Plea for direction to EC to conduct by-poll: SC asks Manipur BJP leader to approach HC

"We are not a one stop solution for every problem in the country," observed the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.

The Supreme Court Wednesday asked a BJP leader, who was seeking a direction to the Election Commission of India to hold by-poll for Wangkhei assembly constituency in Manipur, to approach the high court.

“You go to the high court,” a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde told senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who was appearing for Okram Henry Singh.

“We are not a one stop solution for every problem in the country,” observed the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.

Rohatgi, who withdrew the plea with liberty to approach the Manipur High Court, told the bench that more than six months have elapsed since Singh had resigned as an MLA from the constituency but the poll panel has not conducted the by-poll.

“Mukul Rohtagi, senior counsel appearing for the petitioner, prays for withdrawal of this petition with liberty to approach the high court. Prayer is allowed. Accordingly, the writ petition is dismissed as withdrawn with the liberty aforesaid,” the bench said in its order.

Singh, in his plea filed in the apex court through advocate Anish R Shah, had said that he was elected as a Member of Legislative Assembly from Wangkhei constituency in March 2017 on Congress ticket.

It said due to “some ideological differences”, he resigned as an MLA and joined another political party in August 2020.

The plea said his resignation was accepted on August 11 last year.

Singh said he was appointed as a cabinet minister in the state on September 24 last year and was allotted department of MAHUD, Social Welfare and Cooperation.

“It is submitted that since the petitioner (Singh) has been appointed as a minister on September 24, 2020, he cannot continue as a minister beyond 6 months from the said date, since he is not a member of the Legislature of the state,” the plea said.

“It is submitted that the said fact is due to the fact that the respondent no. one (EC), which is under an obligation to conduct by-elections, within six months of August 11, 2020, has not conducted the election within the said statutorily mandatory period,” it said.

The plea, which was filed in the top court on March 15, said that six months since the date of “arising of causal vacancy” and his appointment as a minister expires on March 24 this year.

The plea said if the petitioner is not elected within the said period, he will lose his ministership as per the provisions of Article 164 (4) of the Constitution.

The plea said the petitioner “reliably understands” that the EC is not conducting the by-elections in view of the fact that election petition challenging his election is pending before the Manipur High Court.

The petitioner had also sought a direction that he shall not cease to be a minister as per Article 164 (4) of the Constitution in view of the situation arising out of COVID-19 pandemic.

The plea, while referring to the orders passed by the apex court earlier regarding extension of limitation period, said there is no reason why this benefit should not be extended to him in computation of the limitation as prescribed under Article 164 (4) of the Constitution.

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