Returning officer V.K. Agnihotri rejects objections to their candidature

Returning Officer V.K. Agnihotri on Tuesday accepted the nominations of UPA presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee and NDA-AIADMK-BJD backed nominee P.A. Sangma, rejecting the objections to their candidature.

Earlier, when the RO took up scrutiny again in the morning, Mr. Mukherjee filed a written counter to the objections of the Sangma camp on the office of profit issue. The objections had no factual basis, he said. It was unfortunate that the objection “has been made on a false basis, ignoring that fact that I tendered my resignation from the post of Chairman, Indian Statistical Institute, on June 20, 2012.”

The resignation was unconditional and was, in any case, accepted on the same date. “… The whole basis of the objections that I have been holding the office of the Chairman of the ISI, Kolkata, till date is misconceived and untenable,” Mr. Mukherjee said in his rebuttal.

The RO, quoting a Supreme Court verdict, also rejected the objections against the nomination of Mr. Sangma raised by a candidate whose papers were rejected on Monday. Sources said this person had been filing frivolous objections (such as whether the Leaders of the Opposition in Parliament could sign nominations as proposers or seconders as they hold offices of profit) since the 1970s when Fakhrudin Ali Ahmed contested the poll. He raised the same objection when Giani Zail Singh was elected President.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sangma’s chief election agent, Biju Janata Dal MP Bhartruhari Mahteb, said their objection to Mr. Mukherjee was still valid as there was some suspicion about the date of the letter and how it was accepted by ISI president Prof. M.G.K. Menon without forwarding it to the institute’s elected council which was the ultimate deciding authority.

Even if it was accepted, for argument’s sake, that the ISI, Kolkata, would not come under the “office of profit,” it was applicable only to election as a member of Parliament under Section 3 of the Parliament (Prevention of disqualification) Act, 1959, to which ISI was added in serial number 4 (during a subsequent amendment). It would not apply to election of the President.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, who argued on behalf of Mr. Mukherjee before the RO, pooh-poohed the Sangma camp’s claim. “The RO ruled in favour of Mr. Mukherjee and accepted his nomination papers,” he said.

Letter fabricated: BJP

BJP general secretary H.N. Ananth Kumar said Mr. Mukherjee’s resignation letter was “fabricated.” The party had all options open before it, including legal, and would make a decision soon. The resignation letter had been prepared only to save the UPA candidate’s nomination, he said, and asked both Mr. Mukherjee and Mr. Menon to come clean on the issue. “BJP alleges that it is a 100 per cent fabricated document... It's very unfortunate that persons contesting for such offices as President of India are indulging in illegal activities. We are demanding justice from the Election Commission... We are waiting for a certified copy of the Returning Officer's order. It is open for all types of further action,” Mr. Kumar told journalists.

BJP leader and Mr. Sangma's counsel Satya Pal Jain said Mr. Mukherjee’s signatures on his reply to the objections and on his resignation letter did not tally. “There are apprehensions about the genuineness of this document. This seems to have been manufactured after we raised objections to his nomination,” said Mr. Jain.

More In: National | News