HC doesn’t dismiss poll plea against PC but strikes down its key charges

R S Raja Kannappan filed an election petition challenging the result

Written by Express News Service | Chennai/new Delhi | Published: June 8, 2012 1:37 am

Madras High Court today declined to dismiss a petition against the election of Home Minister P Chidambaram to the Lok Sabha in 2009 but struck down two paragraphs containing allegations of abuse of official machinery and misdemeanours by election officials — charges that lie at the heart of the petition.

R S Raja Kannappan,the AIADMK candidate who lost to Chidambaram in Sivaganga in Tamil Nadu by 3,354 votes,filed an election petition challenging the result.

Declining Chidambaram’s strike-off petition seeking the dismissal of the election petition,Justice K Venkataraman of the Madurai bench of the court directed that references to the alleged abuse of official machinery by the minister to foist false cases on AIADMK cadre,the alleged involvement of his son in malpractices,and the alleged attempt by the returning officer to prepare a “well-designed ground” for Chidambaram’s victory,be removed.

Chidambaram will have to face the other 27 charges in the petition. His preliminary objection petition filed in 2010 was dismissed by the court last year,following which the strike-off petition was filed.

Chidambaram’s lawyer T Sathyamurthy said in a statement,“The high court has partially accepted the petition and has struck out two crucial paragraphs — paragraph 4 and 5 — of the election petition. These paragraphs contained allegations against the returning officer,other government servants and bank officials,and alleged ‘corrupt practices’. These pleadings have now been struck out.”

The statement said that “the present stage of the election petition is a preliminary stage”,and “as regards the other pleadings,issues will be framed and trial of the election petition will begin.”

“It is pertinent to point out that the trial of the election petition has not yet started,” the statement said. “The correct position is that the court has not expressed any view on the merits of the allegations and has only struck out two crucial paragraphs on the ground that they do not comply with the strict law of pleadings.”

The development this morning led to demands for Chidambaram’s resignation from Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa in Chennai and BJP president Nitin Gadkari in Delhi.

“It would be a blot on the Indian democracy if he continues in the power of home minister now that he is facing criminal charges. Hence,he must resign without any further delay. If he does not step down on his own,the Prime Minister should expel him from the cabinet…,” Jayalalithaa said in a statement.

Gadkari said,“What more evidence does the Prime Minister need? Is this not enough evidence? On moral grounds,Chidambaram has no right to continue in office. He should have resigned earlier. We had boycotted him in Parliament yet the Prime Minister did not take it seriously.”

Chidambaram ruled out resigning from the cabinet in the wake of the court decision. “I am astonished by the monumental ignorance displayed by certain political leaders. This is an election petition. There are 111 election petitions filed against members of 15th Lok Sabha,” Chidambaram told PTI.

He said what happened in court was not a setback. “How can it be a setback for me? It is a setback to the petitioner (Raja Kannappan). The court has struck off two paragraphs,para 4 and para 5,of the election petition that had allegations against government servants,bank officials and election officials,” Chidambaram said.

Law Minister Salman Khurshid too dismissed the demand for the home minister’s resignation as a misguided attempt to treat an election petition as a “criminal case”.

“Elections can only be challenged through an election petition,but media reports are giving an impression of it being a criminal trial,which is not the case,” Khurshid said. He added that the “best” in the government were being targeted by the Opposition.

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