The Allahabad High Court today fixed November 15 as the next date of hearing on a petition challenging the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi from Varanasi even as his counsel prayed the matter be "dismissed in limine and not put on trial" as allegations made by the petitioner were "trivial and frivolous".
Arguing before Justice V K Shukla, Modi's counsel Satya Pal Jain asserted that the petition filed by Congress MLA Ajay Rai - who was the party's candidate from Varanasi in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls - was "not maintainable" since none of the allegations made in it "fell under any provisions of the Representation of People's Act (RPA)".
Responding to the allegation that posters and T-shirts carrying images of Modi were distributed during the election campaign which amounted to "bribing the voters", Jain said, "Such acts could be termed as malpractice on part of a candidate only if it were proved that those involved in canvassing were acting with his or her consent. The petitioner has failed to establish the same here."
"Moreover, the alleged distribution of T-shirts and posters had taken place before Modi filed his nomination papers. As per the RPA, a person contesting elections is deemed to be a candidate only from the date when he files his papers. Anything that takes place in constituency prior to that date cannot be used against the candidate," said Jain, who is also the Additional Solicitor General and a member of the BJP's national executive.
Jain, who is also a member of the Law Commission of India, repudiated Rai's charge that there were defects in the nomination papers filed by Modi, saying, "The main objection is with regard to the fact that Modi had written not known in columns relating to income and other details of his wife. However, there is a Supreme Court judgement in the light of which doing so was perfectly as per law.
"Besides, the nomination papers were scrutinised by election officials and nobody raised any objections or found any fault with the details submitted by Modi," he pointed out.
As the day came to a close, the court fixed November 15 as the next date of hearing.
Jain, who has been granted more time for placing his arguments on that date, also said "the Supreme Court had once remarked that an election must not be lightly set aside since the process does not involve merely the candidate but the entire constituency."
"The election petition lacks merit, is trivial and frivolous besides being not maintainable and hence we pray that it be dismissed in limine and not put on trial," Jain, who is a former Lok Sabha member from Chandigarh, added.
Rai, who had started off as a BJP MLA in the 1990s before switching over to Samajwadi Party in 2009 and joining Congress in 2012, finished a distant third and ended up losing his deposit in the high-voltage electoral battle of Varanasi in 2014 which turned out to be a one-sided affair with Modi defeating nearest rival Arvind Kejriwal of Aam Aadmi Party by a huge margin of 3.71 lakh votes.
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