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Posted at: Jun 25, 2019, 12:45 PM; last updated: Jun 25, 2019, 7:23 PM (IST)

Setback to Congress as SC refuses to interfere with Gujarat bypolls

Setback to Congress as SC refuses to interfere with Gujarat bypolls
The Vacation Bench was headed by Justice Sanjiv Khanna. Tribune file

Satya Prakash
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 25

In a setback to the Congress, the Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to entertain its plea against the Election Commission’s decision to hold separate bypolls for two Rajya Sabha seats in Gujarat necessitated by election of BJP chief Amit Shah and party leader Smriti Irani to the Lok Sabha.

A Vacation Bench headed by Justice Sanjiv Khanna said, “You can file an election petition later...But we can’t stall the election process at this stage.”

The Bench said it was open to the defeated candidate to file an election petition before the Gujarat High Court after the results were declared.

Gujarat Congress leader Pareshbhai Dhanani had challenged the Election Commission’s decision to hold separate bypolls to two vacant Rajya Sabha seats in the state.

But the Bench was not convinced with the submissions of the petitioner’s counsel, Vivek Tankha, regarding its intervention in the bypoll process.

The EC had contended that there was no violation of any fundamental rights involved as contesting polls was only a statutory right. It had also pointed out that courts couldn’t interfere in an ongoing election process.

One of the BJP candidates for the July 5 bypolls is External Affairs Minister Jaishankar.

In the 182-member Gujarat Assembly, the BJP has 100 members and the Congress-led opposition has 75 members. Seven seats are vacant.

If separate elections are held for each vacancy, it would result into victory of ruling party candidates on both the seats, upsetting the scheme of proportional representation envisaged under the Representation of People Act, the petitioner contended.

The Supreme Court on June 19 issued notice to the Election Commission on the Gujarat Congress leader’s petition challenging the poll panel’s decision to hold separate bypolls to two Rajya Sabha seats which fell vacant after BJP chief Amit Shah and party leader Smriti Irani were elected to the Lok Sabha.

It had asked the Election Commission to respond to the petition filed by Leader of Opposition in Gujarat Assembly Pareshbhai Dhanani by June 24 and posted it for further hearing on June 25.

While Shah was elected to the lower house from Gandhinagar and Irani defeated Rahul Gandhi to make it to the Lok Sabha from Amethi. Shah is the Union Home Minister and Irani has been given the charge of the Women and Child Development Ministry.

On June 15, the EC announced bypolls to both the seats to be held on July 5. The vacancies for bypolls to all Houses, including the Rajya Sabha, are considered “separate vacancies” and separate notifications are issued and separate polls are held, though the schedule could be the same, it clarified.

The EC had cited two Delhi High Court rulings of 1994 and 2009 which supported the system of holding separate bypolls in the same state under provisions of the Representation of the People Act.

An MLA from Amreli constituency, Dhanani has sought a direction to quash and declare the poll panel’s order as “unconstitutional, arbitrary, illegal, void ab initio” saying it violated Article 14 of the Constitution.

Dhanani requested the top court to direct the EC to hold simultaneous bypolls for filling of all vacancies in all states, including Gujarat. Separate elections for the two Rajya Sabha seats in Gujarat would upset the scheme of proportional representation as mandated under the Representation of People Act, he contended.

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