Election commissioner Richard Mawrey QC, who received nationwide publicity after saying he had uncovered electoral fraud in Birmingham that would disgrace "a banana republic", came under legal attack yesterday.
The commissioner, sitting in a special election court, ruled there had been " widespread fraud" involving postal ballots in six city council seats won by Labour in June 2004.
Yesterday councillors and a Labour Party worker he found guilty of engaging in corrupt practices were at the High Court in London accusing him of conducting an unfair and procedurally flawed inquiry in his "determination" to bring about reform to the electoral system before the May 2005 General Election.
Judge Mawrey produced his judgment a month earlier, in April, and criticised the Government for not only being complacent, but "in denial", about the failings of the postal voting system then in place.
His findings resulted in local council elections in two Birmingham wards - Bordesley Green and Aston - being declared void. Six Labour councillors and the party worker were officially reported as being guilty of corrupt and illegal practice. As a result, all were barred from participating in any election process, including voting, for a period of five years.
All strenuously denied that they abused the postal ballot system. One of them. Mohammed Afzal, successfully challenged the findings against him in the Court of Appeal in May.
The election court was set up after a petition was brought by the People's Justice Party against three representatives of the Bordesley Green ward - Shafaq Ahmed, Shah Jahan and Ayaz Khan.
Yesterday all three were at the High Court in London to challenge Judge Mawrey's refusal of their application for an adjournment to allow them time to prepare their case.
A second petition was raised by Liberal Democrat supporters against three Aston representatives - Mohammed Islam, Muhammed Afzal and Mohammed Kazi.
Mr Islam and Mr Kazi are seeking permission to bring their own challenges to overturn Judge Mawrey's decisions against them. Also seeking judicial review was Zulfiqar Khan, the Labour Party worker who was named by the judge as a person who had been proved at the trial to have been guilty of corrupt and illegal practices.
Manjit Gill QC, appearing on behalf of the Bordesley Green three, asked the High Court for permission to seek orders quashing Judge Mawrey's findings against them.
Judge Mawrey was accused of exceeding his powers when he found Zulfiqar Khan guilty of corrupt practice without giving him formal notice that he was "a potential suspect" for ballot rigging. The Labour Party worker was not named on the election petition and was only due to appear as a witness, said his counsel Osama Daneshyar.
Lawyers for the commissioner and those who launched the election petitions argued that in all the cases before the court the sacked councillors and Mr Khan had delayed too long in bringing their applications.
The commissioner had acted within his powers and been entitled on the evidence before him to find them guilty of being involved in corrupt practices.
Lord Justice Scott Baker, sitting with Mr Justice Newman, said the court would give its ruling today.