New Delhi: In a set-back to cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered trial be recommenced in an election petition alleging excess expenditure beyond the permitted limit and misuse of a government official during his election from Amritsar in 2009.
Partially allowing Sidhu’s appeal, a bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre said: “The trial of the election petition on the issues/allegations that survive in terms of the present order will have to recommence. We order accordingly.”
Sidhu had challenged Punjab and Haryana High Court order directing his trial in an election petition by Om Prakash Soni. In the election held on May 13, 2009, Sidhu – who has now floated a political outfit Awaz-e-Punjab, had contested as a Bharatiya Janata Party candidate.
The court rejected Sidhu’s contention that Soni who has challenged his election on grounds of corrupt practice has not backed his allegations of excess expenditure on advertisements in print and electronic media by producing the copies of the newspapers in which advertisements had appeared.
Soni has alleged that against the total prescribed limit of Rs 25 lakh, Sidhu had spent over Rs 32 lakh (Rs 32,88,845) on advertisements in print and electronic media alone.
Speaking for the bench, Justice Gogoi said: “In our considered view, it cannot be said that full particulars of the allegation of corrupt practice have not been set out by the election petitioner. The dates on which the advertisements had appeared; the particulars of the newspapers in which such advertisements were published; the cost incurred for each type of advertisement in each newspaper, have all been mentioned.
“When details to the above extent have been mentioned in the Election Petition, it cannot be said that full particulars as required under Section 83(1)(b) of the R.P. Act have not been furnished by the election petitioner.”
However, the court did not accept Soni’s claim that Sidhu had spent much more than Rs 1,83,466 that he had shown to have spent on organising the public meetings during election campaign.
While noting that Soni had given the details of the meetings – the time, date and venue and the number of persons who are claimed to have attended the meetings, the court said that “we do not find any basis as to how the election petitioner had arrived at the quantum of expenses which he alleges to have been incurred by the returned candidate in holding each of the said meetings”.
The court said that Soni has not mentioned what is the source of his information whether it is his personal knowledge or based on other sources including the estimates of people who attended Sidhu’s election meetings.
“All such particulars that are an integral part of the allegation of corrupt practice alleged are absent,” the court said, holding that “the allegations – so far as commission of corrupt practice of submission of false/incorrect return of election expenses (on public meetings) is concerned, are, therefore, struck off”.
The court said that the allegation that Sidhu took the assistance of an officer for further his election prospects too would be tried by the court in the election petition.
The court said that the allegations against the Returning Officer on the score of counting of votes have become academic as the life of the house to which election had taken place has long expired.