SC asks Navjot Sidhu to face trial in 2009 poll related case

New Delhi: Supreme Court today directed cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu to face trial for seeking assistance of a government servant during the 2009 general elections while partially dropping charges of corrupt practice and submission of false return on election expenses.

A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and A M Sapre while allowing the appeal of Sidhu partially dropped two categories of allegations including commission of corrupt practice of submission of false return of election expenses and the action taken by the Returning Officer on the complaint filed by the Soni with regard to irregularities counting of votes.

Sidhu has recently floated a new political front Awaz-E-Punjab after resigning from his Rajya Sabha seat and BJP from which he had won the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat in 2009, defeating his Congress rival Om Prakash Soni.

"Consequently and in the light of the above, the appeal is partly allowed to the extent indicated above. The trial of the election petition on the issues/allegations that survive in terms of the present order will have to recommence. We order accordingly," the bench said.

The court said the allegation that Sidhu had got transferred Jagjit Singh Suchu, an officer of Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) as Additional Superintending Engineer, Amritsar, to receive assistance from him so as to further his election prospects, needs to go for full trial.

"If that be so, the aforesaid issue also will have to go for a full trial as ordered by the High Court. The appeal to the aforesaid extent will, therefore, have to be dismissed," the bench said in its verdict.

Soni has alleged that Suchu was transferred from the PSEB to assist Sidhu while he was rendering service as Additional Superintending Engineer.

Based on the allegations in Soni's poll petition, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had held three broad categories of averments to be triable and ordered regular trial.

Aggrieved by the High Court order, Sidhu had challenged it before the apex court which had earlier stayed the trial.

Regarding the two other allegations which were dropped by apex court, the bench, with respect to averment of commission of corrupt practice by submitting false return of election expenses by Sidhu, said there is no basis as to how Soni had arrived to the quantum of expenses.

The apex court further said that "in the absence of the particulars, there can be no doubt that insofar as the allegations made in ... the Election Petition is concerned, the same do not disclose any triable issue so as to justify a regular trial of the said allegations.

"The allegations mentioned in far as commission of corrupt practice of submission of false/ incorrect return of election expenses is concerned, are, therefore, struck off".

Soni had alleged that Sidhu had incurred much more expenses in connection with his election meetings than what has been shown in the return of election expenses as Rs 1.83 lakh.

"While the details of the meetings i.e. the time, date and venue are mentioned and so is the number of persons who are claimed to have attended the meetings, we do not find any basis as to how the election petitioner (Soni) had arrived at the quantum of expenses which he alleges to have been incurred by the returned candidate (Sidhu) in holding each of the meetings," the bench said.

The court also questioned Soni the source of his information regarding details he has furnished on Sidhu's expenses, or whether he had any personal knowledge of the meetings, or who were the persons who had informed him about details of such meetings and what was the basis of estimates of the numbers of people present and the facilities hired.

"All such particulars that are an integral part of the allegation of corrupt practice alleged are absent," it said.

The court, with respect to the third allegation on action taken by returning officer after the complaint was lodged by Soni on irregularities in counting of votes, said the polls took place in 2009 and "the life of the House for which the election took place has long expired".

"The said allegation pertains to the action taken by the Returning Officer on the complaint filed by the election petitioner with regard to counting of votes. The election took place in the year 2009. The life of the House for which the election took place has long expired.

"The third allegation is not one with regard to commission of any corrupt practice. Hence by efflux of time, the said issue has become academic, rendering it unnecessary for us to enter into any discussion on the said question," the apex court said.

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