Punjab and Haryana High Court dismisses petition challenging by-election to Karnal assembly seat

The Punjab and Haryana High Court today dismissed a petition which had sought directions to set aside the Election Commission’s (EC) March 16 notification announcing the bypoll for the Karnal assembly seat.

A division bench of Justice Sudhir Singh and Justice Harsh Bunger had reserved its verdict on a plea seeking directions to set aside the notification. The BJP has fielded Haryana Chief Minister Nayab Singh Saini for the bypoll for the Karnal assembly seat, vacated by former CM Manohar Lal Khattar. CM Saini is also an MP from Kurukshetra in the outgoing Lok Sabha.

The by-election to the Karnal assembly seat is scheduled to be held on May 25 along with the elections for the 10 Lok Sabha seats in Haryana. The petitioner in the plea contended that the EC failed to consider section 151 (A) of the Representation of People’s Act, which includes a proviso (a) that if the remainder of the member’s term in relation to the vacancy is less than one year, the bypoll need not be held.

The aforesaid section stipulates that a by-election for filling vacancies must be held within six months from the date of vacancy, except when the remaining term of the member is less than one year. Notably, the new member will effectively have only about two months in office after the by-election, the petitioner submitted.

The plea underlined that the Haryana assembly was formed on November 4, 2019, and its term is lapsing on November 3, 2024, adding that the elections are due in October 2024. The petitioner further argued that since the incoming elected member would scarcely have a period of approximately two months, there is no justification for a significant financial outlay for a truncated tenure.

Last month, the BJP had replaced Manohar Lal Khattar, with OBC leader Saini, as Haryana’s chief minister in a swift switch in the state. Former CM Khattar is contesting the Lok Sabha election and is BJP’s candidate from Karnal parliamentary seat.

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