Matter for Election Commission to decide: NIA, Sadhvi Pragya respond to call for election ban

Matter for Election Commission to decide: NIA, Sadhvi Pragya respond to call for election ban

Aditya AK

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has stated it has no jurisdiction to decide on the issue of whether Sadhvi Pragya Thakur should be allowed to contest the ongoing Lok Sabha Elections. The question ought to be decided by the Election Commission of India, the reply filed by the NIA states.

Last week, the Special NIA Court hearing the Malegaon Blasts case – in which Sadhvi Pragya is the main accused – had asked for the NIA’s response in an application filed by Nisar Ahmed Sayyed Bilal. Bilal is the father of one of the victims of the 2008 blasts.

Bilal had filed the application seeking a direction to restrain Sadhvi Pragya – who recently got a ticket from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to contest from Bhopal – from taking part in the elections. In its response filed today, the NIA has stated,

“This matter is related to election and Election Commission. NIA has no jurisdiction to say anything on this matter because the matter of contesting in elections is not related to this case. It is to be decided by the Election Commission only. Hence, no comments are offered.”

The NIA also states that it had given Sadhvi Pragya a clean chit in its charge sheet filed in 2016.

Sadhvi Pragya has herself filed a reply to Bilal’s application, stating that it deserves to be dismissed in limine. Her reply states,

“There is no provision in the Representation of Peoples’ Act, 1951 which disqualifies the candidate from contesting the election, if criminal case is pending against him/her.”

It is also pointed out that sub-section 4 of Section 8 of the Act makes it clear that even if a candidate is convicted, disqualification will not take effect if appeal or revision is filed against the conviction within 90 days, or if the conviction is stayed by the Court. Her reply goes on to state that pendency of cases is no bar for contesting elections.

In his application filed last week, Bilal had brought up the fact that Sadhvi Pragya had not been attending hearings being held at the NIA Court. Her attendance at these hearings was one of the conditions set by the Bombay High Court when it granted bail to her on medical grounds in 2017. In this regard, the reply states,

“It is important to note that Bail was granted by Hon’ble High Court not only on health ground but on the ground that there was no prima facie case and alleged motor cycle was not in her possession much prior to the alleged incident.”

On the question of her medical health, it is stated that she has been taking Ayurvedic treatment for breast cancer ever since her release from jail. She avers that she is unable to walk without support. Reference is a made to an episode of ‘Aap Ki Adalat’ telecast in October last year, where she was seen in a wheelchair.

As regards her failure to attend court hearings, Sadhvi Pragya says that she has been absenting herself with the leave of the court. It is further contended that she has not committed any breach of the bail order.

“The Accused has not remained absent without leave of the Court and the Accused shall remain present, if she is directed by this Hon’ble Court, but she will not remain present because the Intervener wants that she should remain present. Further, the witnesses so far examined were not challenged by the Respondent/Accused, hence her presence was not required.”

Finally, she contends that the application was filed to serve a political agenda and for “extraneous objectives”.

“…the applicant under the threat of the present application has attempted to pressurize the Respondent by threatening to injunct the rights of Respondent to contest election, and hand in glove with the Political parties, has thereby attempted to extend Political mileage to Political parties contesting election against herein Respondent.”

Leave has also been sought to produce copies of news articles reporting on the filing of the application for perusal of the Court.

On these grounds, it is prayed that the application to restrain her from contesting the Lok Sabha Elections be dismissed with exemplary costs, and that the applicant be dealt with sternly for abusing the process of the court.

[Read the replies filed by NIA and Sadhvi Pragya]

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