SC Reprimands West Bengal BJP Leader for Delaying Poll Petition

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Judges threaten action and possible removal of Kalyan Chaubey from posts in sports bodies.

Clarion India

NEW DELHI — The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader in West Bengal, Kalyan Chaubey, has come in for a serious reprimand from the Supreme Court for “wilfully and deliberately” delaying proceedings in an election petition he filed before the Calcutta High Court. The petition challenges the results of the 2021 assembly polls for the Maniktala constituency. The seat has been vacant since February 2022 after the death of the winning Trinamool Congress (TMC) candidate.

Expressing anguish that the high court did not take its earlier order of August 2023 to expeditiously decide the election petition in the right perspective, the apex court sought Chaubey’s response for holding day-to-day hearings to ensure the proceedings end by June 30.

Warning of serious action, the court on Friday also issued a show-cause notice to Chaubey, threatening non-bailable warrants if he fails to remain present in the high court. The top court also explored the possibility of relieving Chaubey from his posts of president of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and joint secretary of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA). The court was informed that Chaubey had cited his preoccupations with the sports bodies as reasons for getting the election petition adjourned, media reports said on Saturday.

“We are satisfied that the respondent (Kalyan Chaubey) is adopting delaying tactics… Let show-cause notice be issued as to why he should not be directed to be released from the posts of president, AIFF, and chief executive officer and joint secretary, IOA. It will allow the respondent to fully concentrate on election petition proceedings,” a bench of Justices Surya Kant and P.S. Narasimha said,

The notice further required Chaubey to explain why he should not be asked to give an undertaking of having no objection if the matter is heard daily and completed by June 30. “Further, if the respondent does not appear, we shall explore to secure his presence by issuing a non-bailable warrant as we are convinced he is avoiding the proceeding deliberately and wilfully,” the judges said.

Chaubey had approached the high court soon after losing to Trinamool Congress candidate Sadhan Pande in the Maniktala constituency during the 2021 West Bengal assembly polls. Following Pande’s death in February 2022, three Maniktala residents filed a PIL in the high court seeking bypolls. However, due to the pendency of the petition, the election commission could not hold the election. The three residents approached the top court in May last year asking it court to expedite the election petition proceedings.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the residents, submitted that since the top court’s order on August 18 last year directing the high court to expedite the hearing, the election petitioner has been undermining the court’s orders. According to Section 86 (7) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, an election petition must be decided within six months. However, in this case, 32 months have already elapsed.

The bench said, “We are constrained to observe that the request made to the high court on August 18, 2023, has not been appreciated in the right perspective.” The court kept open the possibility of transferring the petition to the Delhi High Court.

Following the August 18 order, the high court took up the case 12 times, with only five days of effective hearing. On other occasions, Chaubey moved applications citing prior engagements due to the Asian Games, official engagements, and health reasons, preventing his statement from being recorded.

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