Disqualified Madhya Pradesh minister Narottam Mishra’s last hope to vote in tomorrow’s presidential election was today dashed by the Delhi High Court, which refused to grant him any interim relief.
A bench of Justices S Muralidhar and Pratibha M Singh said there was no urgency for hearing Mishra’s appeal challenging a single judge decision upholding his disqualification, and said it would be heard by a regular bench later.
The court also dismissed his application for an interim stay of the single judge order of July 14, upholding the Election Commission of India’s (ECI) June 23 decision disqualifying him on the charges of paid news.
The single judge bench had said that as per the provisions of the Representation of the People Act, the 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 with regard to the argument put forward on behalf of Mishra that the June 23 order of the ECI disqualifying him pertained to earlier an election of 2008 and that his subsequent tenure from 2013 would remain unaffected.
The judge had 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 had 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 matter reached the Delhi High Court after the apex court on July 12, transferred the matter to it to be decided expeditiously before the July 17 presidential polls.
Pursuant to the apex court’s decision, the high court had the same day constituted a special single-judge bench which heard the matter on July 13 and reserved its verdict.
The ECI’s order had held him guilty of filing wrong accounts of election expense relating to articles and advertorials in the media during the 2008 assembly polls.
The ECI order had come on a complaint by Congress leader Rajendra Bharti, who had contested the polls against Mishra in the 2008 assembly elections.
Mishra had contested the ECI decision on the grounds of delay in proceedings and that no evidence showed he had authorised paid news articles.
He had also contended that the disqualification order would not affect his current tenure, after he won the 2013 assembly polls, as the ECI decision came on a complaint with regard to the elections of 2008.
While disqualifying Mishra from contesting elections for three years, 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 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 Jyoti (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.