Stranded due to bad weather, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar was allowed to stay overnight in poll-bound Jind district on Friday by the Punjab and Haryana High Court after election officials refused to grant him permission citing the model code of conduct.
The chief minister, whose chopper could not take off for Chandigarh from Sirsa due to inclement weather on Friday evening, decided to head to the state capital by road, but was stuck due to a dust storm
Khattar then decided to make a night halt at a government guest house at Narwana in Jind, which lies in Sonepat constituency, but the Deputy-Commissioner-cum- Returning Officer orally informed an aide of the CM that he could not stay overnight there due to the poll code, Haryana's Advocate General Baldev Raj Mahajan said Saturday.
The court in its order late Friday night allowed the chief minister to stay overnight at Narwana while taking into account peculiar circumstances of the case, but made it clear this order shall not be treated as a precedent.
The campaigning for the 10 Lok Sabha seats in Haryana, which go to polls on May 12, ended 6 pm Friday.
Mahajan said the Jind deputy commissioner, who is also the Returning Officer, had cited the Model Code of Conduct and reasoned that after the campaigning is over, ministers and MLAs cannot stay overnight in constituencies except where they are registered voters.
After listening to the arguments, the court allowed chief minister to make an overnight halt at government rest house in Jind/Narwana, he said.
The petitioner (Khattar's ADC) made a representation to the Chief Electoral Officer, Haryana, in the evening of May 10 as well as to the Election Commission of India. The extraordinary circumstances due to which Chief Minister could not fly from Mandi Dabwali to Chandigarh were mentioned. However, no response was received from them after which the high court was approached, Mahajan said.
The plea mentioned that the chief minister was travelling from Mandi Dabwali to Chandigarh purely for non-political purpose. He was not indulging in any political activity/campaigning or influencing the voters or the elections in any manner whatsoever.
In its brief order, the High Court bench while referring to the provisions of the Model Code of Conduct, said there is no doubt, whatsoever, in our mind that these restrictions have been imposed by the Election Commission to strengthen the democracy and to hold the elections in a transparent and fair manner.
However, going into peculiar circumstances that arose in this case, the bench said, It is a fit case, where the principle of lex non cogit ad impossibilia or in other words, law does not enforce impossibilities, would be attracted..
The respondents (Chief Electoral Officer and others) should have taken a common sense view by taking into consideration the entire facts and circumstances of the case, more particularly when all the facts were brought before the respondents.
The court can take judicial notice of the fact that the weather had started packing up in the afternoon at Chandigarh. It would have been extremely difficult for the Chief Minister to travel distance of 340 km at one stretch, the bench said.
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