President Pratibha Devisingh Patil has rejected the petition seeking disqualification of United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi as a member of Parliament for accepting the ‘Order of Leopold’ from the King of Belgium in November 2006.
In doing so, the President has gone by the opinion of the Election Commission which held that the petition was devoid of any merit and Ms. Gandhi could not be said to have incurred disqualification as alleged by the petitioner P. Rajan of Kochi.
The President, in her order — which has since been notified said Ms. Gandhi has not incurred disqualification under Article 102 (1) of the Constitution by accepting the title of ‘Grand Officer of the Order of Leopold’ from the Belgian Government.
This case has been pending since May 2007 when Mr. Rajan submitted his petition to former President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam who referred the matter to the Commission. The Commission had also sought the opinion of the External Affairs Ministry in this matter.
The petitioner’s contention was that by accepting Belgium’s second highest civilian honour, Ms. Gandhi had proclaimed eternal devotion to that country and its monarchy.