The Returning Officer in the Presidential Election has rejected opposition candidate P A Sangma's contention that United Progressive Alliance's [ Images ] nominee Pranab Mukherjee's [ Images ] letter of resignation from the Indian Statistical Institute was forged, saying it had no merit.
"In my opinion, it is for the person who signs a letter to deny that it is not his signature. Otherwise, there is no reason for me to believe that the signature of Shri Pranab Mukherjee is not genuine. In this case, he himself has submitted the letter which he claims to be his letter. Therefore, I have no reason to believe that the letter, prima facie, is not genuine," V K Agnihotri, the RO who is also the Rajya Sabha secretary general, said in his order.
The order was passed on a petition filed by Sangma seeking cancellation of Mukherjee's nomination on the ground that he continues to be chairman of the ISI, which he contended was an Office of Profit.
Sangma's representative Satyapal Jain had argued that the information available on the website of the Lok Sabha as well as the profile of Mukherjee and that of ISI showed him as the chairman, even on the date of scrutiny -- July 2.
Mukherjee's representative Parliamentary Affairs Minister P K Bansal referred to the difference in the signature of Mukherjee on his letter addressed to ISI President M G K Menon and in the reply filed before the RO.
He said Mukherjee's "normal signature" appears in the letter to Menon while in the letter to the RO, he has signed in a manner in which he formally signs on the nomination papers filed before the election authority.
Agnihotri accepted Bansal's contention that Mukherjee's June 20 resignation was unconditional and was any way accepted on the same date.
"He has also filed a copy of his resignation letter with the endorsement accepted and recorded by the competent authority," the RO said in his order.
On Jain's claim that the original resignation letter was not presented before the RO, Bansal mentioned that the original letter was with Menon, to whom it was addressed.
"He (Bansal) has only obtained and received a copy of the letter on which Professor M.G.K. Menon has recorded the words "accepted". All other matter relating to the endorsements on the letter, the way the letter 'a' of 'accepted' has been written in small, as well as, on which part of the letter it has been noted, I don't find material relevant in this regard," Agnihotri said.
On Jain's contention that the ISI website still showed Mukherjee as chairman, the RO said it was common knowledge that the information available on the website is often not up to date.
"Authorities have their procedures and schedule for updating websites and it is not instantaneous. The information available on the website, in any case, cannot be taken as an undisputed proof," he said.
"No other documentary proof, apart from the print-outs of websites has been provided to me by Shri Satya [ Images ] Pal Jain, the learned authorised representative of Shri P A Sangma," he said.
Agnihotri also rejected Sangma camp's contention that the resignation had not been done in a proper manner or has not been accepted by the competent authority, because he was elected to the office by Board of Directors and Menon cannot accept it.
"I have already mentioned that a copy has been filed of the resignation letter, with the endorsement 'accepted' recorded by the competent authority. Whatever I have to say, I have said," he said.