Kerala HC disqualifies IUML MLA KM Shaji
Kochi, Nov 9: The Kerala High Court on Friday declared as invalid the election of Indian Union Muslim League MLA K M Shaji on a plea claiming that he indulged in a communal campaign, amounting to corrupt practices, to win the 2016 assembly polls.
Disqualifying Shaji, who had won from the Azhikode seat, Justice P D Rajan also barred him from contesting polls for six years. The judge, however later stayed his order for two weeks on a plea by Shaji's lawyer, seeking adequate time to file an appeal in the Supreme Court against the verdict.
The MLA would continue to be a legislator for this brief period, legal experts said. The IUML, a partner in the Congress led opposition United Democratic Front, won 18 seats in the 140-member assembly in the 2016 elections. One IUML member passed away last year.
The court Friday also directed the Assembly Speaker and the Election Commission to take appropriate action. It gave the judgement on the plea by LDF candidate M V Nikesh Kumar, who contested against Shaji. The court directed Shaji to pay Rs 50,000 as costs to Kumar. It, however, declined Kumar's plea that he be declared the winner of the polls. The stay was granted on condition that Shaji deposit Rs 50,000 within a week to facilitate him file an appeal before the apex court.
In his petition, Kumar alleged that Shaji won by a margin of 2,287 votes using corrupt practices. He accused Shaji of having violated the norms prescribed under various sections of the Representation of People's Act to win the elections. Kumar had alleged that Shaji, who belongs to the Muslim community, had appealed to voters, his agents and other people to vote for the UDF candidate on grounds of religion. He also charged that pamphlets were circulated in the constituency urging people not to vote for a candidate who is not a believer of Islam.
Kumar had accused Shaji and his agents of circulating another pamphlet with an aim to lower his reputation. Reacting to the judgement, Shaji said he would move the Supreme Court against the order. Denying that he had indulged in a communal campaign, Shaji said he stands for secularism and an accusation contrary to that was a 'humiliation' to a person like him.
He said people who know him would not believe such allegations. Leader of the Opposition in the Kerala Assembly, Ramesh Chennithala, said the UDF would fight the case legally. He also claimed that Shaji's credentials as a secular leader was 'unquestionable'. Welcoming the judgement, CPI(M) Kannur district secretary P Jayarajan alleged it had been proved that the IUML candidate used 'heinous means' like communal campaign to win the polls.
He also urged UDF leaders to accept the verdict and get ready for the bypoll in the constituency, instead of adopting other means like taking to legal recourse to retain Shaji's post.