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HC reserves order on MP minister's plea to vote in prez poll

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

The High today reserved its verdict on a plea of disqualified minister to vote in the presidential polls on July 17.

"Judgement reserved," a specially constituted single- judge bench of Justice Indermeet Kaur said after hearing day-long arguments on behalf of Mishra, the Commission of and leader Rajendra Bharti on whose complaint the poll panel had disqualified the leader.

The Supreme had yesterday transferred the matter to the high to be decided expeditiously before the July 17 presidential

Pursuant to the apex court's decision, the high had yesterday 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 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.

During the day's arguments, senior advocate Dhruv Mehta, who appeared for Mishra, 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 articles.

However, he admitted that some of the articles published by certain media houses were "appeals to the voters to vote for him".

This admission was made after the perused some of the articles and said "some of these appear to be appeals to voters to vote for him. What is your take on this?"

Mehta also claimed that the disqualification order would not affect his (the minister's) current tenure, after he won the 2013 polls, as the ECI decision came on a complaint with regard to the elections of 2008.

However, Justice Indermeet Kaur said that what she understood from the apex order was, that Mishra's plea has to be decided before July 17 as his ability to vote in the presidential polls rests on the outcome.

While transferring the matter to the high court, the apex had said, "We are of the view, that (right to vote in the presidential election) can only be determined after the challenge raised to the order passed by the Commission of on June 23, 2017, is suitably addressed by the High Court, finally or by an interim order as the High may consider appropriate."

If the disqualification is upheld, he would not be able to vote and, therefore, even as per the apex order the ECI decision does impact the politician's current tenure, the high special bench said.

Mishra's lawyer disagreed with this observation of the special bench.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Bharti, said the delay by ECI in even issuing a show cause notice was because there was a stay by the MP High on the proceedings in the poll panel for two years.

He also argued that while such matters need to be decided expeditiously, there was no limitation on the time taken and therefore, the leader cannot claim delay as a ground for challenging the disqualification.

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.

Sibal, on the other hand, said 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

He also said that Mishra enjoyed the benefits of the delay in ECI proceedings.

Senior advocate Vivek Tankha, also representing Bharti, blamed Mishra for the stay of ECI proceedings which led to the delay, an allegation which the leader's lawyer denied.

Mishra's lawyer had argued that the entire proceedings of the poll panel was delayed as he was issued a show cause notice in January 2013 four years after filing of the complaint in 2008 and the final order was passed after passage of another four years.

Mehta further said that the reports were neither authorised by his client nor his agent.

Mishra had moved the apex challenging an order of the High refusing an urgent hearing to his interim prayer to allow him to vote in the presidential

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 from the Datia Assembly constituency also stands void.

A full bench of the Commission, comprising then Chief Commissioner Nasim Zaidi and 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, is 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 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 in the publication.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, July 13 2017. 20:48 IST