Sangma case: Dissenting judge said denial of equality of law

Underlining that "not the Presidency of India but the constitutional declaration of equality and credibility of the judicial process is at stake", a judge on the five-judge Constitution Bench that dismissed P A Sangma's petition against President Pranab Mukherjee had noted that denying Sangma a full-scale hearing was "not consistent with the requirement that justice must not only be done but it must also appear to have been done".

Questioning the majority opinion of choosing not to get relevant information in this case, Justice J Chelameswar, who along with Justice Ranjan Gogoi differed with the majority view of three judges led by CJI Altamas Kabir, said not allowing Sangma to cross-examine Mukherjee "would be a denial of equality of law guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution". "Such facility is afforded to every litigant pursuing litigation in a court of civil judicature in this country. Therefore, I do not subscribe to the view that the election petition does not deserve a regular hearing," he held.

Sangma had alleged that Mukherjee, on the date of filing his presidential nominations, held two offices of profit — Chairman of the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata, and Leader of the House in the Lok Sabha. However, delivering the split verdict, CJI Kabir said Sangma's petition did not warrant a full hearing since he failed to satisfy the court on questions of law during the preliminary hearing.

Justice Chelameswar, however, cited the court's powers to pass appropriate orders in such petitions and said: "To hold to the contrary would be to tell a litigant who might as well have been the first citizen of this country (given a more favourable political regime) that the law of ...India does not afford even that much of a rational procedure which was made available by the foreign rulers to the ordinary citizens of this country — which is still available to an ordinary litigant of the country."

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