Supreme Court seeks EC's reply on Tej Bahadur's plea challenging cancellation of his nomination from Varanasi
The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a notice to the Election Commission seeking its reply on the plea filed by sacked BSF head constable Tej Bahadur Yadav, who has challenged the decision of Returning Officer (RO) to reject his nomination papers from Varanasi Lok Sabha seat.
The top court has asked the poll panel to examine to apprise it by tomorrow after examining grievances raised by the sacked BSF jawan.
The RO on May 1 had rejected the nomination papers of Yadav, a Samajwadi Party candidate, who was dismissed from BSF in 2017 after he posted a video online complaining about the food served to the troops.
The poll panel official held that Yadav failed to furnish a certificate as mandated under the Representation of Peoples (RP) Act to the effect that he has not been "dismissed for corruption or disloyalty to the state".
Yadav, in its plea filed through lawyer Prashant Bhushan, has sought setting aside of RO's decision and the apex court's nod to contest elections from high-profile Varanasi seat where poll is slated to taken place on May 19.
"It seems the impugned decision has been taken keeping in mind the sensitivity of the contest in Varanasi Constituency and to give walkover to the candidate of the ruling party by disqualifying the Petitioner whose candidature was gaining momentum and was therefore also supported by the main opposition alliance of two major political parties in the state," the plea alleged.
The Samajwadi Party had initially fielded Shalini Yadav as its candidate to contest against Modi and later nominated the sacked BSF jawan.
"The petitioner's nomination paper...Dated April 29, for contesting Lok Sabha Election 2019 from Varanasi Constituency was rejected by the RO, vide the impugned order dated May 1, on the ground that the petitioner was dismissed from the government service on April 19, 2017 and five years period from the date of such dismissal has not elapsed, in terms of section 9 of the (RP) Act," the plea said.
While rejecting the nomination papers of Yadav, the RO had observed that "the nomination paper is neither accompanied by certificate issued in the prescribed manner by the Election Commission to the effect that he has not been dismissed for corruption or disloyalty to the state".
"While passing the impugned order...The RO completely failed to appreciate that the Petitioner (Yadav) had produced his dismissal letter along with his nomination paper which clearly shows that he was dismissed from service for alleged indiscipline and not for corruption or disloyalty to state, as is provided under Section 9 and Section 33 (3) of the (RP) Act," the plea said.
Yadav, in his reply to RO's first notice of April 29, had submitted that he was dismissed from BSF due to "indiscipline" which is not covered under the election law and hence, a certificate from EC to that effect was not required, the plea said.
"The RO issued second notice on April 30 asking the Petitioner (Yadav) to submit required certificate to the effect that he has not been dismissed for corruption or disloyalty to the state by 11 am on May 01.
"First of all...In the present facts of the case, there was no need to produce any certificate as Section 9 is not attracted at all. Secondly, this second notice asking for the certificate was served upon the Petitioner on April 30 at 6 pm. Thus, no sufficient time was given to produce the certificate," the plea alleged.
It said Yadav had replied to the second notice to the RO by reiterating that the provisions of the RP Act were not applicable in his case.
Moreover, Yadav had told the RO that he had already sent a representation to the EC requesting it to furnish certificate as contemplated under the provisions of the RP Act, it said.
"However, the RO of the Election Commission of India on that very day without waiting for the EC's response to the Petitioner's representation rejected the Petitioner's nomination paper," it said.
Rejection of nomination was not only "erroneous, arbitrary and malafide" but also showed failure of the RO and the EC in not invoking the constitutional powers to remedy the present situation for ensuring free and fair election, it said.
(With PTI inputs)