The Delhi High Court on Tuesday asked the Centre and the Election Commission to respond to a plea challenging the poll panel’s decision to reduce the six-year disqualification period of Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang to just 13 months, PTI reported. Tamang was convicted and sentenced in a corruption case.

A bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar also issued notices to the state government and Tamang. The matter has been posted for hearing again on December 24.

Tamang, popularly known as PS Golay, took charge of Sikkim on May 27 after his Sikkim Krantikari Morcha party won the elections. He could not contest the elections because of his disqualification. In December 2016, Tamang had been convicted of misappropriating funds worth Rs 9.5 lakh in the procurement of cows during his tenure as the state agriculture minister in the 1990s. He completed his one-year prison sentence on August 10, 2018.

The Election Commission reduced Tamang’s six-year disqualification by four years and 11 months on September 29. He has to win an election by the end of November to continue in office.

The plea in the High Court was filed by Sikkim Democratic Front General Secretary Dek Bahadur Katwal. He claimed that Section 11 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, was unconstitutional since it provided uncanalised, uncontrolled, and arbitrary power to the Election Commission to remove or reduce the disqualification period. Katwal termed the poll body’s order “wholly erroneous, based on perverse reasoning and bad in law”.

“While this may seem to be an innocuous condonation, the fact that condonation was granted just before the fresh state elections were to be held, demonstrates arbitrariness,” the petitioner argued. “The only inference from the period condoned, that is, four years 11 months, seems to be for the specific purposes of allowing the candidate to contest the state elections.”

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