On Tuesday, the Gujarat High Court declared the election of state BJP minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama from the Dholka constituency in the 2017 elections as void on grounds of malpractice and manipulation.
The bench headed by Justice Paresh Upadhyay while hearing a petition filed by Ashwin Rathod, the Congress’s candidate from the constituency passed an order canceling Chudasama’s election. As per sources, Justice Upadhyay also rejected Chudasama’s request for a stay so that he could file an appeal.
Rathod, who was the runner up in the election, had challenged the BJP leader’s victory by a slender margin of 327 votes. After 73 hearings, the court agreed with the petitioner’s arguments that 429 postal ballot votes were illegally canceled and also found several breaches of election rules.
In his petition, Rathod said that Chudasama had indulged in “corrupt practice and breach of many of the mandatory instructions of the Election Commission, at various stages of the election process, more particularly at the time of counting of votes”. He further stated that 29 votes cast through electronic voting machines (EVMs) were not counted by the officers. There was a difference of 29 votes between “1,59,946 votes in the voters turnover report of the returning officer and 1,59,917 votes in the final declaration of result made by the returning officer” the petition claimed.
According to the sources, the court found ‘glaring breaches’ of election rules which include a CCTV footage wherein Jani was seen talking over the phone inside the counting center, while Chudasama’s assistant personal secretary Dharmin Mehta was also seen inside the counting center, illegally.
“Chudasama indulged in “corrupt practice” under section 123 (7) of the Representation of People Act 1951, and was “hand-in-gloves with the then returning officer Dhaval Jani,” said the judge. “All three facts materially affected the outcome of the election,” added the bench and declared Chudasama’s election as void.
Currently, the BJP leader is in charge of education, law, and justice, legislative and parliamentary affairs in the Vijay Rupani government.
Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Minister Nitinbhai Patel said that the decision will be challenged in the Supreme Court. “The order of Gujarat High Court is shocking for all of us. The order to cancel the election of Bhupendrasinhji is sad news. Naturally, Bhupendrasinhji is getting legal advice regarding the order and steps are being taken to appeal against it in the Supreme Court. We are confident of getting justice and stay on this order,” he said.