Officer Commanding the Station, shall have prepared by the 1st july of each year an electoral roll in Form I drawn up on street basis, and divided into separate parts for each ward. The revision of electoral rolls is an annual obligation in view of Section 26 of the indian Cantonments Act, 1924 (Act II of 1924), hereinafter referred to as the Act. According to the petitioner the Executive Officer without obtaining the decision of the Board ordered the preparation of the rolls under Rule 6 which he had no power to do. The roll as prepared was published on 1-7-1957 and objections were invited as also claims within a period of twenty days. It is stated that after the publication of the rolls and giving of notice inviting objections and claims under Rule 8 no further names could be added or deleted, but it is alleged that the Executive Officer of the Board included the names of 156 persons in ward No. V and 336 persons in ward No. " VI many days alter the roll was published under Rule 8. It is further mentioned that under Section 27 of the act the Central Government issued a notification dated 6-6-1953 (Annexure 'b' to the petition) by which the 1st day of March was fixed as the "qualifying date. " instead of the said date, the Executive Officer directed that in preparing the list the qualifying date for the purpose of residence of the persons entitled to be recorded as voters should be taken as 1-4-1957. This mistake in preparation of the preliminary went to the root of the matter and no election can fane place on the basis of such Tolls:--The validity of the meeting OF THE BOARD HELD ON 1010-1957, WHICH was presided over by Col. J. Section Sekhon, at which the election programme was drawn up, was also attacked on various grounds set out in paragraphs 14 and 15 of the petition. It is thus asserted by the petitioner, who is contesting the seats from wards III and V, that the elections which are sought to be held on the basis of the rolls as prepared would be wholly illegal and the entire elections will be vitiated. The respondent filed a written statement, dated 19-10-1957, in which certain preliminary matters were raised, apart from objections on merits. It was objected inter alia that the petitioner had An adequate and proper remedy provided by the electoral Rules and therefore the petition ought not to be entertained. Reliance was placed on Section 24 of the Act for the authority of the Executive officer to take proper proceedings for the revision of electoral rolls. It was stated that the provisions of Rule 8 had been strictly complied with and that the rolls were revised in accordance with law. Moreover the petitioner had by his conduct accepted the same and it was not open to him to agitate the matter. In paragraph 11 of the written statement some important matters were stated. It was admitted that for the inclusion of the names of the military personnel a letter dated 21-3-1957 (Annexure '1' to the written statement) was issued in which by a typing mistake the qualifying date was mentioned as 1-4-1957 instead of 1-3-1957. Information was received from the respective Officers Commanding units by April 1957 and the names supplied by them were included in the voters' lists. The mistake with regard to the qualifying date was admitted, but it was explained that when the aforesaid mistake was discovered, letters were addressed to officers Commanding the Units to inform whether the persons mentioned in their lists were twenty-one years of age or over and whether they had resided in the cantonment for six months or more as on 1st March, 1957. After the replies had been received, a thorough checking was done and the rolls were prepared according to law.
(3.) IT is significant that along with the written statement affidavits of certain persons were filed. Out of these, the affidavits of Joginder Singh Jogi, Mohinder singh, Tarsem Lal, Bhagwan Das, and Kripa Ram are of teachers working in the cantonment Board High School. It was sworn by them that they had been directed by the Executive Officer to carry out the preparation of the electoral rolls of certain wards and that they had collected particulars for preparation of the lists of voters as regards their age and residence taking the qualifying date to fee the 1st March, 1957. The affidavit of Rakha Ram, Sanitary Officer, was filed in similar terms. The affidavit of Shiva Shankar, Electricity Sanitary Superintendent of the Board, contained a statement that the revision of the rolls had been completed by the 26th June. 1957 and that the teachers deputed to prepare the voters' lists had been directed to take the qualifications for age and residence as on the 1st March, 1957. To the same effect was the affidavit of O, P. Gupta, Second Clerk of the board. It is curious that on the 21st October, 1957, Bhagwan Das, one of the teachers, sent a telegram to this Court making certain allegation of his affidavit having been obtained under pressure. I have before me further affidavits of all the aforesaid teachers of different dates subsequent to the 22nd October, 1957, wherein an allegation is made that they had been asked on the previous occasion to sign a prepared affidavit by the executive Officer and that the latter had put pressure on them to sign without asking to see the relevant documents. It was further stated that the particulars of age and residence of the voters collected by the aforesaid teachers were on the basis of the 1st April, 1957 as being the qualifying date and not the 1st March, 1957 as stated in the previous affidavits. Along with these affidavits a printed form, in which it is stated as follows, has been attached :--"i give below a declaration containing the names of persons whose age is 21 years or more as on 1st April, 1957 who are residing at the address noted below: "i request you to kindly register the names in the electoral rolls of the cantonment for elections to Cantonment Board. ";