The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notices on a batch of petitions challenging the election of External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar to Rajya Sabha from Gujarat. The pleas have also raised the issue of Election Commission's power on issuance of separate notifications for holding by-polls for casual and regular vacancies in Rajya Sabha. One of the petitions against Jaishankar has been filed by Congress leader Gaurav Pandya. A bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian took note of the submissions of senior advocate Kapil Sibal that a date be fixed for hearing these matters. "We will give you short date and it will be listed on non miscellaneous day ," the bench said in a hearing conducted via video conferencing.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Jaishankar, accepted the notice. Earlier, the top court had said that it would like to give an authoritative pronouncement on the issue of EC's power on issuance of separate notifications for holding by-polls for regular and casual elections to fill vacancies in Rajya Sabha.
The pleas pertained to 2019 Rajya Sabha by-poll on two seats from Gujarat and both seats were won by BJP candidates. Earlier, the apex court had said that there was no authoritative judgement of the Supreme Court as to whether the election to more than one vacancy should be held separately or jointly. The Gujarat High Court, on February 4, had dismissed the plea of Congress leader Gaurav Pandya against Jaishankar's election to the Rajya Sabha.
It had also dismissed two other petitions filed by Congress leaders Chandrikaben Chudasama and Pareshkumar Dhanani against the election of BJP candidate Jugalji Thakore. Chandrikaben Chudasama and Pareshkumar Dhanani have also moved the apex court against High Court order dismissing their election petitions against Thakore.
Both Jaishankar and Thakore were elected to Rajya Sabha on July 5 last year in by-polls held on seats vacated by Union ministers Amit Shah and Smriti Irani. Jaishankar and Thakore had defeated Congress candidates Pandya and Chudasama respectively in the bypolls.
The Congress leaders had moved the high court, challenging the election on the ground that the Election Commission's notifications, treating the two vacant seats to be of different categories and requiring by-polls to be held separately, were "illegal and in violation of provisions of the Constitution, the Representation of People (RP) Act, 1951 and the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961". The high court had dismissed the petitions saying the petitioners failed to disclose the cause of action under the provisions of the RP Act relating to the grounds for declaring an election void.
It had also said the petitioners failed to point out any provision of the Constitution or the RP Act requiring the EC to hold a single by-election for filling up all casual vacancies. "The non-compliance of provisions of the Constitution or provisions of the said (RP) Act constituting the cause of action has to be specifically pleaded, and the interpretation of the petitioner of a particular provision of Constitution or of the Act in a particular manner cannot be termed as the noncompliance of such provision for the purpose of challenging the election," the high court had said. Jaishankar and Thakore had contended before the high court that the EC broke no rules by holding separate elections for two seats and it has been a consistent practice by the poll panel since 2009 to issue separate notifications for holding by-polls for casual vacancies in the Rajya Sabha.