Devendra Fadnavis closed the door on his own defence: Petitioner in the election-affidavit case

06 March 2020
Shahid Tantray for The Caravan
Shahid Tantray for The Caravan

On 18 February, the Supreme Court dismissed a review petition filed by Devendra Fadnavis, the former chief minister of Maharashtra, against a ruling by the court regarding omissions in his elections affidavits. In October 2019, the apex court had ordered a local court in Nagpur to initiate proceedings against Fadnavis for the non-disclosure of two criminal cases in his election affidavits. Fadnavis had failed to include the cases in the affidavits he submitted for contesting three assembly elections in Maharashtra between 2004 and 2014.The cases, which date back to 1996 and 1998, deal with cheating and forgery, respectively. In October 2014, Satish Uke, a lawyer, approached the court of the Judicial Magistrate of First Class in Nagpur and demanded action against the Bharatiya Janata Party leader for concealing information that he was mandated to reveal to voters.

Fadnavis’s counsel argued that the two cases were not required to be included in the affidavits by law, as charges had not been framed in either of the cases. While Uke’s petition was dismissed by the JMFC, and later by the Bombay High Court, the case was decided in Uke’s favour by the apex court, which cited previous judgments that made it clear that a candidate was required to furnish details of all criminal cases, regardless of whether they had reached the stage of framing of charges.

In a conversation with Aathira Konikkara, a reporting fellow at The Caravan, Uke explained the legal precedents that establish why a public record of a candidate’s criminal history is of significance in a representative democracy, and why the concealing of past cases by Fadnavis amounts to a serious offence. “The only defence that was possible was the ignorance of law,” Uke said. “He cannot use this defence because the election commission has repeatedly issued instructions that you are required to submit information of cases where court has taken cognisance.”

Aathira Konikkara is a reporting fellow at The Caravan.

Keywords: Devendra Fadvanis Election Commission Supreme Court