SC issues notice to Centre, EC on reduction of disqualification period of Sikkim CM


PTI, Mar 21, 2022, 6:19 PM IST

The Supreme Court Monday sought responses from the Centre and the Election Commission on a plea challenging the poll panel’s decision to reduce the 6-year disqualification period of Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang, convicted and sentenced in a graft case, to 13 months. A bench comprising Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justice Krishna Murari also issued notices to the Chief Minister and the secretary of the state’s Governor on the plea filed by J B Darnal, the vice president of Sikkim Democratic Front.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi appeared on behalf of the Chief Minister on caveat when the plea was argued by the counsel for Darnal challenging the decision of the poll panel.

Rohatgi pointed out to the bench that the same issue has been raised before a pending case in the Delhi High Court. “Why have you chosen so many forums you will have to explain? Some legal issues are there. Because of that we are issuing the notice,” the bench said and listed the plea for further hearing after six weeks. The present plea was mentioned for urgent hearing before the CJI’s bench on March 10. The Delhi High Court, in October 22, 2019, had issued notices to the Centre and others on a separate plea against the Sikkim chief minister.

Tamang, whose Sikkim Krantikari Morcha party won the state Assembly elections in April, 2019, took over as chief minister on May 27. However, he could not contest the elections due to his disqualification.

He was required to contest Assembly elections within six months of becoming the Chief Minister to continue to hold the office.

He was convicted and sentenced to one year imprisonment for offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act on December 26, 2016. He completed the one year sentence on August 10, 2018.

The petition in the high court was filed by one Dek Bahadur Katwal, General Secretary of Sikkim Democratic Front. The pleas, alleged that Section 11 of the RP Act, 1951 is unconstitutional as it provides “uncanalised / uncontrolled / arbitrary” power to the poll panel to remove or reduce the disqualification period. The corruption case pertained to Tamang’s tenure as State Animal Husbandry Minister, when he was accused of misappropriating funds of Rs 9.5 lakh in the procurement of cows in 1996-97.

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