HC disqualifies IUML MLA for "communal" campaign

HC disqualifies IUML MLA for "communal" campaign

Order stayed for two weeks

The Kerala High Court on Friday disqualified Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) MLA K M Shaji over communally “polarising” material used during his 2016 election campaign. The High Court also ordered re-election in the constituency, Azhikode in Kannur district. The court later stayed the operation of the judgment for two weeks.

The petition was filed by Shaji’s rival candidate, M V Nikesh Kumar of the CPM. Judge P D Rajan also barred Shaji from contesting in elections for six years. The court rejected Kumar’s plea to declare him as the winner in the election but ordered payment of Rs 50,000 to him as costs.

Kumar’s petition was based on pamphlets distributed as part of Shaji’s campaign urging people not to vote for a non-Muslim candidate. Shaji said he would approach the Supreme Court against the judgment. “The petition was based on false charges. Those pamphlets were mixed with material used for my poll campaign. I’ve always believed in secular values and it’s irrational to say I used such tactics to win from a constituency where Muslims are only 20% of the population,” Shaji told reporters.

STAYED FOR TWO WEEKS: Shaji’s appeal for a stay on the judgment was based on the contention that the constituency would be left without a representative in the Assembly until he files an appeal against the judgment in the Supreme Court. Shaji, 46, had defeated Kumar, a noted TV journalist and son of late Communist leader M V Raghavan, by 2,287 votes in a fiercely fought election.

The IUML leadership backed Shaji on the issue. Ramesh Chennithala, Leader of the Congress-led opposition which IUML is part of, said the opposition would legally challenge the HC judgment. “Shaji had said during his poll campaign that he did not seek votes of religious extremists. Everyone knows about his secular credentials,” Chennithala said.