SC ruling on MLA’s vote helps Cong save RS seat

SC ruling on MLA’s vote helps Cong save RS seat

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday ruled that vote cast by a Jharkhand Mukti Morcha MLA in the 2018 Rajya Sabha election hours before his conviction, sentence and resultant disqualification as a legislator, was valid, thus saving Congress a member in the upper House of Parliament, which it had won by a razor thin margin.
The interesting question before a bench of CJI SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian was whether the vote cast by an MLA in a poll to Rajya Sabha, in the forenoon on the date of election, would become invalid upon his disqualification, arising out of a conviction and sentence imposed by a criminal court, in the afternoon the very same day?
In the RS poll for two seats from Jharkhand on March 23, 2018, three candidates were in the fray — Pradeep Kumar Sonthalia, Samir Uraon (both from BJP) and Dhiraj Prasad Sahu (Congress). With each MLAs’ vote contributing 100 points, the value of votes for the three candidates were Sonthalia (2,599), Uraon (2,601) and Sahu (2,600). The returning officer declared Uraon and Sahu elected to the RS. On the day of election, JMM MLA Amit Kumar Mahto cast his vote at 9.15 am and at 2.30 pm, he was convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment and later disqualified.
BJP urged the returning officer to reject Mahto’s vote saying if a person got convicted, sentenced and disqualified on the date of voting, his vote could not be termed to be valid. “In our view, to hold that an MLA stood disqualified even before he was convicted would violate his substantive right to be treated as innocent until proven guilty.”

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