The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its verdict on former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ plea seeking a review of its 2019 judgement that asked him to face trial for allegedly concealing information in his 2014 election affidavit about two criminal cases, PTI reported. The two cases of alleged cheating and forgery were filed against Fadnavis in 1996 and 1998.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared for Fadnavis, told a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra that the Bharatiya Janata Party leader did not give any false information. Rohatgi claimed that Fadnavis was wrongly prosecuted.
“This will seal my fate,” Rohtagi told the court on behalf of Fadnavis. “ It is an important question as it affects Article 21 [of the Constitution],” he said, referring to the fundamental right to life and liberty. “This is a matter which requires a re-look.”
Rohatagi said a candidate can be criminally prosecuted if they violate two conditions: fail to disclose cases where charges are framed against them, and conceal their conviction. He said Fadnavis was wrongly charged under the Representation of People Act because he did not give any false information in the affidavit. “The concealment of information as alleged is liable for prosecution under some other law,” read his petition, according to Hindustan Times. “But not the section I have been prosecuted under.”
Fadnavis told the court that the matter will have “far reaching consequences” for other candidates as well and hence the bench must re-examine its October 1, 2019 order. “What if cognisance was taken in an offence yesterday and I file my poll affidavit tomorrow?” he asked.
On October 1 last year, the Supreme Court set aside the Bombay High Court order exonerating Fadnavis. The bench said the case against Fadnavis was made out under Section 125 of the Representation of People Act. The court said Fadnavis had knowledge of but did not mention the criminal cases in his poll affidavit. It then directed the magistrate’s court to go ahead with the application.
The top court’s verdict had come on an appeal by Satish Ukey, who had challenged the High Court’s order. Ukey alleged that Fadnavis did not disclose pending criminal cases against him while filing his nomination papers for the 2009 and 2014 Assembly elections, and thus violated the Representation of People’s Act, 1951.
He had moved the Supreme Court after his plea was dismissed by the Bombay High Court. He said that the chief minister was required to disclose all pending cases against him under Section 33A (1) of the Representation of People’s Act. He alleged that in the election affidavit filed in 2014, Fadnavis had failed to disclose the pendency of two criminal cases against him.