'Star campaigner's air travel outside constituency not personal poll expenses'

'Star campaigner's air travel outside constituency not personal poll expenses'

'Star campaigner's air travel outside constituency not personal poll expenses'

Expenses incurred by a "star campaigner" on travelling by air outside his constituency cannot be computed as his personal election expenditure as a candidate, the Supreme Court has said.

A bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar ordered deletion of a paragraph, regarding expenses, in an election plea filed against an MLA in Madhya Pradesh on the ground that being a star campaigner, he was required to campaign for the political party outside his constituency also.

The names of stars campaigners are communicated to the Election Commission by the party.

As per section 77 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 the expenditure incurred by a star campaigner on account of travel for propagating the programme of the political party is excluded for the purpose of computing the expenditure incurred by him.

The verdict came on the petition filed by Congress MLA from Madhya Pradesh and son of late Union minister Arjun Singh, Ajay Arjun Singh.

The petitioner, MLA from Churahat Assembly constituency, moved the apex court against the Madhya Pradesh High Court order refusing to dismiss the election petition filed by defeated BJP candidate Sharadendu Tiwari in the 2013 Assembly elections. Singh had won the election by a margin of 19,356 votes.

Tiwari had contended that Singh has not disclosed his actual expenditure which he incurred in connection with a public meeting of Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi at the district headquarters, Sidhi on November 20, 2013.

"The specific pleading in the election petition is that the appellant herein used the helicopter on many occasions during the relevant period only between Bhopal and Sidhi, both of which are outside the constituency of the appellant. The admitted fact is that the appellant was one of the star campaigners for the said election for the State of Madhya Pradesh.

"Therefore, he was required to campaign for his political party, not only in his constituency but also in other constituencies of the State. In the absence of any allegation that the appellant used the helicopter for travelling within 76-Churahat constituency for the purpose of campaigning, the expenditure incurred on that account, in our opinion, cannot be included in the election expenditure of the appellant," the bench also comprising Justice A M Sapre said.

The apex court, however, said that the entire expenditure incurred by star campaigners is not exempted under Section 77 for the purpose of determining the total expenditure incurred by any candidate in an election.

"In other words, the expenditure incurred in connection with arrangements like erection of pandals etc. for a meeting of a star campaigner does not form part of the exempted expenditure under explanation 1," the bench said.