CEO disqualifies 4 BJP Councilors in Jammu and Kashmir

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JAMMU: In a significant decision, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) J&K on Tuesday disqualified President Municipal Committee Kathua Naresh Kumar, Rekha Kumari, Councilor, Municipal Council, Ward No. 6, Kathua, Ajay Kumar, Councilor, Municipal Council, Ward No. 10, Kathua and Renu Bala, Councilor, Municipal Council, Ward No. 12, Kathua.

This significant judgment has been passed in a petition filed by Advocate Shah Mohammad Choudhary on behalf of Pushpa Devi and Baljeet Singh, elected Councilors of Municipal Council Kathua, to set aside the election of private respondent as Councillor of Municipal Ward No. 9, Kathua and President, Municipal Council, Kathua besides the election of other private respondents on the ground of defection as the same is in violation of the J&K Municipal Act, 2000 read with rules framed thereunder dated December 26, 2018.

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Chief Electoral Officer J&K after hearing Advocate Shah Mohd Choudhary observed that in the instant case/reference, the merger, as claimed by the respondents, does not fall under the exception laid down under Sub-Section 2 of Section 18B of the Act, as the “original political party” of the respondents i.e, Congress party has not merged with Bharatiya Janata Party, as such respondents cannot claim the protection of Sub-Section 2 of Section 18B of the Act. Moreover, separate group, as claimed by the respondents, has been formed after the conclusion of elections to Municipal Council Kathua i.e, post poll and not pre-poll the party or group on whose candidature the councilor is elected. It has been claimed that the group has merged with the Bharatiya Janata Party and the elected members have become members of BJP, the CEO added in his judgment.

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He observed that only four out of five elected members have given up the membership of the Congress party to join B J P and not their “original political party” i.e, Congress party. However, the respondents failed to produce any record to show that any meeting has been convened or any resolution has been passed or any notice/representation had been made to the Election Authority or District Election Officer, Kathua to inform about the formation of separate group and its merger with BJP by 2/3rd majority.

The CEO further observed that respondents however have admitted that they have given up the membership of Congress party i.e, their original political party. In the instant case/reference, records reveal that Whip was issued to the respondents with a direction, to remain present for election of president, Municipal Council, Kathua scheduled for 10-11-2018 at 12:30 p.m., for voting in favour of candidate supported by the “original political party” of the respondents i.e, Indian National Congress (INC). Records also showed that the copies of the whip have been sent to and received by the Office of the Deputy Commissioner, Kathua. The respondents, however, did not cast their vote in favour of the candidate (for elections to president, Municipal Council Kathua), supported by Congress their original political party, thus disobeying the whip, attracting disqualification on defection under clause (b) of Section I8A of the Act. The respondents have admitted in their affidavit that their original party was pressurizing them to vote in favour of an independent candidate as the reason for leaving their original party, the CEO maintained.

CEO maintained that in exercise of the powers conferred under Section 18C of the Act and on the strength of the afore stated rule position, principles, procedures, processes settled by the Courts and reasons made out, the instant reference/case is disposed of with the conclusion that the ‘group’ formed by the respondents was post-poll, without following due procedure and processes and they have contested elections on the mandate of their ‘original political party’ (Indian National Congress) i.e. the political party by which they were set up as candidates for elections as Member of Municipality and the ‘merger’ claimed by the respondents does not fall under the exception laid down in Section 18B of the Act, as the same is not between their original political party (Indian National Congress) and the Bharatiya Janata Party.

While passing the judgment, the CEO made it clear that Consequently, the respondents having admitted to have resigned and given up the membership of their original political party formed a ‘group’, joined another parry namely, BJP, and the group so formed merged with the Bharatiya Janata Party, do attract the provisions of defection under Section 18A(l)(a) of the J&K Municipal Act 2000 and are hence disqualified accordingly.

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