The higher level of education of a candidate may influence voters and they prefer to cast their vote in favour of someone with a higher qualification, the Delhi High Court said.
The observation by the court came in its order dismissing an application by former BJP MLA Karan Singh Tanwar seeking setting aside of AAP legislator “Commando” Surender Singh’s election on the ground that he admitted to have furnished incorrect details of his education in the nomination papers.
While dismissing the application, Justice Hima Kohli kept pending the main election petition against Singh, saying that it shall have to go through the rigours of a full-fledged trial for a decision.
Tanwar in his election petition has challenged Singh’s election on the grounds of non-declaration of government dues, non-furnishing of financial status and income tax returns, as well as incorrect disclosure of his educational qualification in his nomination papers.
The AAP legislator had, in his nomination papers, filled that he graduated from Sikkim University when he had actually graduated from EIILM University in Sikkim. He had claimed that it was an inadvertent mistake.
The court agreed with the AAP MLA’s claim that the incorrect disclosure was not a deliberate attempt to influence voters.
“The said defect in the disclosure is not of such a substantial character that could have materially prejudiced the prospect of the election, for it to be termed as a corrupt practice within the meaning of the Representation of the People Act, resulting in rejection of the nomination of the respondent (Singh), it said.
“Resultantly, the present application for setting aside the election of the respondent on the ground of his making a misrepresentation with respect to the University from where he had acquired his graduation degree in the declaration form and passing a judgement on admissions, is dismissed,” it added.
However, the court did not agree with his contention that since having a graduation degree is not a pre-requisite for contesting polls, any incorrect disclosure regarding it was not of any material consequence.
“The last limb of the argument advanced by counsel for respondent 1 (Singh) that possessing a graduation degree not being a prerequisite for contesting the elections, the same is an irrelevant consideration for a voter, is unacceptable..
“... there could be a situation where the voter would be swayed by the level of the educational qualification of a candidate and would prefer to exercise his choice of voting in favour of a candidate with a higher qualification..,” it said.
Ruling in favour of the AAP MLA, the court noted that it was not Tanwar’s case that he does not possess a graduation degree or that the year in which he completed his course was incorrect.
It also noted that Singh had filed copies of his mark sheets issued by EIILM University for all three years of the course.
The court also said that had it been a case where Singh had made a false disclosure of his educational qualification by stating that he had graduated from an eminent University of national repute, like Delhi University or Jawaharlal Nehru University, it would have been a different matter as the eminence of the varsity would be a factor which could weigh in his favour and improve his prospects in the polls.
“But the respondent has not made any such tall claim,” it said.
The court further said that in such a situation, it “does not find any force in the submission made by counsel for the petitioner (Tanwar) that while making an informed choice between the candidates for the constituency in question, the electorate would have been persuaded to vote in favour of the respondent simply because he had graduated from Sikkim University”.