Poll petition: Chidambaram to appear before Madras High Court on Feb. 7
Mohamed Imranullah S.CHENNAI 10 DECEMBER 2019 07:51 ISTUPDATED: 10 DECEMBER 2019 07:51 IST
Congress leader facing 10-year-old election petition challenging his victory
The Madras High Court on Monday accepted a request made on behalf of former Union Minister P. Chidambaram and permitted him to appear before it on February 7 for cross examination in a case challenging his victory from the Sivaganga Parliamentary constituency in 2009 by a margin of 3,354 votes.
Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana acceded to the request made by senior counsel R. Thyagarajan and G. Masilamani on behalf of Mr. Chidambaram, and urged all parties to cooperate for the early disposal of the election petition, since it had been pending in the court for over a decade.
The former Union Minister was originally expected to appear for cross-examination on August 30, but he couldn’t make it as he was arrested by the CBI in the INX Media case on August 21 and was released on bail only on December 4.
In the meantime, the judge got deputed to the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court for three months from December 2. Hence, she had listed the case through videoconferencing on Monday and sought to ascertain whether it would be possible to conduct the cross-examination on January 13. In reply, Mr. Thyagarajan said: “I am told that he may not be available in the whole of January.” He also requested the court to list the case in the first week of February.
Mr. Masilamani said, in the interregnum, the counsel would make a request to Chief Justice Amreshwar Pratap Sahi to permit Justice Sathyanarayana to record the cross-examination proceedings in person, since it might not be convenient, both for the Bench and the Bar, to conduct the trial through videoconferencing.
“The other side may take one day for cross-examination and we will take another day for arguments. That’s all. We are not examining any other witness. He is the only witness from our side,” the senior counsel assured the court. The judge then directed the Registry to list the case on February 7.
The election petition was filed by R.S. Raja Kannappan, who was fielded by the AIADMK in the Sivaganga constituency in 2009. Then, he had filed a 28-paragraph affidavit, levelling various allegations of electoral malpractice against Mr. Chidambaram. Though the former Union Minister urged the court to strike off 25 out of the 28 paragraphs from the affidavit, Justice K. Venkataraman (since retired), on June 8, 2012, struck down only two paragraphs, wherein Mr. Chidambaram was accused of using the services of officials of nationalised banks to ensure his victory. Then, the court pointed out that details like the names of the banks and the officials and the place where they had been enlisted for poll duty had not been mentioned in the election petition. In so far as other allegations of corrupt practices such as distribution of money to voters was concerned, the judge decided to hold a full-fledged trial.
However, after his retirement in April 2013, the election petition was assigned to different judges, who too retired from service before the conclusion of the trial, and the case finally got listed before Justice Sathyanarayana in February.