KER­ALA HC DIS­QUAL­I­FIES IUML MLA

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KOCHI: The Ker­ala High Court Fri­day de­clared as in­valid the elec­tion of In­dian Union Mus­lim League MLA K M Shaji on a plea claim­ing that he in­dulged in a com­mu­nal cam­paign, amount­ing to cor­rupt prac­tices, to win the 2016 assem­bly polls.

Dis­qual­i­fy­ing Shaji, who had won from the Azhikode seat, Jus­tice P D Ra­jan also barred him from con­test­ing polls for six years.

The judge, how­ever later stayed his or­der for two weeks on a plea by Shaji’s lawyer, seek­ing ad­e­quate time to file an ap­peal in the Supreme Court against the ver­dict.

The MLA would con­tinue to be a leg­is­la­tor for this brief pe­riod, le­gal ex­perts said.

The IUML, a part­ner in the Congress led op­po­si­tion United Demo­cratic Front, won 18 seats in the 140-mem­ber assem­bly in the 2016 elec­tions.

One IUML mem­ber passed away last year.

The court Fri­day also di­rected the Assem­bly Speaker and the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion to take ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion.

It gave the judge­ment on the plea by LDF can­di­date M V Nikesh Ku­mar, who con­tested against Shaji.

The court di­rected Shaji to pay Rs 50,000 as costs to Ku­mar.

It, how­ever, de­clined Ku­mar’s plea that he be de­clared the win­ner of the polls.

The stay was granted on con­di­tion that Shaji de­posit Rs 50,000 within a week to fa­cil­i­tate him file an ap­peal be­fore the apex court.

In his pe­ti­tion, Ku­mar al­leged that Shaji won by a mar­gin of 2,287 votes us­ing cor­rupt prac­tices.

He ac­cused Shaji of hav­ing vi­o­lated the norms pre­scribed un­der var­i­ous sec­tions of the Rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Peo­ple’s Act to win the elec­tions.

Ku­mar had al­leged that Shaji, who be­longs to the Mus­lim com­mu­nity, had ap­pealed to vot­ers, his agents and other peo­ple to vote for the UDF can­di­date on grounds of re­li­gion.

He also charged that pam­phlets were cir­cu­lated in the con­stituency urg­ing peo­ple not to vote for a can­di­date who is not a be­liever of Is­lam.

Ku­mar had ac­cused Shaji and his agents of cir­cu­lat­ing an­other pam­phlet with an aim to lower his rep­u­ta­tion.

Re­act­ing to the judge­ment, Shaji said he would move the Supreme Court against the or­der.

Deny­ing that he had in­dulged in a com­mu­nal cam­paign, Shaji said he stands for sec­u­lar­ism and an ac­cu­sa­tion con­trary to that was a ‘hu­mil­i­a­tion’ to a per­son like him.

He said peo­ple who know him would not be­lieve such al­le­ga­tions.

Leader of the Op­po­si­tion in the Ker­ala Assem­bly, Ramesh Chen­nithala, said the UDF would fight the case legally.

He also claimed that Shaji’s cre­den­tials as a sec­u­lar leader was ‘un­ques­tion­able’.

Wel­com­ing the judge­ment, CPI(M) Kan­nur dis­trict sec­re­tary P Ja­yara­jan al­leged it had been proved that the IUML can­di­date used ‘heinous means’ like com­mu­nal cam­paign to win the polls.

He also urged UDF lead­ers to ac­cept the ver­dict and get ready for the by­poll in the con­stituency, in­stead of adopt­ing other means like tak­ing to le­gal re­course to re­tain Shaji’s post.

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