In a major jolt to BJP ahead of Maharashtra assembly polls, the Supreme Court today set aside a clean chit to Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in an election affidavit case, where he had been accused of suppressing two criminal cases pending against him in his nomination papers for the 2014 assembly election.
The ruling by a bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi implies that the chief minister will have to face trial in the 2014 election case. Lawyer Satish Ukey’s had petitioned for action against Devendra Fadnavis under the Representation of People Act but his applications had been rejected by the lower court as well as the Mumbai High Court.
Last year, he moved the Supreme Court. The election law provides for a two year jail sentence for concealing or providing false information in election affidavits. The law also stipulates that a person sentenced to jail for two years or more will be disqualified from contesting elections for that period and a further six years after release.
The Supreme Court reserved its verdict in this case in July. It had then noted that Fadnavis did not disclose two cases pending against him. Fadnavis’ counsel and senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi had responded to this observation, describing it as an omission.
Ukey had told the court that the BJP leader had concealed two criminal cases, thus violating Section 125A of the Representation of People’s Act. Cases of alleged cheating and forgery were filed against Fadnavis in 1996 and 1998, respectively but charges were not framed.
However, a local court in Maharashtra had taken cognizance of the complaint. Fadnavis had then insisted that he hadn’t concealed any information in his affidavit.