Objections against their candidatures raised on the office of profit issue

The scrutiny of nominations for the July 19 Presidential poll, filed by UPA contestant Pranab Mukherjee and NDA-AIADMK-BJD backed candidate P.A. Sangma, took an unexpected turn on Monday with objections against their candidatures being raised on the office of profit issue.

A candidate is ineligible to contest the poll if he was holding any office of profit at the time of filing nominations. This is applicable to the Presidential and Vice-Presidential polls.

Returning Officer V.K. Agnihotri kept the papers pending till 11 a.m. on Tuesday for the parties to file their counter.

Earlier, when BJD Lok Sabha member Bhartruhari Mahteb, who is the chief election agent of Mr. Sangma, wanted the Returning Officer to reject Mr. Mukherjee's papers as he had not resigned, or if he had done so his resignation was not accepted as Chairman of the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata, when he filed his papers, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal objected to it. Mr. Bansal is the chief election agent of Mr. Mukherjee.

Mr. Bansal informed the RO that Mr. Mukherjee resigned on June 20 itself and hence his papers would not attract the clauses of the “office of profit” law and sought time to file a detailed rebuttal by Tuesday, which was accepted by Mr. Agnihotri.

The objection against validating Mr. Sangma’s candidature was raised by an advocate-candidate, who claimed that since the Leaders of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, and Arun Jaitley, “who are holding the office of profit,” had signed the papers of Mr. Sangma as proposers, the nominations should be rejected. Sources in the Sangma camp, however, said this was only a superfluous objection.

Mr. Agnihotri rejected the papers of 60 other candidates as they did not have the mandatory signatures of 50 proposers and 50 seconders (of the electroal college).

Later, Mr. Bansal told journalists that the objection to Mr. Mukherjee’s candidature was “factually incorrect, legally ill-conceived and untenable.”

Sources said the RO's decision on the validity of the nominations was final, and no one could interfere in it, including the Election Commission.

They pointed to Section 5E (6) of the Presidential and Vice-Presidential Election Act, 1952, which empowers the RO to postpone the scrutiny if there was any objection. It reads: “...if any objection was raised by the RO or any other person, the candidate concerned may be allowed time to rebut it not later than the next day but one following the date fixed for scrutiny, and the Returning Officer shall record his decision on the date to which the proceedings have been adjourned.”

Legally, the RO could decide on the matter till July 4, and announce it before the cut-off time for withdrawal.

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