Today several media houses reported that Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has faced a setback as the Supreme Court has ruled that he will have to face trial for allegedly hiding details of criminal cases in his election affidavit. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi set aside the Bombay High Court order which had given a clean chit to Fadnavis, the media reports said, claiming that Supreme Court has ordered prosecution of the Maharashtra CM in the case.
But that is totally misleading claim by media, as the Supreme Court has not ordered the prosecution of Fadnavis, the court has only said that a trial court will hear the matter afresh to determine whether a case can be registered against him under the Representation of the People Act. Earlier, the trial court has dismissed the petition, after which the case reached Supreme Court going through the various states of appeals.
Reacting to the media reports saying that SC has allowed prosecution of the Chief Minister, the Chief Minister’s Office has said that it is wrong and contemptuous to say that Supreme Court has allowed prosecution of Devendra Fadnavis.
The complainant, advocate Satish Ukey, had filed a complaint with the First Class Judicial Magistrate in Nagpur that 2 cases, which were private complaints filed by one lawyer against CM, were not mentioned in the affidavit of CM. Ukey had filed the case with a demand to prosecute the CM for allegedly concealing the criminal cases in his election affidavit. The Trial court had dismissed the plea, after which Satish Ukey went to the Nagpur Sessions court. The Sessions Court had set aside the trial court judgement and had sent it back to the trial court for a de novo consideration, or for hearing it afresh.
This order of the Sessions Court was challenged by Devendra Fadnavis in the Bombay High court, and The High Court had set aside the order of the Sessions court in May 2018, saying no case is made out in this matter. After this, the complainant Satish Ukey went to the Supreme Court and now the Supreme Court has sent the case back to the trial court for fresh consideration. Hence it will again be heard in the trial court to ascertain whether a case for the prosecution is made out or not.
The two cases, which the Maharashtra CM didn’t mention in his affidavit, were filed against him in 1996 and 1998. Both of them were private complaints, and no charges have been filed in them. Giving details of the cases, the CMO statement says that in the early nineties when Devendra Fadnavis was corporator he had filed one complaint to the government to remove a Govt pleader and published it in the press, against which the lawyer went for a criminal definition against him. Later the defamation suit was withdrawn by the said lawyer.
The second case is about a slum, where Devendra Fadnavis as a corporator had given a letter to the corporation to apply tax on the slum properties. This land was under urban land ceiling dispute, and the same lawyer had filed a complaint against the corporation authorities and Devendra Fadnavis claiming that the land belongs to him. Later, this complaint was dismissed by the high court.
In both the cases, Fadnavis was acting in public interest and no private interest was involved, the CMO statement said. It claimed that “this judgement of SC has no bearing on Devendra Fadnavis to continue as public representative or to contest the next election”.
While ordering fresh hearing on the complaint against Fadnavis, the apex court said that Fadnavis had had knowledge of the two cases against him which had not been mentioned in the affidavit filed along with his nomination papers, therefore the orders of trial court and high court dismissing the complaint are not tenable, and the complaint of Satish Ukey will be considered afresh by the trial Court from the beginning.