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Ram Nath Kovind: Why BJP's presidential pick may face Supreme Court test after election

19 June, 2017 3:05 PM
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The BJP has sought support from Opposition parties including the Congress. But given the reaction of CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury, a contest looks imminent despite Amit Shah expressing hope that Ram Nath Kovind will be elected the 14th President of India unopposed.

Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind will, in all likelihood, succeed Pranab Mukherjee as the President of India. BJP president Amit Shah, announcing Kovind's name for President, said that the alliance partners of the NDA had already been consulted for the presidential election.

The BJP has sought support from Opposition parties including the Congress. Amit Shah said that Congress president Sonia Gandhi would decide her party's stand in few days. Some parties like TRS and Samajwadi Party have already announced support to the NDA candidate.

But, given the reaction of CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury, a contest looks imminent despite Amit Shah expressing hope that Ram Nath Kovind will be elected the 14th President of India unopposed.

Only Neelam Sanjiva Reddy was elected to the highest office unopposed. However, his election was challenged in the Supreme Court. In fact all except three presidential elections were challenged in the Supreme Court.

As per existing provision, a dispute arising out of the presidential election can only be challenged in the Supreme Court. A five-judge bench of the apex court hears the dispute.

First President of India Dr Rajendra Prasad remains the only person to occupy the post for two terms. In the first presidential election in 1952, Rajendra Prasad defeated Constituent Assembly member form Bombay Prof KT Shah securing 83 per cent of the total votes polled.

Rajendra Prasad's colleague in the Constituent Assembly, KT Shah accepted defeat with democratic spirit and did not challenge the presidential election in the Supreme Court.

But, when Rajendra Prasad won his second term with 99 per cent of votes defeating NB Khare, the presidential election was challenged the in Supreme Court in 1957. Khare alleged that the election was not conducted 'properly'. The apex court dismissed the petition rejecting Khare's claim.

In 1962, Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan became president defeating Chowdhry Hari Ram. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan polled 553,067 votes and Chowdhry Hari Ram got 6,341 votes while third contestant Yamuna Prasad Trisulia secured got 3,537 votes.

Radhakrishnan was succeeded by Dr Zakir Hussain, who was the fourth President of India and third person to occupy the office in 1967. He defeated Koka Subbarao with a margin of over 1.08 lakh votes.

Zakir Hussain's election to the office of President was challenged not by his contenders but by Baburao Patel, who was a film journalist interested in politics. He was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1967 from Shajapur in Madhya Pradesh as Jan Sangh candidate.

Baburao Patel alleged that Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had exerted undue influence in the presidential election violating the vote by conscience mandated by the Presidential and Vice-Presidential Elections Act, 1952.

The Supreme Court dismissed Baburao Patel's plea saying that what he referred to as undue influence was canvassing, without which elections would not be possible in democracy.

Zakir Hussain died in office - one of the two Presidents to have suffered such a fate. The other person to die while in office of the President was Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed.

VV Giri was elected as the next President in 1969 defeating N Sanjiva Reddy, who was the official candidate of the ruling Congress party.

The then Prime Minister prompted VV Giri to stand the presidential election. Then canvassing for VV Giri Indira Gandhi made fervent appeal to Congress and other MPs to vote as per their conscience even if it meant to go beyond party's stand.

VV Giri defeated N Sanjiva Reddy while another contestant Shiv Kirpal Singh took the matters to the Supreme Court.

Shiv Kirpal Singh alleged that the battery of cabinet ministers led by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi misused their official position to influence the outcome of the presidential poll. The apex court dismissed the petition challenging VV Giri's election as President but not before issuing notice to him seeking clarification.

The next three winning candidates for presidential elections were handpicked by Indira Gandhi. Incidentally, the election of all three - Fakhrudding Ali Ahmed, N Sanjiva Reddy and Giani Zail Singh to President's office was challenged by a rather non-serious candidate Charan Lal Sahu, who was a lawyer by profession.

The Supreme Court dismissed all the successive pleas challenging the presidential elections from 1974 to 1982.

Charan Lal Sahu also went on to challenge the presidential elections in which KR Narayanan and APJ Abdul Kalam emerged winners. But, this time, the Supreme Court was so irked with Sahu challenging the presidential elections that it warned him from wasting judiciary's time.

Like Charan Lal Sahu, there was one Mithilesh Kumar Sinha who challenged the elections of R Venkatraman and Shankar Dayal Sharma. A very interesting contender who hit headlines in 1992 presidential election was Kaka Joginder Singh alias Dharti Pakad. He secured more than 1,135 votes against Shankar Dayal Sharma.

Pratibha Patil succeeded APJ Abdul Kalam in the President's office. Her election was not contested in the Supreme Court. She had defeated Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, who was the Vice-President then.

Pratibha Patil was succeed by Pranab Mukherjee, who beat NDA's nominee PA Sangma, who challenged his election in the Supreme Court on the grounds of office of profit.

Sangma contended that since Pranab Mukherjee held the post of the chairman of the Indian Statistical Institute in Kolkata, he was holding the office of profit at the time of filing his nomination for the presidential election.

The Supreme Court, though, acknowledged that Pranab Mukherjee held the office of profit but held that he did not gain any profit from that position and hence his case was not suitable for disqualification on the same ground. The five-judge bench decided the matter with a majority of three to two.

Going by the trend, July may witness another petition reaching the Supreme Court questioning the election of the next President of India.

Source: indiatoday.intoday.in

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