Ashok Chavan case: SC refuses to interfere with HC stay on EC notice

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today refused to interfere with the Delhi High Court order staying the Election Commission's show cause notice to ex-Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan seeking explanation for allegedly not giving correct expenses incurred in 2009 Assembly polls.

Ashok Chavan

The apex court, however, asked the High Court to dispose of expeditiously within 15 days, the petition filed by Chavan challenging the EC order asking him why he should not be disqualified for failing to give his true and correct expenses incurred in last Assembly polls. A Bench comprising justices F M I Kalifulla and Shiva Kirti Singh said since the High Court is examining the matter "we will ask the HC to dispose off the petition in 15 days" The court said it was not in favour of the matter dragging and wanted that High Court should decide the question of law.

Madhavrao Kinhalkar, who had filed the complaint against Chavan in the commission, submitted that "Prima facie the High Court has not given reasons for staying the EC order". His counsel Jayant Bhushan submitted that it was not appropriate on the part of the High Court to entertain Chavan's petition as the apex court had granted 45 days to the EC to examine the issues. Senior advocates Kapil Sibal, Mohan Parasaran and Salman KHurshid appeared for Chavan to oppose the appeal seeking vacation the High Court order.

The commission in its July 13, 2014 order had given Chavan, an MP from Nanded parliamentary seat, a 20-day deadline to respond to the show cause notice which was issued after the poll panel had found him guilty of failing to "lodge his account of election expenses in the manner required by the (Representation of the People) Act and Rules." The High Court had also issued notice to BJP leaders Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Kirit Somaiya along with independent candidate Madhavrao Kinhalkar, who had filed the complaint against Chavan in the commission. The High Court had posted the matter for hearing on November 5 with a direction that "impugned order of EC dated July 13, 2014, shall remain stayed."

The high court at that time also had brushed aside the contention of Bhushan that the poll panel's order be not stayed as it would "frustrate" the Supreme Court's May 5, 2014, order directing that the complaint regarding Chavan be decided within 45 days. Chavan had contended that he had filed all the correct poll expenses and had incurred an expenditure of Rs 6.85 lakh in the 2009 Assembly elections. He had pleaded that the July 13 order of EC be set aside to the extent that it holds that he had failed to lodge the poll expense account in the time and manner required under the law. He also sought quashing of the show cause notice.

In the High Court, the former Chief Minister contended that the commission has not followed the procedure laid out in the Representation of the People Act prior to giving its findings, as no opportunity to file a revised poll expenses was provided to him. Chavan had won the 2009 Assembly elections from Bhokar constituency and Kinhalkar was one of the unsuccessful candidates from there. On July 25, the commission had told the high court that being a quasi-judicial body, it will not defend its order passed against Chavan. Pursuant to this submission, the court had deleted the poll panel from the list of parties in the case.

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