SC rejects challenge to election of Jharkhand Cong MP

SC rejects BJP leader's challenge to election of Congress MP Dheeraj Prasad Sahu from Jharkhand

The top court said Mahto had cast the vote before the trial court’s verdict

Supreme Court of India. Credit: PTI Photo

The Supreme Court on Friday answered in negative to an interesting legal question whether the vote cast by an MLA in Rajya Sabha election, in the forenoon would become invalid, due to disqualification, arising out of a conviction and sentence, in the afternoon of the very same day.

 

"In our view to hold that an MLA stood disqualified even before he was convicted would grossly violate his substantive right to be treated as innocent until proved guilty," a bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian said.

The court ruled it is not possible to hold that the vote cast by Jharkhand MLA Amit Kumar Mahto at 9:15 am on March 23, 2018, should be treated as invalid on account of the conviction and sentence passed by the criminal court at 2:30 pm on the same day.

"We hold the vote by Mahto was rightly treated as a valid. To hold otherwise would result either in an expectation that the Returning Officer should have had foresight at 9:15 am about the outcome of the criminal case in the afternoon or in vesting with the Election Commission, a power to do an act that will create endless confusion and needless chaos,"(sic) the bench said.

The court said the position would have been different if JMM party MLA Mahto had been convicted and sentenced in the forenoon and yet he voted in the election to the Rajya Sabha in the afternoon with full knowledge.

The court rejected the contention by BJP candidate, Pradeep Kumar Sonthalia against election of Congress candidate Dheeraj Prasad Sahu in 2018 Rajya Sabha poll. 

The defeated candidate claimed Mahto's vote was wrongly accepted, as disqualification was to start from the date of conviction. He claimed the conviction was deemed in law to have commenced at about 00.01 am when the date of March 22 lapsed and the date of March 23 began.

Trashing the argument, the court said, "To say that this presumption of innocence would evaporate from 00.01 am, though the conviction was handed over at 14.30 pm would strike at the very root of the most fundamental principle of Criminal Jurisprudence."

A legislator stood disqualified as per Section 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 "from the date" of conviction.

"In the present case, it would be significant to add that it is not necessary to make a declaration incompatible in the use of the word “date” with the general rule of law since the word “date” is quite capable of meaning the point of time when the event took place rather than the whole day," the bench said.