The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its verdict on former Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’ plea seeking review of its 2019 judgement asking the BJP leader to face trial for allegedly failing to furnish details of pending criminal cases against him in his 2014 poll affidavit.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing Fadnavis, told a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra the issue will have very far reaching consequences for other candidates fighting elections and the top court needs to re-examine its October 1, 2019 decision.
In its judgment last year, the apex court had set aside the Bombay High Court order which gave a clean chit to Fadnavis and held that he did not deserve to be tried for the alleged offence under the Representation of Peoples Act (RPA).
During arguments, Rohatgi said a candidate can be criminally prosecuted for violating the two conditions of not disclosing cases where charges have been framed and where he or she has been convicted.
“This will seal my fate. It is an important question as it affects Article 21. This is a matter which requires a re-look,” Rohatgi told the bench, also comprising justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose.
The apex court’s verdict had come on an appeal by one Satish Ukey, who had challenged the high court’s order.
On July 23, 2019 the top court, while reserving the verdict on Ukey’s plea, had said that the alleged “omission” by Fadnavis of not disclosing information about two criminal cases in his election affidavit may be decided in the trial.
The apex court had said that it was concerned with a limited issue whether prima facie Section 125A of the RP Act is attracted or not.
The provision deals with the penalty for “filing false affidavit” and says that if a candidate or his proposer fails to furnish or gives false or conceals any information in his nomination paper on issues like pending criminal cases then the person may be awarded six months jail term or fine or both.
Ukey had contended the BJP leader filed a false affidavit by not disclosing two criminal matters and yet the trial court and the high court held that no prima facie case was made out for prosecution of the chief minister.
He had said that a candidate was under mandatory legal obligation to disclose details of all cases, in which either charges have been framed or the trial court had taken cognizance, in nomination papers.
The petitioner had alleged that Fadnavis, in his election affidavit filed in 2014, had failed to disclose the pendency of two criminal cases against him.
It was contended that the chief minister did not disclose the information as required of him under the election law and the non-disclosure of these two pending criminal cases was in violation of Section 125A of the RP Act and constituted an offence in itself.
The two cases of alleged cheating and forgery were filed against Fadnavis in 1996 and 1998 but charges were not framed.