The election of a candidate to the Legislative Assembly cannot be invalidated because of irregularities in the disclosure of their educational qualifications, the Calcutta High Court ruled on Friday.
The single-judge bench of Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya said that an “uneducated electorate has the right to elect one of them as their representative in the State Legislative Assembly”.
“Seen from such perspective, it cannot be said that even if there was some irregularity in the declaration regarding [the candidate’s] educational qualification...the same would be regarded as ‘improper acceptance of any nomination’ to vitiate his election itself,” he said.
The High Court made the comments while upholding the election of Bharatiya Janata Party candidate Swapan Majumder to the Bangaon Dakshin Assembly constituency in the 2021 West Bengal polls.
Majumder’s election to the Legislative Assembly had been challenged by a citizen named Gopal Seth. On the basis of documents obtained under the Right to Information Act, Seth had alleged that Majumder faked his educational qualifications submitted during the Assembly polls in 2021.
Seth contended that Majumder’s birth year has been recorded as 1982 and therefore, he is expected to have been in class five in 1990-92. However, the records of school Majumder is said to have attended during his secondary schooling do not mention him as having studied there between academic years 1989-90 and 1995-1996, Seth’s petition argued.
In response, Bhattacharya said that this alleged irregularity is a matter for a criminal court to adjudicate with a proper trial and examination of evidence. The material submitted to the court by the petitioner was “utterly insufficient to come to the serious conclusion that [Majumder] faked his educational qualification” or that he “practised fraud on the [Election Commission]”, the judge remarked.
Bhattacharyya said that Section 36(4) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, provides that “at the time of scrutiny of nomination, the Returning Officer shall not reject any nomination paper on the ground of any defect which is not of substantial character”.
“Educational qualification, not being an essential criterion for getting elected, would not be a defect of a substantial character,” Bhattacharyya added.