New Delhi, July 12 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Delhi High Court’s acting Chief Justice to set up a bench for hearing the plea of Madhya Pradesh minister Narottam Mishra, challenging his disqualification by the Election Commission.
The Commission had on June 23 disqualified Mishra for not disclosing expenses he incurred on paid news in his election expenditure returns and debarred him from contesting elections for three years.
The bench of Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud directed Mishra and complainant Rajender Bharti to approach the Delhi Chief Justice on Wednesday itself for setting up of the bench.
Transferring the matter from Madhya Pradesh High Court to Delhi High Court, the order said that during the course of the hearing, counsel for rival parties agreed that that the proceedings before the Madhya Pradesh High Court be transferred to the Delhi High Court.
“We order accordingly”, the order said.
The top court in its order also said that the outcome of the case has an “important bearing” on whether Mishra would continue to be a member of the state assembly and vote in the presidential election scheduled for July 17.
“We are of the view, that (whether Mishra can continue to be a member of State assembly and vote during Presidential election) can only be determined after the challenge raised to the order passed by the Election Commission of India, on June 23, 2017, is suitably addressed by the High Court, finally or by an interim order as the High Court may consider appropriate.”
It directed the rival parties to appear before Delhi’s acting Chief Justice during the course of the day with the entire paperbook of the case that has been filed before the Madhya Pradesh High Court.
Allowing the rival counsel to request, on behalf of the top court, Delhi’s acting Chief Justice to set up a a bench and “our desire, that the hearing should commence on July 13, 2017, to suitably address the issue, even if it entails the continuation of hearing during the week-end”.
Mishra had moved the Madhya Pradesh High Court challenging the EC order but did not get any interim relief and the matter is still pending before it.
Contesting the Election Commission order on different counts, senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Minister, had sought an urgent hearing of the plea either by the high court or the apex court itself, so that he could participate in the polling for presidential election.
Rohatgi told the bench that Narottam is Parliamentary Affairs Minister and the assembly session is starting from July 17 and the voting for the Presidential election is also on the same day.
But as he urged the court to stay the poll panel’s order, Chief Justice Khehar said: “We can’t do, we will not do, we have not seen the order.”
The Election Commission while disqualifying Mishra for not disclosing the expenditure he had incurred on the paid news that was carried in local media during the 2008 assembly elections had said that it was concerned about the “menace of paid news” which has been assuming “alarming proportions” in the electoral landscape.
This phenomenon, a manifestation of the “pernicious effect of money in elections”, has been growing increasingly vicious and “spreading like cancer”, in recent time, the EC had said.
The EC order disqualifying Mishra had come on a complaint filed in 2009 by Congress MLA Bharti, who had unsuccessfully contested against Mishra from Datia constituency.
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