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‘Not entertainable’: Meghalaya HC dismisses plea filed by jailed TMC leader Saket Gokhale against NPP for violation of electoral rules

Saket Gokhale had demanded action against the National People's Party (NPP) for failing to file their expenditure report within 75 days of the 2018 Assembly elections

The Meghalaya High Court recently dismissed a writ petition filed by TMC national spokesperson Saket Gokhale demanding action against the National People’s Party (NPP) for failing to file their expenditure report within 75 days of the 2018 Assembly elections.

The court ruled that the dispute sought to be raised by the writ petitioner, Saket Gokhale, will not be entertainable under Article 226 of the Constitution, more particularly since the election process is already underway.

“This Court having come to a finding on the maintainability of the writ petition to be barred by Article 329(b), the other questions and the authorities placed are not gone into or discussed, and this writ petition accordingly stands dismissed, as not maintainable,” the court ruled.

Notably, TMC leader Saket Gokhale, who is currently in jail for misusing money he had collected through crowdfunding, had moved the Meghalaya High Court in December 2022, alleging that the state’s ruling party violated Rule 16A of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 by not filing its election expenditure report within 75 days of the completion of the State Assembly Elections 2018.

The counsel for the NPP contested Gokhale’s claim, arguing that the writ petition was not maintainable in view of the bar under Article 329(b) of the Constitution of India. He claimed, citing Article 329(b) of the Constitution, that there is a constitutional prohibition against Courts interfering in electoral processes.

He further argued that the prohibition on intervention extends to all matters directly or indirectly related to the electoral process, which is currently underway in the state of Meghalaya, where elections to the Legislative Assembly have been notified for January 18, 2023.

Furthermore, he questioned the “excessive delay” purportedly used to hit the preset plea. “The filing of the election expenditure report relates to 2018, whereas, the writ petitioner has instituted the present writ petition only in 2022, without providing any explanation for the delay in preferring the same,” NPP counsel submitted. 

The counsel asserted that Saket Gokhale had filed the current petition with a political motive, just before the 2023 elections, at the behest of the political party to which he belongs.

On the contrary, Gokhale’s senior counsel told the court that when he learned that the NPP had not filed election expense statements for multiple elections, including the Meghalaya Assembly Elections in 2018, he filed the current petition.

The court, meanwhile, after hearing the arguments of both sides, stated that the election process had already been set in motion “therefore, apart from a proceeding under the Representation of the People Act, 1951, no other forum can adjudicate in such matters.” As a result, the court ruled that the complaint raised by Gokhale will not be entertained under Article 226 of the Constitution because the electoral process is already underway.

Meghalaya Govt files criminal defamation suit against TMC’s Saket Gokhale

It may be noted that the TMC leader had last year also claimed that the Meghalaya Ecotourism Infrastructure Development Project had anomalies of Rs 632 crore. According to Saket Gokhale, “These irregularities have happened under the company Meghalayan Age which is spearheaded by CM Conrad Sangma’s top aide IAS officer D Vijay Kumar.”

On December 10 2022, the Meghalaya government filed a criminal defamation suit against Trinamool Congress (TMC) national spokesperson Saket Gokhale for maligning the reputation of the state government by making “deliberate, derogatory and malicious” claims against a state-owned tourism firm.

Refuting all of the accusations levelled against the government, the Deputy Chief Minister of Meghalaya- Prestone Tynsong termed Gokhale a ‘psycho’ and warned him of legal action.

TMC leader accused of misappropriating ₹1.07 crore collected through crowdfunding

Ironically, TMC leader Saket Gokhale, who has accused the Meghalaya government of misappropriating funds, is himself in jail for misusing funds raised through crowdfunding. In fact, on December 29, Gokhale was arrested in Delhi by the Ahmedabad Cyber Crime Branch. Gokhale is accused of misappropriating ₹1.07 crore collected from the public through crowd-funding. Saket Gokhale was charged under sections 420 (cheating), 406 (criminal breach of trust), and 467 (forgery) of the Indian Penal Code.

On January 25, the Enforcement Directorate arrested Gokhale under sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act in Ahmedabad and sent him to custody till January 31 by a city court.

Recently, the Gujarat HC had dismissed the bail application filed by Trinamool Congress (TMC) spokesperson Saket Gokhale observing that prima facie it appears that Gokhale had utilised the funds raised for his personal expenses. Noting that the case is of the nature of fraud and cheating and that the investigation is still going on and that the necessary evidence is to be recovered, the court denied bail to the TMC leader.

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