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Delhi HC stays disqualification order against Ashok Chavan in paid news case

MUMBAI: The Delhi High Court has stayed the Election Commission’s (EC) disqualification proceedings against former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan over poll expenses in the 2009 assembly elections and not filing it in the manner required under the Representation of the People Act and the Rules.

The Election Commission had issued a notice to Chavan for failing to lodge his election expenses as per law in the 2009 paid news case.

Justice Suresh Kait has issued notice to the complainants Madhavrao Kinhalkar and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politicians Kirit Somaiya and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on a writ petition filed by Chavan against the EC show cause notice.

Kinhalkar, who ran for the Bhokar assembly seat in Maharashtra that Chavan won in 2009, moved the EC the same year, alleging that Chavan had spent money for paid news that he didn’t disclose as poll-related expenses.

The EC told the Delhi HC that being a quasi-judicial body, it will not defend its order holding Chavan guilty of failing to file his correct expenses in the 2009 assembly polls.

Senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, appearing for Chavan, contended that Chavan did not know about advertisements that had been passed off as paid news. The EC then issued a show cause notice to Chavan to respond within 20 days. The notice asked him why he should not be disqualified under the Representation of People’s Act for not filing correct accounts of election expenses “within time and in the manner required” by law.

A sum of Rs 16,924 was undisclosed, the court noted in its order. Chavan could face disqualification for three years if EC is not satisfied with his response. The case will be heard after two weeks.