SC hearing on plea challenging Sonia’s election put off

New Delhi, Oct 27 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Thursday deferred hearing on a plea challenging the election of Congress President Sonia Gandhi to the Lok Sabha from Rae Bareli in May 2014 alleging that it was at her instance that the Shahi Imam of Delhi’s historic Jama Masjid Syed Ahmed Bukhari had sought votes for the Congress.

The bench of Justice Anil R. Dave, Justice R.K. Agrawal and Justice A.M. Khanwilkar said the issue raised in the petition was the one being examined by the seven-judge Constitution bench and its outcome should be awaited.

The seven-judge Constitution bench is examining whether restriction on seeking votes in the name of religion, caste, community and language under Section 123(3) of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951, is limited to the contesting candidates or includes his election agent and third parties as well.

As counsel Hari Shankar Jain for petitioner Ramesh Singh — a Rae Bareli voter — urged the court to hear the plea, Justice Dave said let the Constitution bench decide the issue.

Justice Dave said that seeking votes in the name of religion is one of the issues flagged by petitioner Singh in his plea.

Jain said that besides raising the issue of Imam Bukhari’s appeal, the petitioner has also raised the issue of Sonia Gandhi still retaining her Italian citizenship.

Singh moved the top court challenging the July 12 verdict of the Allahabad High Court dismissing his plea on both counts.

The high Court had ruled that the petitioner does not have sufficient grounds to sustain the petition and hence it was being dismissed.

Telling the high court that she is a lawfully elected member of the Lok Sabha, Sonia Gandhi had denied that she had indulged in corrupt practice on the ground of religion. She also told the high court that she had duly granted citizenship of Italy, which she has renounced.