New Delhi: Disqualified Madhya Pradesh minister Narottam Mishra's desperate plea seeking to vote in the 17 July Presidential election on Wednesday travelled from the Supreme Court to the Delhi High Court, which decided to give him an urgent hearing on Thursday.
His petition, which was mentioned early on Wednesday before an apex court bench of Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justice DY Chandrachud, was posted for hearing in the post-lunch session and, after brief arguments, it was transferred to the High Court.
Immediately, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Mishra, rushed to the High Court. When the bench headed by Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal was about to rise for the day, he mentioned the matter and informed about the developments in the apex court.
The High Court bench, also comprising Justice C Hari Shankar, agreed to constitute a special bench as sought by the apex court for hearing the matter so that it could be decided before the Presidential poll.
The high court asked Rohatgi to ensure that the needful and relevant paperbooks are submitted before the Registrar General immediately.
The BJP leader had approached the top court against the Madhya Pradesh High Court order refusing to give him an urgent hearing on his plea seeking permission to vote in the election to be held on 17 July.
Congress leader Rajendra Bharti, represented by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, had opposed Mishra's plea.
The apex court then asked both lawyers to appear before the Delhi High Court seeking constitution of a special bench to hear the minister's plea challenging a June 23 order of the Election Commission of India (ECI).
The ECI had on 23 June disqualified Mishra for three years over paid news charges, holding him guilty of filing wrong accounts of poll expenditure relating to articles and advertorials in the media during the 2008 assembly polls.
While asking them to move the Delhi High Court, the apex court said, "We are of the view, that (right to vote in the presidential election) can only be determined after the challenge raised to the order passed by the Election Commission of India on 23 June, 2017, is suitably addressed by the High Court, finally or by an interim order as the High Court may consider appropriate."
Rohatgi had submitted before the apex court that he has challenged the order of Madhya Pradesh High Court refusing an urgent hearing to his interim prayer to allow him to vote in the presidential election.
The former AG had said Mishra has challenged his disqualification by the Election Commission for the 2008
assembly polls before the High Court which had refused an urgent hearing on the aspect that he be allowed to vote.
He argued that disqualification does not mean that he can be barred from voting. "I have the right for hearing and voting in the presidential election," Rohatgi had argued.
During the proceedings in the apex court, Rohatgi showed a communication by Bharti to the Registrar General of the Madhya Pradesh High Court in which certain "insinuating remarks" were made against the Chief Justice of that high court.
He said that even an article based on the "insinuations" had appeared in a national daily levelling certain charges against the MP High Court Chief Justice.
Thereafter, Sibal tendered an unconditional apology on behalf of his client, Bharti.
While disqualifying Mishra from contesting elections for three years following a complaint against him, the poll panel had used some strong words against paid news, calling it a "cancerous menace" that is assuming "alarming proportions" in the electoral landscape.
His election from the Datia Assembly constituency also stands void.
A full bench of the Election Commission, comprising then Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi and Election
Commissioners AK Joti (now CEC) and OP Rawat, had in its June order indicted Mishra and unseated him under various sections of the Representation of the People Act (RPA).
Mishra, who won from Datia assembly constituency, is the minister for water resources and public relations and the chief spokesperson of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government.
Bharti, the main complainant in the case, had first sent a complaint to the EC about eight years back in 2009.
The poll panel order had said that all the 42 news items that had appeared in five Hindi dailies were "extremely biased in favour of" Mishra.
It had said that its findings had also strengthened the conclusion that he had "knowingly participated or took advantage of the expenditure on such advertisements" that had appeared as news in the publications.
Updated Date: Jul 12, 2017 20:11 PM