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Set up bench to hear minister’s plea against disqualification, SC tells MP High Court

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New Delhi, July 12 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Madhya Pradesh High Court’s acting Chief Justice to set up a bench for hearing the plea of state minister Narottam Mishra, challenging his disqualification by the Election Commission.

The Commission had on June 23 disqualified Mishra for not disclosing expenses he incurred on paid news in his election expenditure returns and debarred him from contesting elections for three years.

The bench of Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud directed Mishra and complainant Rajender Bharti to approach the state Chief Justice on Wednesday itself for setting up of the bench.

The apex court also directed immediate hearing of the matter starting from Thursday, so as to decide the case before July 17 — the day for polling to elect a new President to succeed outgoing incumbent Pranab Mukherjee.

The order said that, if required, the hearing would continue even on the weekend.

Mishra had moved the high court challenging the EC order but did not get any interim relief and the matter is still pending before it.

Contesting the Election Commission order on different counts, senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Minister, had sought an urgent hearing of the plea either by the high court or the apex court itself, so that he could participate in the polling for presidential election.

Rohatgi told the bench that Narottam is Parliamentary Affairs Minister and the assembly session is starting from July 17 and the voting for the Presidential election is also on the same day.

But as he urged the court to stay the poll panel’s order, Chief Justice Khehar said: "We can’t do, we will not do, we have not seen the order."

The Election Commission while disqualifying Mishra for not disclosing the expenditure he had incurred on the paid news that was carried in local media during the 2008 assembly elections had said that it was concerned about the "menace of paid news" which has been assuming "alarming proportions" in the electoral landscape.

This phenomenon, a manifestation of the "pernicious effect of money in elections", has been growing increasingly vicious and "spreading like cancer", in recent time, the EC had said.

The EC order disqualifying Mishra had come on a complaint filed in 2009 by Congress MLA Bharti, who had unsuccessfully contested against Mishra from Datia constituency.

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