Bhopal, July 30 (IANS) The Madhya Pradesh High Court has dismissed a plea by the state’s Water Resources Minister Narottam Mishra questioning the Election Commission’s competence to inquire into a case of “paid news” against him dating back to 2008.
The dismissal of Mishra’s plea by Justice Vinod Agrawal of the Gwalior bench of the high court means that the Election Commission will continue its inquiry into the charges against the minister who belongs to the BJP and represents Datia constituency in the assembly.
An adverse ruling by the Election Commission could imperil Mishra’s membership of the legislative assembly. He could also be disqualified from standing in elections for six years.
The complainant in the case is Congress leader Rajendra Bharti whose counsel told IANS: “The Election Commission continues to hold hearings of the case and the defendant’s witnesses have been deposing before it.”
Bharti complained to the Election Commission in 2012 that Mishra paid for a series of “news” reports published in various newspapers ahead of the 2008 assembly elections to enhance his prestige among voters without accounting for that expense.
The Election Commission issued a show-cause notice to Mishra in 2013 that said: “42 news, which were published in various newspapers between November 8 and 27 in 2008, appear to be advertisements in garb of news.”
Mishra replied to the show-cause notice, but also got a stay from a single bench of the high court, which was later vacated.
Mishra subsequently petitioned the Supreme Court seeking a stay on the proceedings of the Election Commission which was dismissed by the court in October last year.
Thereafter he again moved a petition requesting the high court to declare Section 10 (A) of the Representation of People Act 1951 as ultra vires (outside the powers) of the Election Commission.
Section 10 (A) of the Representation of the People Act 1951 deals with “disqualification for failure to lodge account of election expenses.”
Mishra was not available for comment even though IANS made several attempts to reach him.