The Delhi High Court on Friday dismissed the plea of disqualified Madhya Pradesh minister Narottam Mishra to vote in the presidential polls on Monday. A specially constituted single-judge bench of Justice Indermeet Kaur also upheld Mishra’s disqualification for three years over paid news charges.
The high court had on Thursday reserved its judgement after after hearing day-long arguments on behalf of Mishra, the Election Commission of India and Congress leader Rajendra Bharti on whose complaint the poll panel had disqualified the BJP leader.
The Supreme Court had transferred the matter to the high court to be decided expeditiously before the 17 July presidential election.
Pursuant to the apex court’s decision, the high court had constituted the special single-judge bench to hear Mishra’s plea challenging the ECI’s 23 June order disqualifying him. The poll panel had held him guilty of filing wrong accounts of poll expenses relating to articles and advertorials in the media during the 2008 Assembly polls.
While transferring the matter to the high court, the apex court had said that the right to vote in the presidential poll can only be determined after the challenge raised to the order passed by the Election Commission on 23 June is suitably addressed by the High Court, finally or through an interim order as the High Court may consider appropriate.
Mishra had moved the apex court challenging a Madhya Pradesh High Court order refusing an urgent hearing to his interim prayer to allow him to vote in the presidential poll.
While disqualifying Mishra from contesting elections for three years following a complaint against him, the poll panel had used some strong words against paid news, calling it a “cancerous menace” that is assuming “alarming proportions” in the electoral landscape.
His election from the Datia Assembly constituency also stands void. Mishra, who won from Datia Assembly constituency, is the minister for water resources and public relations and the chief spokesperson of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government. Bharti, the main complainant in the case, had first sent a complaint to the EC about eight years back in 2009. The poll panel order had said that all the 42 news items that had appeared in five Hindi dailies were “extremely biased in favour of” Mishra. It had said that its findings had also strengthened the conclusion that he had “knowingly participated or took advantage of the expenditure on such advertisements” that had appeared as news in the publication.