The Governor of Gujarat has upheld the election of Nathabhai Patel, Congress MLA from Dhanera, as member of the Gujarat legislative assembly, in an order passed earlier this month, in concurrence with the opinion of the Election Commission.
Governor Acharya Devvrat had sought the opinion of the Election Commission of India in March 2020, after a petitioner approached the Governor seeking disqualification of the MLA who contested and won the December 2017 state assembly elections from Dhanera seat in Banaskantha district.
In an order dated August 7, 2020, Acharya Devvrat stated that the MLA “has not incurred disqualification under the provisions of the Article 191 (1)(E) of the Constitution of India”.
He also stated that he was “in total agreement” with the opinion of the Election Commission of India that was conveyed on July 23. The EC opinion is in the name of the then Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora and Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra.
The petitioner, Mukeshbhai Pragjibhai Thakkar, had alleged before the Governor that the MLA had failed to provide mandatory details prescribed under Section 33A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 at the time of filing his nomination papers during the 2017 polls.
It was also alleged that Patel had filed a false affidavit before the retuning officer where details of his movable and immovable properties, as well as professional positions were deliberately concealed. It was also alleged that he holds the position of president of Suryoday Trust and that of managing director of Dhanera Mercantile Cooperative Bank Ltd. The undeclared assets also included a private revolver, the petitioner said.
It was also alleged that the MLA was not complying with the provisions of Section 33A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, had committed an offence under Section 125A of the same Act, which would disqualify the MLA within the meaning of provisions enacted under Chapter 3 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
Citing a Supreme Court judgement, the analysis of the order states that the petitioner “failed to establish in his petition, how the respondent (MLA) can be disqualified under any of the provisions of Article 191 of the Constitution of India on the grounds of filing a false affidavit”.
The Article also “does not provide for the disqualification of Members of Legislative Assemblies on the grounds of non-compliance of Section 33A on for committing an offence under Section 125A of the Representation of the People Act.
Officials of the Election Commission of India said the Congress MLA will continue to hold office after the order. In the 2017 elections, Congress candidate Natha Patel trounced the nearest rival from the BJP, Mavji Desai.
Before the Rajya Sabha elections on March 26, the Congress MLA approached the Gujarat High Court to protect his voting rights for the polls.
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