Doctrine of necessity and Bias

Doctrine of necessity overrides
the principle of apprehended bias

J. Jayalalithaa (cropped) Facts of the case:

Ms. J. Jayalalitha was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Tamil Nadu on or, the AIADMK ticket in the General Elections held in June 1991 and on being elected as the leader of the party she was sworn-in as the Chief Minister of the State. On 2.10.1992, Dr. Subramanian Swamy preferred a petition to the State Governor under Article 192 of the Constitution of India alleging that the Chief Minister had incurred a disqualification of being a member of the Legislative Assembly of the State, in that, she being a partner in the partnership firm run in the name and style of Messrs Jaya Publications had entered into a contract with the State Government and which contract was subsisting on the date of the petition, in view of sub-clause (e) of clause (1) of Article 191 of the Constitution read with Section 9A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951

The question was whether the Chief Election Commissioner against whom she had expressed her apprehension of Bias, should be recused from the proceedings or he has to act in an advisory capacity, in case of dead lock, on the basis of Doctrine of Necessity.

Decision of Supreme Court on Doctrine of Necessity:

It is clear from the use of the wards shall obtain the opinion of the Election Commission, that it is obligatory to obtain the opinion of the Election Commission and the further stipulation that the Governor “shall act” according to such opinion leaves no room for doubt that the Governor is bound to act according to that opinion.

Apart from the legal aspect, even prudence demands that the Chief Election Commissioner should recuse himself from expressing any opinion in the matter. However, the situation is not so simple, it is indeed complex, in that, what would happen if the two Election Commissioners do not agree and there is a conflict of opinion between them? That would lead to a stalemate situation and the Governor would find it difficult to take a decision based on any such opinion. In such a situation, can the doctrine of necessity be invoked in favour of the Chief Election Commissioner? We must have a clear conception of the doctrine. It is well settled that the law permits certain things to be done as a matter of necessity which it would otherwise not countenance on the touchstone of judicial propriety. Stated differently, the doctrine of necessity makes it imperative for the authority to decide and considerations of judicial propriety must yield. It is often invoked in cases of bias where there is no other authority or Judge to decide the issue. If the doctrine of necessity is not allowed full play in certain unavoidable situations, it would impede the course of justice itself and the defaulting party would benefit therefrom. Take the case of a certain taxing statute which taxes certain perquisites allowed to Judges. If the validity of such a provision is challenged who but the members of the judiciary must decide it. If all the Judges are disqualified on the plea that striking down of such a legislation would benefit them, a stalemate situation may develop. In such cases the doctrine of necessity comes into play. If the choice is between allowing biased person to act or to stifle the action altogether, the choice must fall in favour of the former as it is the only way to promote decision-making. In the present case also if the two Election Commissioners are able to reach a unanimous decision, there is no need for the Chief. Election Commissioner to participate, if not the doctrine of necessity may have to be he invoked. We think that is the only alternative in such a situation. We are, therefore. of the opinion that the proper course to follow is that the Chief Election Commissioner should call a meeting of the selection Commission to adjudicate on the issue of disqualification of Ms. J.Jayalalitha on the grounds alleged by Dr.Swamy. After calling the meeting he should act as the Chairman but then he may recuse himself by announcing that he would not participate in the formation of opinion. If the two Election Commissioners reach a unanimous opinion, the Chief Election Commissioner will have the opinion communicated to the Governor. If the two Election Commissioners do not reach a unanimous decision in the Matter of expressing their opinion on the issue referred to the Election Commission, it would be necessary for the Chief Election Commissioner to express his opinion on the doctrine of necessity. We think that in the special circumstances of this case this course of action would he the most appropriate one to follow because if the two Election Commissioners do not agree, we have no doubt that the doctrine of necessity would compel the Chief Election Commissioner to express his views so that the majority opinion could be communicated to the Governor to enable him to take a decision in accordance therewith as required by Article 192(1) of the Constitution.

[Source: Election Commission of India vs. Dr. Subramanian Swamy, 1996 AIR 1810, 1996 SCC (4) 104.]