The Delhi High Court on Monday stayed the Election Commission's show cause notice to ex-Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan asking him why he should not be disqualified for failing to give his true and correct expenses incurred in 2009 Assembly polls.
The commission in its July 13, 2014 order had given Chavan, an MP from Nanded parliamentary seat, a 20-day deadline to respond to the show cause notice which was issued after the poll panel had found him guilty of failing to "lodge his account of election expenses in the manner required by the (Representation of the People) Act and Rules."
Justice Suresh Kait also issued notice to BJP leaders Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Kirit Somaiya and independent candidate Madhavrao Kinhalkar, who had filed the complaint against Chavan in the commission.
"Notice to respondents (complainants). Returnable on November 5. Till further orders, impugned order dated July 13, 2014, shall remain stayed," the court said.
The court brushed aside the contention of senior advocate Jayant Bhushan, appearing for one of the complainants, that the poll panel's order be not stayed as it would "frustrate" the Supreme Court's May 5, 2014, order directing that the complaint regarding Chavan be decided within 45 days.
"I will justify it," Justice Kait said, adding that "admittedly EC did not pass its order within 45 days".
During the proceedings, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who appeared for Chavan, contended that his client had filed all the correct poll expenses and had incurred an expenditure of Rs 6.85 lakh in the 2009 Assembly elections.
Chavan, in his petition filed through advocate Abhimanyu Bhandari, has sought that the July 13 order of EC be set aside to the extent that it holds that he had failed to lodge the poll expense account in the time and manner required under the law. He has also sought quashing of the show cause notice.
He has contended that the commission has not followed the procedure laid out in the Representation of the People Act prior to giving its findings, as no opportunity to file a revised poll expenses was provided to him.
Bhushan argued that a show cause notice cannot be challenged at this stage and only after a final order is passed by the poll panel, can Chavan assail the commission's decision.
The court, however, questioned that after recording of the finding that Chavan has failed to lodge true and correct accounts, "what else is left?" "What would be the purpose of going back to the commission? EC has already taken a view, so what is left? It may just disqualify him as it has already given its finding," the court said.
In response to this, Bhushan claimed EC's order is not final as "petitioner still has the opportunity to show whether he had any good reason to not file the true and correct accounts".
"Instead of replying to the show cause notice, he has rushed to the high court against it," he said.
He also contended that the commission has held that under the Representation of the People Act, there is no scope for amendment of the expenses already shown.
Chavan had won the 2009 Assembly elections from Bhokar constituency and Kinhalkar was one of the unsuccessful candidates from there.
On July 25, the commission had told the high court that being a quasi-judicial body, it will not defend its order passed against Chavan.
Pursuant to this submission, the court had deleted the poll panel from the list of parties in the case.
In his petition, Chavan has said that the expenses that he had allegedly not declared, pertained to some advertisements that were released in October 2009 regarding a meeting that was to be held between the members of United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
His petition has argued that the ex-CM did not know who had issued the advertisements and that even the publishers of the advertisements had stated on affidavit before EC that Chavan had no knowledge about it.
It was also contended that Chavan had incurred an expense of over Rs 16,000 for attending the UPA meeting that was advertised and that he had cited the same while filing his poll spendings.