In a setback to the BSP, the Allahabad High Court on Thursday stayed the Ghazipur (SC/ST Act) special judge’s March 20 order that allowed BSP’s jailed MLA, Mukhtar Ansari, to vote in the Rajya Sabha polls on Friday. A bench of Justice Rajul Bhargava passed the order on a petition filed by the state government on Thursday, challenging the order of the Ghazipur court. Issuing a notice to Ansari, the HC asked the MLA to reply within two weeks. It also directed that the authorities of the Banda District Jail, where Ansari is lodged, be informed of the order by fax on Thursday itself.
No counsel appeared on behalf of Ansari in the court, which will now hear the case on April 9.
While hearing the government’s petition, the HC said that the “special judge (SC/ST Act), Ghazipur, has passed the impugned order in ignorance of the provisions of sub-section (5) of section 62 of the Representation of People Act-1951”.
Sub-section (5) of Section 62 of the Act says that no person shall vote at any election if he is confined in a prison, whether under a sentence of imprisonment or transportation or otherwise, or is in the lawful custody of the police, provided that nothing in this sub-section shall apply to a person subjected to preventive detention under any law for the time being in force. “Considering the wide import of the term ‘election’ as used in the Act-1951, it is clear that sub-section (5) of section 62 of the Act-1951 would also relate to an election of a member of the Rajya Sabha and therefore, the opposite party cannot claim as of right to cast his vote in the forthcoming Rajya Sabha election,” the HC said.
On March 20, Ansari was allowed to vote at Vidhan Sabha under police custody by the Ghazipur court, which was hearing an attempt to murder case filed against the MLA in 2009. During the trial, Ansari had moved a petition before the court seeking permission to participate in Rajya Sabha polls.
The UP government challenged the order before the HC on Thursday. Its counsel told HC that Ansari is not under preventive detention but is under detention in connection with criminal case and also has a criminal history. Therefore, the benefit of sub-section (5) of section 62 of Representation of People Act-1951 did not apply to him, he said.
The government also prayed that the special judge allowed Ansari to vote without taking note of the provisions of sub-section(5) of section 62 of the Act and the order was passed on an undated application, without giving any opportunity to the state to oppose the prayer.
When contacted, state Advocate General Raghvendra Singh said that another petition filed at the Lucknow bench of the HC, in connection with the Ghazipur court order, was dismissed on Thursday after the petition was withdrawn. “The petition sought direction to shift Mukhar Ansari to Lucknow in light of the order passed by Ghazipur special court. Satish Chandra Mishra (lawyer and BSP general secretary) had appeared on behalf of the petitioner,” he added.
Along with Ansari, Mishra also withdrew a petition moved by SP MLA Hari Om Yadav — also lodged in jail — seeking permission that be brought to Lucknow on March 20, PTI reported.
Mukhtar, an MLA from Sadar seat in Mau, was shifted to the Banda jail from Lucknow, soon after BJP government came to power in March, last year. He is the main accused in the murder of BJP MLA Krishnanand Rai and has been in jail since 2005. The case is pending in a Delhi court.
The HC order comes on a day when amid fears of cross-voting, parties continued hosting lunches and dinner for their Assembly members on Thursday, the eve of elections to the state’s Rajya Sabha seats. While Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath called a meeting of BJP legislators at his official residence, the Congress organised a lunch for its seven MLAs that was also attended by BSP general secretary Satish Chandra Mishra. SP chief Akhilesh Yadav and BSP supremo Mayawati too called their respective party MLAs separately for a meeting.