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New Delhi, May 13, 2020
A day after the Gujarat High Court quashed his December 2017 election on the ground of malpractices and manipulation, Gujarat minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama on Wednesday moved the Supreme Court challenging the decision.
Chudasama was declared the winner of the December 2017 Gujarat Assembly elections over Congress candidate Ashwinbhai Khamsubhai Rathod by a margin of 327 votes. In the plea, Chudasama contested the high court decision, terming it "erroneous".
Chudasama is currently the Minister of Revenue, Education (primary, secondary and adult), Higher and Technical Education and Law and Parliamentary Affairs, and also holds some other departments. In an interim prayer, he sought stay on the high court order till the disposal of his appeal.
Rathod argued before the high court that 429 postal ballot papers were illegally excluded from consideration during the vote count by the returning officer, and the election records were also tampered.
"It is proved that 429 postal ballot papers were illegally rejected/excluded from consideration by the returning officer at the time of counting of votes in the election in question, as against the victory margin of 327 votes," the high court had observed.
Chudasama, in his plea, contended that the "high court has failed to appreciate the proper facts of the case and has reached a completely erroneous conclusion in holding the successful election of the petitioner as illegal and void."
The plea argued that a ballot only becomes a vote at Rule 54(7) which is when the covers in Form 13-B not already dealt with till Rule 54(6) are opened one after another and therefore, in the present case, what are rejected are only 429 postal ballots, not votes.
He insisted that the high court has not appreciated that the election petitioner has been unable to prove beyond reasonable doubt that corrupt practice has been committed by any person much less the returned candidate.
And he is entitled to be declared as a duly elected candidate from the ‘58-Dholka Constituency' for the Gujarat state Assembly elections held on December 14, 2017.
The high court had noted that the returning officer was "hand in gloves" with the BJP leader and had illegally rejected postal ballots.
Chudasama contested this in his plea, saying, "At the time of declaration of results or prior thereto, no written complaint and/or any demand or objection came from Rathod or his counting agent(s) regarding rejection of 429 postal ballots."