SC dismisses Sangma plea against Pranab election, two judges register disagreement

By a split verdict, the Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld Pranab Mukherjee's election as President, dismissing a petition by former Lok Sabha speaker P A Sangma who had alleged that the senior Congress leader held offices of profit on the date of filing his nomination papers.

Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, who led the 3-to-2 verdict by a five-judge Constitution Bench, held that Sangma's petition did not warrant a full and regular hearing since he had failed to satisfy the court on questions of law and also on facts during the preliminary hearing.

"From the materials on record, it is clear the respondent (Mukherjee) was not holding any office of profit either under the government or otherwise at the time of filing his nomination papers for the Presidential election," held the majority ruling.

The judges who noted their disagreement were Justices J Chelameswar and Ranjan Gogoi. Justice Gogoi held that Sangma deserved a full hearing and hence an opportunity to substantiate his case. No conclusion could be reached at this stage that a regular hearing will be a "redundant exercise or an empty formality", he said.

Sangma had alleged that Mukherjee, on the date of filing his nomination, was chairman of the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Kolkata, and leader of the House in the Lok Sabha.

Writing the judgment for Justices P Sathasivam and S S Nijjar also, Justice Kabir noted that as far as the contention over the office of the leader of the House was concerned, it was "quite clear" that Mukherjee had resigned as member of the House before he filed his nomination papers.

The court also said the controversy over the date of resignation had been set at rest after Mukherjee's private secretary undertook that it was due to "inadvertence" that he had mentioned a wrong date for the Congress Working Committee meeting to bid farewell to Mukherjee.

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