Non-Disclosure Of Pending Criminal Cases: SC Issues Notice To Maha CM Fadnavis
The Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S. K. Kaul and K. M. Joseph on Thursday issued notice to Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on a plea alleging that in his election affidavit filed in 2014, he had failed to disclose the pendency of two criminal cases against him.
According to the petitioner-advocate Satish Ukey, the incumbent CM did not disclose the information as required of him under sub-section (1) of section 33A of the Representation of People’s Act of 1951. Ukey has alleged that there were two such cases, one involving offences punishable under Sections 217, 218, 425, 466, 467, 468, 470, 474, 506, 109 read with Section 34 of the IPC, and another of an offence punishable under Section 500, IPC, in both of which though the charge was not framed, the concerned Court of Judicial Magistrate, First Class, Nagpur had taken cognizance.
It is also the contention that the non-disclosure of these two pending criminal cases was in violation of Section 125A of the Act of 1951 and constituted an offence in itself.
However, deeming Ukey’s submissions to be devoid of any merit, the Bombay High Court was of the view that in terms of sub-section (1) of the said Section 33A read with Rule 4A of the Election Rules and Form 26 affidavit, the argument that a contesting candidate is also required to furnish information about pending criminal cases in which cognizance has been taken is fallacious and is rejected.
“A plain reading of clause (i) of sub-section (1) of Section 33A, however, leads us to a different conclusion. The disclosure it mandates is of the information in respect of only those criminal cases wherein the offences involved are punishable with imprisonment for two years or more and the charge has been framed. It speaks of no criminal cases in which charge has not been framed, but cognizance has been taken”, the High Court had held.
The general elections to the State Legislative assembly were held in the State of Maharashtra in the year 2014. Mr. Fadnavis had submitted his nomination papers along with the requisite documents and affidavit in Form No. 26 as prescribed under Rule 4A of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961.
The affidavit filed in Form No. 26 contains a declaration regarding the information that he was required to submit mandatorily, in particular, that in terms of clauses (i) and (ii) of Section 33A (1) of the Act of 1951. This provision of law called on him to disclose any criminal cases that may be pending against him where the stipulated punishment is of imprisonment for two years or more and where a charge was framed by the Court of competent jurisdiction, or those cases in which he was convicted of an offence and sentenced to imprisonment for one year or more.