In a setback for the ruling Left front in Kerala, the high court in Kochi on Monday set aside the election of the Communist Party of India-Marxist’s A Raja from the Devikulam assembly seat in Idukki district.
The order by Justice P Somarajan came on an election petition filed by Congress leader D Kumar, who was the runner-up in the 2021 assembly polls, alleging that Raja was not qualified to contest the Devikulam seat reserved for the Scheduled Caste (SC) community.
Raja, opposing the plea, had contended that he belonged to the Hindu Parayan community in relation to the state of Kerala and the caste certificate issued by the tahsildar, Devikulam, proved the same.
He had also contended that the returning officer rightly rejected the objection by Kumar to the nomination paper filed by him.
The CPI-M leader also claimed that his parents had never converted to Christianity, he was never baptised, his wife was a Hindu and that his marriage was according to Hindu rites which included lighting of a customary lamp and tying of 'thali' around his wife's neck.
On the other hand, Kumar in his plea had alleged that Raja was a Christian, was baptised at a CSI church in the hill district, and submitted a fake certificate to prove that he belonged to an SC community.
Kumar, who was defeated by a margin of 7,848 votes in the 2021 polls by Raja, had also claimed that even the wife of the CPI-M leader was a Christian and they were married in accordance with Christian religious rites.
Agreeing with the contentions of the Congress leader, the court said it was well evident from the evasive answers given by Raja regarding his marriage and the ceremony that there was a "conscious effort" on his part to conceal the truth.
The dress worn by him and his wife are indications of a Christian marriage, the court noted.
The court also said that all the documents placed before him "would sufficiently show that the respondent (Raja) was actually professing Christianity at the time when he had submitted his nomination and converted to Christianity long before its submission".
"As such, after the conversion, he cannot claim to be a member of Hindu religion. On that score also, the returning officer ought to have rejected his nomination," the court said.
It also held that there was "utter failure" on the part of the CPI-M leader to show and prove that his predecessors (grandparents) migrated to Kerala prior to the promulgation of the 1950 order by the President of India by which Hindu Parayans in Kerala were declared as a part of the SC community.
In short, on both the grounds, it is clear that the respondent is not a member of 'Hindu Parayan' within the state of Kerala and not qualified to be chosen to fill a seat -- the Devikulam constituency -- in the legislative assembly which is reserved for a Scheduled Caste, the court said.
"...hence the election of respondent (Raja) as the returned (elected) candidate for the said constituency in the year 2021 is declared void under Section 98 of Representation of People Act, 1951.
"There is no claim for the petitioner (Kumar) for declaring him as the returned candidate from the said constituency, hence, no such issue was taken up for consideration," it said.