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In a blow to disqualified Madhya Pradesh minister Narottam Mishra, his last ditch effort to vote in the Presidential election on July 17 was scuttled by the Delhi High Court today which upheld his disqualification.
A specially constituted single judge bench of Justice Indermeet Kaur dismissed Mishra's plea challenging his disqualification by the Election Commission and that he should be allowed to vote in the Presidential poll.
"The petition is without any merit. Dismissed," it said.
The court said that as per the provisions of the Representation of the People Act, disqualification of a candidate has to be from the date of the order.
"What effect it may or may not have on a subsequent election is not what has to be taken into account," it added.
The observation was made in regard to the argument on behalf of Mishra that the June 23 order of the Election Commission of India (ECI) disqualifying him pertained to earlier election of 2008 and his subsequent tenure from 2013 would be unaffected.
The court also disagreed with the BJP leader's claim that merely because he was aware of the paid news articles and did not disallow or deny the same, the poll panel could not have held that there was "implied authorisation" by him.
"The Election Commission holding that there was an implied authorisation by the petitioner (Mishra) to publish these news items was thus a fair finding," the judge said in her 36 page verdict.
The court further said that a candidate has to rebut the allegation that neither he nor his agent had incurred any such expenditure on paid news.
The court had yesterday reserved its verdict after hearing day-long arguments on behalf of Mishra, the ECI and Congress leader Rajendra Bharti on whose complaint the poll panel had disqualified the BJP leader.
The apex court had on July 12 transferred the matter to the high court to be decided expeditiously before the July 17 Presidential election.
Pursuant to the apex court's decision, the high court had on the same day constituted the special single-judge bench to hear Mishra's plea challenging the ECI's June 23 order disqualifying him for three years over paid news charges.
The poll panel's order had held him guilty of filing wrong accounts of poll expense relating to articles and advertorials in the media during the 2008 assembly polls.
Mishra had assailed the ECI decision on the grounds of delay in proceedings and that no evidence was led to show that he had authorised the paid news articles.
He had also claimed that the disqualification order would not affect his current tenure, after he won the 2013 polls, as the ECI decision came on a complaint with regard to the elections of 2008.
Mishra's lawyer had argued that while Bharti had accused him of incurring expenses exceeding the limit imposed during polls, the ECI had said there was "implied authorisation" a point that the complainant had never raised.
To this, Bharti's lawyers had argued that "implied authorisation" means that a person has incurred the expenses, as otherwise there will never be any direct evidence which shows that a politician has authorised paid news.
Mishra had moved the apex court challenging an order of the Madhya Pradesh High Court refusing an urgent hearing to his interim prayer to allow him to vote in the presidential election.
While disqualifying Mishra from contesting elections for three years following a complaint against him, the poll panel had used some strong words against paid news, calling it a "cancerous menace" that is assuming "alarming proportions" in the electoral landscape.
His election from the Datia Assembly constituency also stands void.
A full bench of the Election Commission, comprising then Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi and Election Commissioners A K Joti (now CEC) and O P Rawat, had in its June order indicted Mishra and unseated him under various sections of the Representation of the People Act (RPA).
Mishra, who won from Datia assembly constituency, was the minister for water resources and public relations and the chief spokesperson of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government.
Bharti, the main complainant in the case, had first sent a complaint to the EC about eight years back in 2009.
The poll panel order had said that all the 42 news items that had appeared in five Hindi dailies were "extremely biased in favour of" Mishra.
It had said that its findings had also strengthened the conclusion that he had "knowingly participated or took advantage of the expenditure on such advertisements" that had appeared as news in the publication.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)