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The SC had ruled that a case had been made to prosecute Fadnavis for withholding information in an election affidavit.
The Supreme Court today reserved its order in the review petition filed by former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who had sought a review of the Court's 2019 judgment which allowed for his prosecution under Section 125A of the Representation of People Act, 1951. (Devendra Gangadharrao Fadnavis vs Satish Ukey)
The Bench headed by then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had paved the way for Fadnavis to be prosecuted for withholding information regarding cases pending against him while filing his election affidavit.
Senior Counsel Mukul Rohatgi, representing Fadnavis, told the Court today that the law provides for disclosure of information regarding criminal cases only if charges have been framed or on conviction.
The allegation against Fadnavis, however, pertains to a case where only cognizance has been taken, Rohatgi said. He added further that the same is not required to be disclosed in the affidavit according to the law laid down under Section 33A(1) of the Representation of People Act.
Rohatgi thus urged the Court to reconsider its decision, citing his client's rights under Article 21 of the Constitution.
The Bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose was also told that Fadnavis did not withhold any information from his nomination papers. The information regarding the pending cases was only missing from Fadnavis' election affidavit. He once again stressed on the fact that such disclosure in the election affidavit was required to be made only for cases in which the candidate was charged or convicted.
Rohatgi submitted that prosecution cannot be called for this default. He argued that there may be another penalty for the same, but not prosecution under the Representation of People Act.
The Court then proceeded to reserve its order.
A petition had been filed in the Supreme Court bringing to light Fadnavis' alleged concealment of two criminal cases against him in the election affidavit filed in 2014. The Court had issued notice in the plea in December 2018.
In October last year, the Supreme Court had "unhesitatingly" held that a case has been made for the prosecution of Fadnavis.
It therefore set aside the judgment of the Bombay High Court and remanded the matter for trial afresh. The order was passed in an appeal filed by Satish Ukey against the Bombay High Court verdict which had ruled in favour of Devendra Fadnavis.
Fadnavis had contested the elections from Constituency-52, South-West, Nagpur, the State of Maharashtra. He submitted his nomination paper along with the requisite documents and affidavit in prescribed form, Form No. 26 as prescribed under Rule 4A of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961.
The affidavit filed in Form No. 26 contained a declaration regarding the information that he was required to submit mandatorily, in particular, the information in terms of Section 33A (1) and (2) of the Representation of the RP Act, 1951.
This provision of law required him to disclose information relating to any pending criminal case in which the punishment prescribed was of imprisonment for two years or more, and in which a charge was framed by the Court of competent jurisdiction, or those criminal cases in which he was convicted of an offence and sentenced to imprisonment for one year or more.
It was Ukey’s case that Devendra Fadnavis did not disclose the information as required of him under sub-section (1) of Section 33A of the Act of 1951.
Whereas the Bombay High Court had set aside an order of the Principal District and Sessions Judge against Fadnavis, the Supreme Court Bench of former CJI Ranjan Gogoi along with Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose set aside the High Court ruling last year.
The matter had been remitted to the trial court for fresh consideration from the stage where it was interdicted. Fadnavis thereafter moved the Supreme Court to review this ruling.