Chennai: In a big setback for Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, the Madras High Court on Thursday refused to quash the petition challenging his election from the Sivaganga constituency in the May 2009 Lok Sabha elections.
The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court, while pronouncing its verdict on the plea filed by All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) leader RS Raja Kannappan challenging Chidambaram’s election, said, “The case relating to alleged rigging of polls by P Chidamabaram will continue in the trial court as there are enough evidence to support the claims made by the petitioner.”
The Madras High Court, however, removed two of the 29 allegations made by the petitioner against the Union Home Minister.
Chidambaram`s lawyer confirmed this by saying that the Madras High Court has struck down the allegations against the returning officer, other government servants and bank officials and alleged `corrupt practices` from the election petition filed against him.
"Election law is a strict law. Rules regarding pleadings are very strict rules. Pleadings in an election petition that do not comply with the rules are liable to be struck out," T Sathyamurthy, advocate of the Home Minister, said in a statement.
In this case too, he said, as a matter of procedure, counsel for Chidambaram filed a petition under order 6 Rule 16 of the Civil Procedure Code to strike out certain pleadings.
"The High Court has partially accepted the petition and struck out two crucial paragraphs - paragraphs 4 and 5 of the election petition. These paragraphs contained allegations against the returning officer, other govt servants and bank officials and alleged `corrupt practices,” Sathyamurthy said adding, “These pleadings have now been struck out."
The lawyer said as regards the other pleadings, issues will be framed and the trial of the election petition will begin.
"There are uninformed and speculative stories in the media on the order of the Madras High Court in an election petition filed against the election of Chidambaram from Shivaganga constituency in Tamil Nadu," he said.
The AIADMK leader, who narrowly lost to Chidambaram, had filed the petition seeking declaration of the election as void, alleging manipulation of votes and corrupt practices committed by Chidambaram, his election agents and others, with his consent.
Kannappan had also sought a recount of votes polled in the constituency, particularly in Alangudi Assembly segment. He had polled 3,30,994 votes as against 3,34,348 by Chidambaram, thereby losing by 3,354 votes.
He claimed that due to the `manipulations`, he lost the election to Chidambaram by a narrow margin.
Kannappan claimed that votes secured by him in the 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th rounds of counting in Alangudi had been "ingeniously added to Chidambaram`s kitty and vice versa".
He accused the election official of `unduly` favouring the minister and at his behest not publishing votes polled by the candidates in each round in Alangudi and some other segments.
Meanwhile, the Home Minister today ruled out his resignation in the wake of Madras High Court decision in the election petition against him saying the verdict was not a setback for him but for his rival.
Chidambaram ridiculed the demand for his resignation by BJP president Nitin Gadkari and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha saying he was astonished by their "monumental ignorance".
Reacting to the demands of the opponents, he said those who make the demand for his resignation "do not have criminal case, do not have charges and have not been questioned under Criminal Procedure Code".
"I am astonished by the monumental ignorance displayed by certain political leaders. This is an election petition. There are 111 election petitions filed against members of 15th Lok Sabha," Chidambaram said.
Chidambaram said in the election petition against him,
there were only allegations.
"Issues have not yet been framed. Trial has not yet started. Not one witness has been examined. At the threshold an application was filed to strike out pleadings.
"That application has been partly allowed and para 4 and 5 which contain allegations against returning officer, police officers, other government servants and bank officials have been struck out," he said.
The Home Minister said he sincerely hoped that political leaders will read Order 6, Rule 16 of the Civil Procedure Code and understand what is the meaning of `strike out the pleadings`.
"If pleadings are struck out, it is a setback to the election petitioner and not to me," he said.
Asked about the claim of the lawyer for Rajakannappan that except para 4 and 5, all other charges in the petition have been accepted by the court, Chidambaram said "pleadings have not been accepted. Now the trial is to start".
Replying to Jayalalitha`s charge that out of fear of facing the case he had moved court for dismissal of the petition only to delay the process, the Home Minister said "they (rivals) have not sought adjournments to the trial dozens of times.
"They have not approached High Court or Supreme Court dozens of times. Therefore, they are entitled to make these demands," he said.
Chidambaram is already under Opposition scanner over his alleged involvement in the 2G scam.
The main Opposition BJP has been alleging that as Finance Minister at the time when the licences were doled out by former Telecom Minister and 2G scam key accused A Raja on a first-come-first-serve basis, Chidambaram was aware of blatant manipulation of guidelines and that he failed to interfere.
More recently, his name also figured in the controversial Aircel-Maxis deal during the former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran`s term.