SC reviews pol-related plaint against Devendra Fadnavis, asks trial court to consider case afresh

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Updated: October 2, 2019 1:13:18 AM

The two cases of alleged cheating and forgery were filed against Fadnavis in 1996 and 1998, respectively, but charges were not framed.

He said the trial court had taken cognizance, but the HC held that no prima facie case was made out for prosecution of the CM.

In a setback to Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis, the Supreme Court on Tuesday paved the way for his prosecution for filing a false poll affidavit in 2014. He had allegedly withheld information about two pending criminal cases — cheating and forgery and defamation — filed against him. The judgment comes a few weeks ahead of the state Assembly polls. However, this will not affect Fadnavis, who is seeking re-election as Maharashtra CM, as he can continue as a public representative and contest the state elections due on October 21.

A Bench, led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, set aside the Bombay High Court’s order that had affirmed the clean chit given by a trial court. Directing the trial to proceed, it said Fadnavis would be tried under Section 125A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, for non-disclosure of pending cases. Fadnavis had knowledge but did not mention the cases in his poll affidavit, the Supreme Court said.
“…in view of the clear averment made in the complaint to the effect that the First Respondent (Fadnavis) had knowledge of the two cases against him, which had not been mentioned in the affidavit filed by the First Respondent along with his nomination papers, we unhesitatingly arrive at the conclusion that the order of the trial court upheld by the High Court by the impugned judgment and order dated May 3, 2018, is legally not tenable and the same deserves to be set aside which we hereby do.

The complaint of the appellant will be considered afresh by the trial court from the stage where it was interdicted by the May 30, 2016, order.” The punishment for concealing information or giving false information on one’s election papers is six months’ jail term or fine or both. The judgment came on a petition filed by Satish Ukey, seeking prosecution of Fadnavis under the RP Act and also his disqualification. He said the trial court had taken cognizance, but the HC held that no prima facie case was made out for prosecution of the CM.

He contended that a candidate was under mandatory obligation to disclose the details of all the cases, in which either charges have been framed or the trial court had taken cognisance, in the nomination papers.

However, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared for the CM, had referred to the provision of the RP Act, arguing that the stage of cancellation of nomination papers for alleged non-disclosure was over and the question was only whether the lawmaker can be prosecuted.

The two cases of alleged cheating and forgery were filed against Fadnavis in 1996 and 1998, respectively, but charges were not framed.

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