Madhya Pradesh Minister Narottam Mishra, disqualified by the Election Commission for filing wrong expenditure accounts, on Wednesday told the Delhi High Court that there was no evidence he had paid for news published in newspapers during 2008 assembly elections.
On June 24, the EC had disqualified Mishra for three years for filing wrong accounts of election expenditure relating to articles and advertorials in the media during the 2008 Madhya Pradesh assembly elections, rendering his election from Datia assembly constituency void.
A division bench of Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice Sunil Gaur was told by Mishra’s counsel that the news published in dailies were not paid for and that newspapers concerned had said they themselves published the reports.
The bench was hearing an appeal by the Bharatiya Janata Party leader to challenge the July 14 order of a single Judge of the High Court, which had upheld the EC decision to disqualify Mishra.
The EC’s disqualification order came on a complaint in 2009 by Congress legislator Rajender Bharti, who had unsuccessfully contested against him from Datia assembly constituency.
Mishra had contested the EC decision on grounds of inordinate delay in the matter and alleged absence of evidence that he authorised paid news articles.
Mishra’s counsel said a show-cause notice was issued to him by the EC on January 15, 2013, for an occurance of 2008. The EC took action against him after four years in 2017, he added.
The counsel contended that the complainant must first prove that paid news was published in newspapers, adding that a committee formed to investigate the matter had no evidence against him.
The next hearing will be held on September 21.
The matter had reached the High Court after the Supreme Court on July 12 transferred the case to it for expeditious decision before the July 17 presidential poll.
Mishra had sought an interim stay on the single Judge’s order that upheld the EC order as a last-ditch attempt to vote in the presidential election. He, however, could not cast his ballot.