Supreme Court seeks response from External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in plea challenging his election to Rajya Sabha

Supreme Court of India
The Hindu

Synopsis: Congress leader Gaurav Pandya claimed that the two vacant seats were “usurped by the BJP” by pursuing the procedure of dual elections, but if single elections were held, Congress might have won at least one of those seats.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court sought the response of Dr. S Jaishankar, Minister of Foreign Affairs, in a plea questioning his election from the State of Gujarat to the Rajya Sabha. A three-judge bench comprising the Chief Justice of India, SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian asked him to file his reply by 8th December.

The petition filed by Congress leader Gaurav Pandya assailed the election of Jaishankar, alleging that the Election Commission (EC) had violated the law by issuing separate notifications for holding by-polls for casual and daily vacancies in Rajya Sabha.

Dr. S Jaishankar, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Deccan Herald

However, Pandya’s appeal was rejected by the Gujarat High Court in September 2019.

In his appeal before the Supreme Court, Pandya argued that the High Court erred in law by ruling that the election petition filed by Pandya was to be dismissed in limine on the ground that he was neither an elector nor a candidate, in the election in question.

Christi Jain, Advocate-on-Record, argues that Amit Shah and Smriti Irani were elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2017. They were elected to the Lok Sabha later in 2019 and, subsequently two seats got vacant.

It is the case of Pandya that, under Section 147 of the Representation of People Act, 1951, the EC was required to notify the vacancies in order to fill the vacancies thus, calling on the elected members of the Legislative Assembly of the State of Gujarat to elect a person to fill the vacancies.

But Pandya has submitted that only a single notification notifying such casual vacancies and calling on the legislative assembly of the State to nominate alternate candidates should have been released by the EC.

According to the petition, however, the Gujarat Legislative Assembly allegedly held two separate elections on the same day to fill the vacancies in the Rajya Sabha on the basis of two separate notifications provided by the Election Commission and took advantage of the two notifications issued by the Election Commission.

Pandya claimed that the two vacant seats were “usurped by the BJP” by pursuing the method of dual elections, but if single elections were held, Congress could have won at least one of the seats.

The appellant submitted that in the light of Article 80(4) of the Constitution of India, the election of the Rajya Sabha is required to be conducted by enabling, as stated in the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, i. e., proportional representation. It is argued that if an appropriate procedure was followed, then at least one of the two vacant seats could have fallen to the Indian National Congress (INC), which had 72 members out of 180 members in the Gujarat Legislative Assembly.

Moreover, the Bench noted that Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, who was appearing for Pandya, had submitted that a date should be set for the hearing of these matters.

The court said at the hearing, which was held through video conference, that it will give a short date, which will be specified on a non-miscellaneous day.