Bombay High Court bench at Aurangabad observed that all those elected candidates who are elected without any opposition in local elections are obliged to provide accounts of the expenses incurred during elections. A Division Bench of Justice SV Gangapurwala and Justice Sunil P Deshmukh also observed that it is in trend nowadays among candidates to advertise their candidature by gathering mass support of the public. While filing their nominations the candidates prefer rallies and spend a certain amount on bands, advertisement, cut-outs and plenty of other expenses. Even expenses are incurred by a candidate contesting an election unopposed. Therefore it cannot be said that there would be zero or no expenses in an unopposed election and the candidates who are being elected unopposed would be required to present all election expenses. Hence, there would be no exemption given to those candidates.
Earlier, this case was addressed by a Single Judge Bench and passed an order relying on the judgement given in the case of Dipmala w/o Ravindra Chachane V/s. Additional Commissioner, Nagpur. The court pointed out that in Dipmala Case it was stated that if two or more candidates are contesting for a particular post then it would be considered as a contest where candidates incur expenses and only in those contest the candidates are obligated to disclose their expense accounts. The court in Dipmala judgement also referred to two orders of the State Election Commission, the first order was passed [ 7th Feb 1995] stating that the candidates contesting an election have to maintain their accounts of expenditure and another one [order passed on 15th Oct 2016] was concerning the submission of expenses to the Parliament of India, Legislative Assemblies and local bodies. The single judge after observing that the two orders of the EC were not acknowledged by the High Court in the Dipmala case and further decided to refer this matter to a larger bench. The single judge framed a question for the larger bench to deal with.
“Whether a candidate elected unopposed, is required to tender his accounts of election expenditure under Section 14B (1) of the Maharashtra Village Panchayat Act, Section 16 (1- D) of the Maharashtra Municipalities Nagar Panchayats and Townships Act 1965 and section 15B (1) under the Maharashtra Zilla Parishad and Panchayat Samities Act, 1961, because of the order dated 07.02.1995 and the Government Resolution dated 15.10.2016?”
The petitioner submitted that the Village Panchayat Act was enacted to avoid misuse of funds by the candidates during elections. He further argued that refusing disclosure of expense accounts within the deadline, would not in all cases entail disqualification, as the absolute discretion by the election authority ought to be applied to sustain the election of the democratically elected persons.
The court opined that these provisions of the Maharashtra Village Panchayat Act were introduced to eliminate the situations in which candidates try to influence, corrupt and induce voters to surrender their conscience and obtain votes by the unethical. unlawful and corrupt application of money. The court further added these provisions supervise and regulate the behaviour of candidates and warn them not to pursue unethical practices.
Considering that no other judgment stated that in an unopposed election there would no need to furnish expenditure accounts, the High Court ruled candidates elected without opposition should also provide accounts of election expenses.