Ranchi, April 5: Jharkhand High Court today directed the Election Commission (EC) to hand over the “grave case of involvement of money power, horse-trading and influence” during the March 30 Rajya Sabha election in the state to the CBI for probing the “criminality of persons” involved.
A division bench of Chief Justice Prakash Tatia and Justice Aparesh Kumar Singh, while dismissing the petition filed by state Congress chief and Rajya Sabha nominee Pradeep Balmuchu as “misconceived”, observed that the poll panel had acted fittingly by taking steps to stop counting promptly and recommending rescinding the election notification to the President.
The court also observed that Balmuchu’s petition was a “personal interest litigation” as he was a candidate in the election. Balmuchu had challenged the Election Commission’s jurisdiction to countermand the elections. The court reserved judgment on April 3 after giving an emergent hearing to the case. The court also dismissed a separate PIL filed by Congressman Jai Shankar Pathak, and slapped a fine of Rs 1 lakh against him “for misusing the process of law.”
Pathak, in his petition, said the Election Commission in cancelling the entire process had indirectly benefited the wrongdoers. Hailing the decision, chief election commissioner S.Y. Quraishi said the order was yet another success against corruption and the poll panel would now seek a CBI inquiry into the episode.
With the rejection of the petition paving the way for the announcement of a fresh schedule for elections, Quraishi said a decision to this effect would be taken soon.
“It is a success against corruption. We feel stronger now with the high court decision. We will now seek a CBI probe into the matter,” Quraishi told agencies in Delhi.
A jubilant Quraishi earlier tweeted: “Jharkhand HC dismissed a PIL too against countermand with 1 lakh cost. Yet another success against corruption. Time to feel good.”
Balmuchu, who earlier sought to challenge the verdict, later retreated and hailed the decision of Jharkhand High Court to hand over the investigations to the CBI. “As soon as the cash for vote scandal broke, we demanded that the case be handed over to the CBI. However, the Arjun Munda government tried to cover up the case. The decision of the court only confirms our allegations of foul play,” Balmuchu said, demanding that the ambit of the probe be widened to cover the role of the chief minister as well as that of the BJP.
Political parties, including BJP and JVM, has also hailed the order. JMM leader Supriyo Bhattacharya said it was immature on Balmuchu’s part to challenge the Election Commission order in the first place.
According to legal experts, the court, by this order, expanded the powers of Election Commission elaborately defined under Article 324 of the Constitution by the Supreme Court in the M.S. Gill case.
Today’s 46-page judgement, authored by Chief Justice Tatia, also dwelt at length on the importance of the parliamentary form of government as well as Rajya Sabha and purity needed in the election process. The court said the EC was right in its wisdom to take immediate action and recommend cancellation of election notification itself so that fresh elections could be conducted expeditiously.
The bench said the poll panel decision was fully supported by reason and based upon cogent and trustworthy evidence.
“The Election Commission did what the apex court expects from high functionary authorities like the panel. Even if the law and rules are absent and the commission comes across such a situation and he is to tackle that situation, then he should not remain with folded hands and pray to God for divine inspiration to enable him to exercise his functions and to perform his duties or to look to any external authority for the grants of powers to deal with the situations,” the court observed.