On Wednesday, the Supreme Court issued a notice on a series of petitions questioning the election of Foreign Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar to Rajya Sabha from Gujarat.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal argued before a bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian that the date should be set for the hearing of the matter. Congress chief Gaurav Pandya has filed one of the petitions against Jaishankar.
The bench said in its order: "Delay condoned. Issue notice returnable on December 8 (a non-miscellaneous day). Waive service on the respondents since Swarupama Chaturvedi, learned counsel, is appearing on behalf of those respondents. Reply affidavit, if any, be filed by the respondents in the meantime. Let notice be issued to another respondent (s) if any." Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Jaishankar, accepted the notice.
The pleas are related to the by-polls on two seats in Gujarat by the 2019 Rajya Sabha. Both seats were won by the BJP candidates. The plea raised questions relating to the powers of the Election Commission to issue separate by-poll notices for casual and frequent vacancies in the Rajya Sabha.
The High Court had previously observed that in relation to the powers of the EC, it could pass an order issuing separate notifications for the holding of by-polls for regular and casual elections to fill vacancies in the Rajya Sabha.
The Gujarat High Court dismissed Pandya's plea against Jaishankar's election to the Rajya Sabha on February 4. Two other petitions filed by Congress leaders ChandrikabenChudasama and Pareshkumar Dhanani, which challenged the election of BJP candidate Jugalji Thakore, were also dismissed by the high court.
On July 5 of last year, both Jaishankar and Thakore were elected to the Rajya Sabha from seats vacated by Union Ministers Amit Shah and Smriti Irani. Jaishankar and Thakore had defeated Congress candidates Pandya and Chudasama, respectively.
"The leaders of Congress moved the high court to state that the notifications of the Election Commission, which found the two vacant seats to be of different categories and hence required separate by-polls, were "illegal and in breach of the provisions of the Constitution, the Law on the Representation of Citizens (RP), 1951, and the Conduct of Election Laws, 1961.