Judge strikes off only two charges of his exercising undue influence and misusing official machinery
The Madras High Court on Thursday declined to remove all allegations listed in a petition challenging the election of Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram from Sivaganga in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, but ordered the deletion of two paragraphs that contained charges of his using the services of officials, including bank officers, to ensure his victory.
Rejecting Mr. Chidambaram's contention that the election petition, filed by R.S. Raja Kannappan (AIADMK), did not disclose any material fact, Justice K. Venkataraman said the allegations of corrupt practices and distribution of money to voters could not be nullified at this stage but had to be examined in a detailed trial.
The matter was heard in the principal seat of the High Court in Chennai, but the order was delivered in the Madurai Bench.
Disposing of Mr. Chidambaram's application filed last year in response to the main election petition of June 2009, Justice Venkataraman struck off only two of the 25 paragraphs sought to be nullified in Mr. Raja Kannappan's 28-paragraph affidavit.
In those two paragraphs, he accused Mr. Chidambaram of bringing undue influence in his capacity as Union Minister and making the entire official machinery in the constituency work overtime for his victory. The AIADMK candidate also alleged that certain bank officers owing allegiance to the Minister were deployed for election duty despite protests.
The court, however, said these allegations were without substance and material facts. “The name of the bank, the name of the officials, the place where they had been enlisted for election duty, the date and time are not set out in the election petition,” the judge said.
On Mr. Chidambaram's plea to strike off the other 23 paragraphs also, the judge said: “The contention of the applicant that the election petition does not disclose material facts or material particulars as far as the corrupt practice and distribution of cash [are concerned] cannot be accepted at this stage. It requires a detailed trial.
“A perusal of the various averments made in the election petition shows that sufficient material facts were made and it discloses cause of action for trial of the election petition. It also contains adequate statement of material facts on which the allegations of irregularities or illegalities in counting were founded … The contention that the election petition does not disclose any cause of action cannot be accepted.”
The paragraphs the judge refused to strike off contained allegations that thousands of women belonging to self-help groups in the constituency were paid Rs. 500 each by the Minister's son, Karti Chidambaram, and his election agents, and that the Minister, in connivance with the Returning Officer, manipulated the number of votes in his favour on the day of counting, May 16, 2009.
According to Mr. Raja Kannappan, he secured 3,34,348 votes as against 3,30,994 votes polled by Mr. Chidambaram. However, when it became clear later in the day that the Congress-led alliance was about to form the next government at the Centre, the results were manipulated in favour of Mr. Chidambaram, who was declared elected by a margin of 3,354 votes, the AIADMK candidate alleged.
Denying the allegations, the Minister wanted the court to dismiss the election petition and strike off the 25 paragraphs in particular.
This was the second time he filed an application.
A similar application filed in 2009 on grounds of defects in the petition was dismissed on August 4 last by Justice Venkataraman, who said they were curable.