New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday said it will have a preliminary hearing on the petition filed by former Lok Sabha Speaker PA Sangma challenging the election of Pranab Mukherjee as President to determine whether it deserves to be heard in detail in the regular course.
"Let this matter be listed for further consideration on November 20," a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir said while making it clear that the procedure requires that various parties have to be given a chance for raising preliminary arguments on maintainability of the issues.
During the preliminary hearing, Sangma will argue to show there was a "cause of action" for filing the petition.
The bench, also comprising justices P Sathasivam, SS Nijjar, J Chelameswar and Ranjan Gogoi took on record the short affidavit filed by Mukherjee, who said the grounds for challenging his election was "ex facie misconceived."
Mukherjee said he had resigned from all posts he held before filing nomination for the post of President and it was "absurd" to allege that his signature was forged in the letter for resigantion from the post of Chairman of Indian Statistical Institute (ISI).
Mukherjee said like any other person he has two or three types of signatures which some times reflect his full name and some other time show as PK Mukherjee.
In his petition, Sangma has said the veteran Congress leader was not eligible for the post as he was holding offices of profit on the date of filing nomination for the President`s election.
Sangma has contended that Mukherjee was holding offices of profit as chairman ISI, Kolkata and as also the leader of the Congress Party in Lok Sabha when he had entered the Presidential race.
He had also alleged that Mukherjee`s signature was forged on the letter resigning as chairman of the ISI.
Sangma`s counsel Ram Jethmalani submitted that Mukherjee`s short affidavit was not consistent with the procedure and he should be asked to file a regular affidavit and the court should frame issues on law and facts.
He said there has to be discovery and inspection of the documents.
However, senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the President, said the matter must end as the facts made in the petition were not worthy for consideration.
Attorney General GE Vahanvati, who was assisting the court as a necessary party under the Supreme Court Rules in such matters, submitted that as per the amended rules of the Supreme Court, the court has to undertake a preliminary hearing to decide whether the issues raised in the petition deserves to be given a regular hearing.
Sangma sought a direction for setting aside Mukherjee`s election as President and declaring him as elected to the post.
Mukherjee said the twin allegations that he was holding offices of profit as Chairman of ISI and leader of Congress in Lok Sabha are "untenable and misconceived".
He said he secured 7,13,763 votes (over 70 per cent of the votes cast) and was duly elected President. Sangma received votes of a value of only 3,15,987 out of the total value of 10.5 lakhs but he sought a declaration that he be declared elected.
On the issue of holding the post of ISI Chairman, an office of profit, Mukherjee said he resigned on June 20 and sent the letter through his aide, who carried it to Kolkata the same day.
However, on June 21 the ISI Director was not in town and as such it was delivered to him only the next evening. The Director responded to the letter on June 23, he said.
"The office of Chairman of ISI is an honorary office without any emoluments, and resignation from such an office is a unilateral act, and such resignation did not require to be accepted. The delivery of the resignation letter itself was sufficient and the resignation came into effect immediately." he said.
Mukherjee said the assumption that he, as leader of the Lok Sabha, was entitled to perquisites beyond those available to him as Minister was factually incorrect.
"This office [leader of the Lok Sabha] is coextensive and thus co-terminus with the term as a Minister" he said, adding he did not accept or receive any perquisite in that capacity.
He submitted that by June 20 letter, he had resigned not only from the office of Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha but also from the Congress Working Committee as well as from primary membership of the party.
In fact, the CWC held a function to bid him farewell on June 25 and it was extensively covered by the media," he said.