The Delhi High Court on Tuesday issued notices to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Law Minister Somnath Bharti on separate pleas of two BJP leaders seeking to declare their election as void on the ground that they exceeded the poll expense limit of Rs 14 lakh each.
A bench of justice Vipin Sanghi sought the response from Kejriwal on the election petition of former Delhi BJP president Vijender Gupta, who had unsuccessfully fought the Assembly election against Kejriwal from New Delhi constituency.
Another bench of justice G S Sistani issued notice to the law minister on the plea of BJP leader and former Delhi mayor Arti Mehra, who alleged that Bharti did not comply with the provisions of the Representation of People Act and had spent more than Rs 14 lakh during his election campaign in the Malviya Nagar assembly seat.
The courts, which did not issue notice to the Election Commission, asked the Aam Aadmi Party leaders to file their responses within four weeks and fixed the matters for hearing on February 25.
During the hearing, Satyapal Jain and Rajeev Ranjan Raj, appearing for BJP leaders, cited various related provisions of the RP Act to stress on the point that the AAP leaders did not give correct and separate accounts of expenses incurred by them during the election campaign.
The BJP leaders have said in their petition that Kejriwal and Bharti had indulged in corrupt practices and incurred huge expenditure of nearly Rs 94.80 lakh during campaigning by organising a rock show "Jeet Ki Gunj, Vote for Change" on November 23, 2013 at Jantar Mantar, after filing their poll nomination.
"...The total actual expenses incurred by the Aam Admi Party on the account of concert is Rs 94.80 lakh which has been highly underestimated by the respondent (Kejriwal) and the Aam Admi Party as Rs. 14.72 lakh," the petitions said.
Similar allegations have been made by Mehra against Bharti.
"Kejriwal has influenced/solicited the voters by such a massive concert, thereby affecting the outcome of the election," the petitions allege.
It accused both the AAP leaders of having violated the Model Code of Conduct issued by the Election Commission of India, the provisions of the RP Act and also the principles of the Constitution regarding free and fair elections.
The petition said many prominent singers and Bollywood personalities performed at the event and all of them charged Rs 3 lakh to Rs 10 lakh, which was allegedly paid by Kejriwal.
The petitions also said that the concert was advertised through newspapers, TV and radio to attract voters. Elaborate arrangements were put in place and the programme was attended by more than 20,000 people and the total cost of the show/concert will not come to be less than Rs 1 crore.
Gupta said "the show was addressed and attended by Kejriwal and three other AAP candidates namely Somnath Bharti from Malviya Nagar constituency, Surinder Singh from Delhi Cantt constituency and Manish Sisodia from Patparganj, who was also a star campaigner. In that event, Rs 33 lakh has to be added in the expenses account" of Kejriwal.
He said the Election Commission has a video recording of the event but the same is yet to be provided to him.
The petitions said that on their complaint, an inquiry was initiated by the Election Commission and the District Expenditure Monitoring Committee "erroneously apportioned" an expenditure of Rs 13.05 lakh in the account of Kejriwal, Bharti and Surinder Singh.
They said that the assessment arrived at by the Commission treating the concert as "good cause" was "erroneous" and no independent information was used to evaluate the exact amount.
"....The stand of Kejriwal and AAP that the artists/ celebrities have not charged for performing in the concert for being associated with the party is factually wrong and, hence, not acceptable as per the guidelines of the Election Commission.
"If such explanation is accepted, then every candidate will organise such similar events in the name of "good cause" to influence/target voters and will get away by breaching the monetary ceiling imposed by the Election Commission for conducting free and fair elections of candidates," the petitions said.
Kejriwal had secured 44,269 votes while Sheila Dikshit and Vijender Kumar secured only 18,405 and 17,952 votes respectively.
Bharti had won from Malviya Nagar with 32,258 votes, defeating Mehra who had garnered 24,486 votes.