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Will 1969 be repeated in 2012?

delhi Updated: Jul 05, 2012 02:13 IST
Shekhar Iyer
Shekhar Iyer
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Former Lok Sabha speaker PA Sangma’s bid to challenge UPA presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee’s nomination papers on the issue of office-of-profit may appear as much ado about nothing — after the returning officer held them valid — but if Sangma and the BJP decide to move Supreme Court after the July 19 election, they have a precedent before them.

In 1969, VV Giri, an independent candidate backed by then PM Indira Gandhi, won by a "conscience vote" against the official Congress nominee Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2012/7/05_07_12-metro11.jpg

After Giri’s election, four petitions were filed by Shiv Kripal Singh and others in the Supreme Court, urging that his election be set aside because of alleged use of corrupt practices to influence voters.

The apex court, which inquires into all disputes regarding the President’s election, faced an unusual situation. It was the first time that an incumbent President wanted to depose before it as witness.

Giri, as fourth elected President, chose to appear in person even though he could have asked for an exemption. So a special chair was ordered for him to sit when he was examined.

The charge against Giri’s election was that a pamphlet was distributed to MPs inside the Central Hall of Parliament, which contained “vulgar” charges against Reddy. Also Gandhi and her ministers put pressure on MPs and MLAs (who make up the electoral college) to vote for Giri.

Although the pamphlet, on the face of it, was anonymous, the petitioners said there were certain indications to show its “probable origin”. Old Congress stalwarts, including Reddy, were branded in the pamphlet as “self-seekers” in the party who were behind its poor performance in the 1967 general elections.

The bench which heard the case consisted of Justices Sarva Mittra Sikri, JM Shelat, CA Vaidialingam, Vishista Bhargava and GK Mitter.

The hearing lasted a year and the case was finally dismissed. Giri’s election was upheld by the SC on September 14, 1970.