The Gujarat High Court Wednesday said it will not interfere with the Election Commission order declaring bypoll for Talala Assembly seat in the state following disqualification of Congress MLA Bhagvan Barad.
The division bench of Justices S R Brahmbhatt and V B Mayani disposed of Barad’s petition challenging the Assembly Speaker Rajendra Trivedi’s order disqualifying him as well as the EC’s March 10 order declaring bypoll for the seat.
Tridevi, in a notification issued on March 5, declared the Talala Assembly seat vacant, after a judicial magistrate convicted Barad in an illegal mining case and sentenced him to two years and nine months in jail.
The high court said it will not interfere with the notification issued by the Election Commission of India declaring the bypoll for Talala Assembly constituency on account of the fact that Barad’s disqualification and vacancy on the seat continue as on date.
The bypoll will take place on April 23 along with voting for all 26 Lok Sabha seats in the state.
“At present, (Barad’s) conviction is in existence and a stay by sessions court against his conviction and release on bail has been quashed and set aside by this High Court. Therefore, at this moment, there is conviction and sentence of two years and nine months as well as fine of Rs 2,500 in existence and there is no stay of suspension against the conviction,” the division bench said in its order.
The EC had submitted before the court that the election was declared on Talala constituency after it was declared vacant and notified by Assembly speaker on March 5.
It had also said the decision was taken in view of its direction that, as far as possible, the elections for Lok Sabha as well as state assembly and by-elections shall be conducted simultaneously.
Bypolls for three other assembly seats in Gujarat, namely Dhrangadhra, Manavadar, and Jamnagar (Rural) have been declared, it said.
Barad had said his disqualification by the order of the Speaker was illegal as it was the Governor who should have passed the order and intimated the EC.
He said his conviction was stayed by the order of sessions court at Veraval on March 7, and he informed both the Speaker and the EC through e-mail the very next day.
The state government maintained that Barad stood automatically disqualified as per the provisions of the Representation of the People Act after being sentenced to over two years in jail.
It said the notification issued by the Speaker was not in hurry, but was in accordance with the direction of the Election Commission that it should be informed immediately in case of conviction of an MLA.
The Gujarat High Court had on March 15 set aside a sessions court order that stayed Barad’s conviction by allowing the Gujarat government’s plea to set aside the March 7 order of Veraval sessions court in Gir Somnath district.
The sessions court had stayed Barad’s conviction and a two years and nine months jail term was awarded by a magistrate court of Sutrapada taluka.
It also asked the sessions court to hear Barad’s plea afresh “without further loss of time”.
A magistrate ourt at Sutrapada had held Barad guilty of theft for excavating limestone worth Rs 2.83 crore through illegal mining on government land in 1995.
Barad (60) had won from the Talala seat in Gir Somnath district in the 2017 Assembly elections.