The Delhi High Court Friday set aside the show-cause notice issued by the Election Commission (EC) against former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan for allegedly failing to submit a proper account of expenses for the Assembly elections in 2009.
The court of Justice Suresh Kait in its 101-page order also analysed the provisions of law relating to election offences and said the EC did not conduct the inquiry properly as it did not take note of the evidence regarding whether Chavan could be legally held to have “authorised” the advertisements issued by party workers.
“This court is of the considered opinion that the Commission has failed on both counts, that is, by not complying with the Rule-89(6) of the Rules and not framing the issue regarding knowledge and consent of the petitioner or his agent on the expenses incurred on advertisements in question. Moreover, no evidence was brought on record before writing its opinion against the petitioner. Therefore, I set aside the impugned order dated 13.07.2014 and consequential order to issue show-cause notice under Rule-89(5) of the Rules,” said Kait.
During the Maharashtra Assembly elections in October 2009, a series of advertisements regarding public meetings to be held by UPA leaders and campaigners were taken out in various local publications. According to the notice issued by the EC, Chavan had failed to account for expenses of over Rs 16,000 spent on some of these advertisements, thereby violating the provisions of the law.
The High Court, however, accepted Chavan’s argument that the expenses had been made without his knowledge by local Congress leaders and the same could not be held to have been “authorised” by him.
Earlier, former law minister and senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who also represented Chavan, had contended that his client had filed all correct poll expenses and had incurred an expenditure of Rs 6.85 lakh in the 2009 Assembly elections. Chavan had won the 2009 Assembly polls from Bhokar in Maharashtra’s Nanded Lok Sabha constituency. He won the recent Lok Sabha polls from Nanded.
Earlier, the Supreme Court had asked the high court to decide Chavan’s plea within 15 days while refusing to interfere with its July 28 decision staying the show-cause notice issued to Chavan on July 13. The apex court had said it was not in favour of the matter dragging and that the High Court should decide the question of law.