Elections to the Legislative Assembly in the State of Tamil Nadu was held in 2001. AIADMK secured a landslide majority and consequently chose their leader J. Jayalalitha as the Chief Ministerial candidate.
Jayalalitha, however, had been denied permission to contest the elections.
The Election Commission rejected her nomination papers on account of her disqualification under the provisions of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951.
Her convictions were under appeal and the High Court, on an application, suspended the sentence of imprisonment, ordering her release on bail.
Elected as the leader of the majority party in the State Assembly and now out on bail, the Governor appointed Jayalalitha as the Chief Minister.
Convictions under these provisions brought Jayalalitha under the purview of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951(RPA) which provides inter alia for the conduct of elections to the State Legislatures, the qualifications and disqualifications for membership.
In particular, section 8(3) of the Act disqualifies any person “convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years.” from the date of such conviction to a further period of six years since his/her release.
THE COURT HELD THAT … “A person who is convicted for a criminal offence and is sentenced to imprisonment for a period of not less than 2 years cannot be appointed as the Chief Minister of a state under Article 164(1) read with (4) and cannot continue to function as such. Hence the appointment of Jayalalitha as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu was not legal and valid and that she cannot continue to function as the same.” Praveen Kls
2nd ISSUE Whether the appointment of Chief Minister by the Governor is judicially reviewable? Praveen Kls
ARGUMENTS The immunity provided to the Governor under article 361 is certainly not extended to an appointee by the Governor. In the present case, when an application for issuance of a writ of quo warranto is being examined , it is not the Governor who is being made amenable to answer the court; it is the respondent appointee, who is duty-bound to satisfy that there has been no illegal usurpation of public office. Praveen Kls
THE COURT HELD THAT … “In the present case the Governor need not be made answerable to the court.” Praveen Kls
3rd ISSUE Whether the legal sequitur of the invalidation of the Chief minister’s appointment would be that all acts, decisions, transactions and appointments done by the chief minister would without any legal efficiency be and null and void? Praveen Kls
ARGUMENTS Jayalalitha could not have continued to have functioned as Chief Minister and such serious situation would have created a administrative chaos in the state as it would mean that the legal sequitur of the invalidation of the Chief minister’s appointment would be that all acts, decisions, transactions and appointments done by the chief minister would without any legal efficiency be and null and void. Praveen Kls
THE COURT HELD THAT … “All acts, decisions, transactions and appointments otherwise legal and valid performed during the acting of Jayalalitha or any of the Council of Ministers or by the government shall not be adversely affected.” Praveen Kls
CONCLUSION The Supreme Court in this decision has declared with a view to promote the highest democratic values in the country that a popular mandate cannot override the Constitution. The Court has observed – “the Constitution prevails over the will of the people as expressed through the majority party and the will prevails only if it is in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution”. Praveen Kls