New Delhi: The Supreme Court Friday stayed the Gujarat High Court judgment scrapping the election of state law and education minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama.
On a petition filed by the BJP leader, a bench comprising Justices Mohan M. Shantanagoudar and R. Subhash Reddy also issued notice to the respondents, including Congress leader Ashwin Rathod, who challenged Chudasama’s election in the high court.
Chudasama had won over Rathod from Gujarat’s Dholka assembly constituency in 2017. The assembly election that year brought the BJP back to office in Gujarat, with the party winning 99 of the state’s 182 assembly seats. The Congress stood second with 77 seats.
In Dholka, Chudasama had defeated Rathod by a narrow margin of 327 votes. In his high court petition, Rathod had claimed, among other things, that returning officer Dhaval Jani illegally excluded 429 postal ballots from consideration. He had pointed out that this number was higher than the victory margin of 327 votes.
The high court had accepted these contentions and noted violations of Election Commission (EC) procedure in the counting of postal ballots. It had said the camera recording of the counting submitted was “mischievously incomplete”, and also took grim note of footage that showed Chudasama’s additional private secretary making multiple visits to the hall where postal ballots were counted.
The bench had concluded that there was an “unholy nexus” between Chudasama and Jani.
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‘Illegalities & manipulations’
Challenging this judgment, Chudasama’s lawyer Neeraj Kishan Kaul told the Supreme Court Friday that instead of setting aside the election, the high court judge should have examined if the 429 votes were rightly rejected.
He also questioned the link between Chudasama and Jani, and pointed out that the verdict will lead to the unseating of the state’s education and law minister as the country struggles with Covid-19.
Appearing for Rathod, senior lawyer Kapil Sibal asserted that there were “illegalities and manipulations” in the counting process. He pointed out several discrepancies in the process to claim that there was a “collusion” and that it is “deeply malafide”.
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