The Kerala High Court on Tuesday dismissed a public interest litigation against Union minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar, which alleged that he had filed false affidavits regarding his assets in his nomination form for the Lok Sabha elections, Bar and Bench reported.

Chandrasekhar is the Bharatiya Janata Party candidate from Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram constituency. He is contesting against Congress’ Shashi Tharoor. Polling in the state will take place on April 26.

A bench of Justices VG Arun and S Manu while rejecting the plea said that after the returning officer accepts the nomination of a candidate, an aggrieved individual could file an election petition before the High Court instead of a public interest litigation.

An election petition allows for an inquiry into the validity of the results of parliamentary or local government elections. It is also a means to challenge the election of a candidate in an election.

The bench was hearing a public interest litigation moved by advocate and Congress leader Avani Bansal and Renjith Thomas. The petitioners alleged that the Union minister had deliberately omitted his assets that included properties, luxury cars and private jets in his nomination form.

Chandrasekhar had also undervalued his income from shares in various companies, they alleged.

“The nomination submitted by the 4th respondent [Chandrasekhar] is in utter and repeated violation of the relevant provision of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1950, the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, and as per the compendium given on the Election Commission of India’s website,” the petition said.

It also added that it was a known practice for election candidates to file false affidavits in their nomination forms.

The petitioners said that they had initially filed a complaint against the Union minister regarding the false affidavits with the returning officer in Thiruvananthapuram. Prima facie evidence to justify an inquiry into the claims was also provided, they added.

The returning officer was the designated statutory authority to look into the complaints filed against the candidate, the petition said. The returning officer was also required to provide a speaking order in connection with such complaints.

However, the petitioners alleged that the returning officer was yet to give an order or a report on the complaints filed against Chandrasekhar.

It added that filing a false affidavit was punishable under Section 125A of the Representation of People Act that pertains to candidates failing to furnish or concealing information about them.

The petition also said that the failure of the returning officer to provide a response to their complaint violated their right to know whether the allegations had been accepted or denied.

The petitioners sought a High Court order directing the returning officer to pass a reasoned explanation on the complaints within two days.

In response to the petition, the bench noted that there was no legal provision that mandated a reasoned explanation from the returning officer for their decision on a complaint regarding discrepancies in the election affidavit of a candidate.

“Where is the statutory provision that says that a reasoned order must be given by the returning officer on complaints given to them?” the bench asked the petitioners.

The court stated: “We are of the opinion that the question as to whether the returning officer should have passed a reasoned order cannot be decided at this point of time and no direction can be issued to him to communicate reasons for the decision on the complaint at this point of time.”