1. Since the questions raised in these petitions are same and identical, both these petitions are taken up together for final disposal and disposed of by this common order.
2. The facts in these petitions are not in dispute. For the purpose of convenience, the facts set out in Writ Petition No. 1027 of 1999 is set out.
3. The petitioner in Writ Petition No. 1027 of 1999, is a Professor of Physiology working in Bangalore Medical College. In this petition, he has called in question the correctness of the notification dated 5th of January, 1999, a copy of which has been produced as Annexure-A, issued by the second respondent. In notification Annexure-A, the second respondent has directed that the enrollment of teachers in the published electoral roll of the constituencies relating to Professors and teachers should be examined and thereafter, the electoral rolls should be corrected. It is further directed in the said notification that the election scheduled to be held on 18th of January, 1999 would be rescheduled and fresh date of election would be notified.
4. The third respondent-University was established by means of an Act known as The Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences Act, 1994 (Karnataka Act 44 of 1994) (hereinafter referred to as "the Act"), with effect from 1st of June, 1996. As can be seen from the provisions of the Act, all the Colleges imparting health sciences, are affiliated to the University. The jurisdiction of the University is extended throughout the State of Karnataka. Section 9 of the Act provides for the Officers of the University. The Governor of Karnataka is the Chancellor of the University. The Minister in charge of the Medical Education in Karnataka is the Pro-Chancellor of the University by virtue of his office. Section 12 of the Act provides that the Vice-Chancellor shall be the whole time Officer of the University and the same provision provides for the procedure provided for appointment of the Vice-Chancellor. Section 13 of the Act provides for powers and duties of the Vice-Chancellor. Section 20 of the Act provides for the Authorities of the University. The Senate is one of the Authorities of the University. Section 21 of the Act provides for the constitution of the Senate. Clause (xi) of sub-section (1) of Section 21 provides for election of five professors as members of the Senate amongst themselves. Clause (xii) of sub-section (1) of Section 21 provides for election of five teachers other than Professors elected from amongst themselves as members of the Senate. Section 32 of the Act provides that in case of elected members of the Senate, Syndicate and Academic Council, the method of election shall be as prescribed in the statute. Clause (i) of sub-section (1) of Section 33 provides for the procedure for election to the Authorities and the procedure to be followed at meetings of Authorities, including stipulation of quorum for transaction of business where such stipulations are not already made in the Act.
5. In exercise of the power conferred under Section 34 of the Act, the third respondent-Univesity has framed Statutes providing for the procedure relating to the election of the Authorities of the University. Statute 2 of the Statutes provides that the election to the Authorities of the University shall be held in accordance with the provisions of the Statutes. Statute 3 provides for the maintenance of electoral rolls. The said provision specifically provides that separate electoral rolls should be maintained in respect of (i) constituency of Professors; and (ii) constituency of Teachers other than Professors. Statute 5 of the Statutes provides for the power of the Vice-Chancellor to correct electoral rolls. Statute 8 provides for the powers of the Vice-Chancellor in the matter of conduct of elections. Statute 9 of the Statutes provides for issue of a communication in the matter of an election to be held to the Senate among various categories. Statutes 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 of the Statutes respectively provide for the filing of nomination by the candidates; deposit to be made by candidates; scrutiny of nominations; withdrawal of candidature; and final list of valid nominations. Statutes 15 and 16 respectively provide for preparation of the ballot paper; and procedure of election at a meeting.
6. The Registrar of the University, by means of circular dated 27th of January, 1998 addressed to all the Principals of the Colleges and invited applications for enrollment as voters in the electoral rolls to the Senate of the University from eligible Professors/Teachers. 25th of February, 1998 was the last date fixed for submission of the applications along with prescribed fee. The Registrar of the University, by means of his Circular dated 4th of June 1998, addressed to all the Principals of the Colleges affiliated to the University and called for objections to the preliminary electoral roll prepared by the University on the basis of the applications submitted. Thereafter, the Registrar and Returning Officer of the University, on 8th of December, 1998, issued calendar of events notifying the calendar for election to the Senate of the University. In the calendar of events, 26th of December, 1998 at 4-00 p.m., was fixed as the last date for receipt of the nominations. In the said notification, it was further notified that the electoral rolls of all the constituencies of teachers will be made available for sale by the University and errors or omissions or wrongful inclusion of the names in the electoral rolls, if any, should be brought to the notice of the Vice-Chancellor of the University before 26th of December, 1998 for necessary correction under Statute 5 of the University. On 28th of December, 1998, the Registrar and Returning Officer of the University notified the valid nominations filed for election to the Senate from amongst the Professors and Teachers other than Professors. Subsequently, on 30th of December, 1998, the Registrar and Returning Officer of the University notified the final list of validly nominated candidates to contest in the election from the constituencies of 'Professors' and 'Teachers other than Professors'. When the matters stood thus, notification Annexure-A dated 5th of January, 1999, which is impugned in these petitions, came to be issued by the second respondent.
7. Sri K.M. Nataraj, learned Counsel appearing for the petitioner in Writ Petition No. 1027 of 1999, and Sri Ashok K.L., learned Counsel appearing for the petitioner in Writ Petition No. 1174 of 1999, challenging the validity of the notification Annexure-A, submitted that notification Annexure-A is totally illegal and without the Authority of law inasmuch as the Vice-Chancellor of the University has no Authority in law to correct the electoral roll after the last date fixed for receipt of nominations. Therefore, the learned Counsel submitted that in the guise of correction of electoral rolls, the Vice-Chancellor has no Authority to either abandon or postpone the elections notified to be held to the Senate after the issue of calendar of events. In support of this submission, Sri Natraj relied upon a decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Lakshmi Charan Sen and Others v A.K.M. Hassan Uzzaman and Others and drew my attention to paragraph 20 of the said judgment, which reads as hereunder:
"20. As a result of this discussion, it must follow that the fact that certain claims and objections are not finally disposed of even assuming that they are filed in accordance with law, cannot arrest the process of election to the legislature. The election has to be held on the basis of the electoral roll which is in force on the last date for making nominations".
Sri Nataraj also submitted that the impugned notification has been issued by the Vice-Chancellor (then Vice-Chancellor) totally on account of extraneous and irrelevant considerations and it is mala fide both in law and on facts.
8. However, Sri S.A. Nazeer, learned Counsel appearing for the respondents, supported the impugned notification. He submitted that in view of certain complaints received by the Vice-Chancellor with regard to the irregularities in the electoral roll, the Vice-Chancellor was compelled to issue the impugned notifications postponing the election. He pointed out that thereafter, a Committee was also constituted by the Vice-Chancellor to verify the irregularities, if any, in the electoral rolls. It is his submission that since certain irregularities were found; and as steps were taken by the University to correct such irregularities that had crept in, in the preparation of electoral rolls, this is not a fit case for interference by this Court with the said action of the University in correcting the irregularities, in exercise of its writ jurisdiction. He also seriously disputed the contention of Sri Nataraj that the impugned notification came to be issued on account of extraneous and irrelevant considerations and it is mala fide. He submitted that the allegations made on this aspect of the matter in the petitions, are very vague and ambiguous and liable to be rejected for want of material particulars.
9. In the light of the rival contentions advanced by the learned Counsel appearing for the parties, the only question that would arise for my consideration in these petitions, is whether the impugned notification is unsustainable in law?
10. As noticed by me earlier, Section 32 of the Act provides that election to the Senate shall be conducted as prescribed in the Statutes. Statutes have been framed providing for the procedure to the election to the Authorities of the University including the Senate. Statute 5 of the Statutes strongly relied upon by Sri Nataraj, empowers the Vice-Chancellor to correct the electoral rolls, if any omission or wrongful inclusion or need for deletion or addition consequent on nomination or appointment is brought to his notice before the last date fixed for nomination. The said statute further provides that no corrections shall be made after that date. It is useful to extract Statute 5 of the Statutes, which reads as hereunder:
"Statute 5. Corrections of electoral rolls.--The Vice-Chancellor shall have the Authority to correct the electoral rolls if any omission of wrongful inclusion or need for deletion/addition consequent on nomination or appointment is brought to his notice before the last date fixed for receipt of nominations. No corrections shall be made after that date".
Admittedly, the calendar of events Annexure-D was issued on 8th of December, 1998 setting out the dates for receipt of nominations; scrutiny of nominations; withdrawal of the nominations; and for the election. As can be seen from Circular Annexure-B dated 27th of January, 1998, applications were invited for registration for enrollment of voters in the electoral rolls to the Senate of the University from eligible Profes-sors/Teachers who are appointed on full time basis and who have requisite qualifications to be Teachers. Thereafter, by means of notification Annexure-C dated 4th of June, 1998, provisional voters list was circulated among the Principals of all the Colleges calling for their objections. Therefore, the electoral roll was finalised by the University after calling for applications and circulating the provisional voters list prepared among all the Colleges. Further, Statute 5 of the Statutes, as noticed by me earlier, empowers the Vice- Chancellor to correct the electoral roll whenever errors are brought to his notice before the date fixed for receipt of the nominations. The procedure prescribed in the statute, in my opinion, is self-contained. When sufficient opportunities were provided for correction of electoral roll at any time before the last date fixed for receipt of nominations and when Statute 5 of the Statutes specifically states that "no corrections shall be made after that date" i.e., after the last date fixed for receipt of nominations, in my view, it is not permissible for the Vice-Chancellor of the University either to order for correction of electoral roll after conducting an enquiry with regard to the correctness of the electoral roll already published and for the said purpose, to postpone the election. There is no power reserved under the Statutes to the Vice-Chancellor to take steps to correct the electoral roll after the last date fixed for receipt of nominations. It is also necessary to point out that when the election process has commenced by issue of calendar of events, it is not permissible for the Vice-Chancellor or any other Authority of the University to abandon the holding of election on the ground that the electoral roll prepared is not either accurate or requires correction. If such an action is permitted, it would impair the purity of elections. Such a thing cannot be permitted and it will not be conducive for free and fair election to the authorities of the University. When elaborate procedure is prescribed under the Statutes for preparation of electoral rolls and correction of the same, the authorities of the University including the Vice-Chancellor are bound by the provisions contained in the statute. Having regard to the scheme providing for election to the Authorities of the University inclusive of the preparation of electoral roll, I am of the view that the provisions contained in Statute 5 of the Statutes which limits the power of the Vice-Chancellor to carry out any corrections in the electoral rolls after the last date fixed for the receipt of nominations, is mandatory in nature. The language employed in Statute 5 of the Statutes specifically states "no correction shall be made after" the last date fixed for nomination. Admittedly, the notification Annexure-A was issued on 5th of January, 1999 i.e., long after the last date fixed for withdrawal of nominations and just 12 days before the date of the election. I am of the view that the power exercised by the Vice- Chancellor (then Vice-Chancellor) in the matter of issue of notification Annexure-A was beyond the power conferred on the Vice-Chancellor under the Act and the Statutes. Therefore, the notification Annexure-A is highly arbitrary and unreasonable. Consequently, the notification Annexure-A is liable to be quashed. In the light of my above conclusion, I find it unnecessary to consider the grounds based on mala fide urged by Sri Nataraj.
11. Since the election process came to be interrupted after the expiry of the last date fixed for withdrawal of the nominations and before holding of elections, the first respondent-Returning Officer is required to be directed to proceed with the holding of the election from the stage where it has been interrupted.
12. In the light of the discussion made above, I make the following:
(i) The notification Annexure-A dated 5th of January, 1999 issued by the first respondent is hereby quashed.
(ii) All the proceedings/enquiry held pursuant to notification Annexure-A dated 5th of January, 1999 for the purpose of correcting electoral rolls, is declared as null and void.
(iii) The first respondent-Returning Officer is directed to proceed with the holding of the election from the stage where it has been interrupted, as expeditiously as possible and at any event of the matter, not later than two months from the date of receipt of a copy of this order.
13. However, having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case, no order is made as to costs.
14. In terms stated above, these petitions are allowed and disposed of. Rule is issued and made absolute.