The Gujarat high court on Tuesday declared state BJP minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama's election in 2017 as void on grounds of malpractice and manipulation.
Justice Paresh Upadhyay set aside Chudasama's election in an order passed on a petition filed by Congress candidate Ashwin Rathod, challenging the BJP leader's victory from Dholka constituency by a margin of 327 votes in the 2017 Gujarat Assembly polls.
In his election petition, Rathod had alleged that Chudasama indulged in 'corrupt practice and breach of many of the mandatory instructions of the Election Commission, at various stages of the election process, more particularly at the time of counting of votes'.
Chudasama currently holds charge of the education, law and justice, legislative and parliamentary affairs, and some other departments in the Vijay Rupani government.
According to Rathod's lawyer Sharvil Majumdar, the court observed in its order that the then returning officer (RO) of Dholka constituency flouted guidelines of the Election Commission during the counting of votes, in the manner that it vitiated the entire election.
He said the court also observed that the election was materially affected by the conduct of the then RO to reject 429 postal ballots illegally, when the victory margin with which Chudasama won was 327 votes.
State Deputy Chief Minister and BJP leader Nitin Patel termed the order as "shocking", and said it will be challenged in the Supreme Court.
"The order to cancel election of Bhupendrasinhji is a sad news. Naturally, Bhupendrasinhji is seeking legal advice regarding the order and steps are being taken to appeal against it in the Supreme Court. We are confident of getting justice and a stay on this order," he said.
State Congress president Amit Chavda alleged that Chudasama won through misuse of power and government officials, but the court's order showed any such interference with the election process will be rejected.
This is the victory of truth and defeat of the manner in which BJP misused power and government officers.
The Congress candidate had then opposed this election saying the votes were rejected because they were in favour of the party candidate (Rathod). But, Chudasama was somehow declared victoroius illegally, Chavda said.
After more than two years, the high court finally rejected Chudasama's election, and this clearly shows that the BJP government has always misused power and government officials, he said.
Senior Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil also hailed the high court's decision.
'Satyamev Jayate' (truth alone triumphs), he tweeted.
'#Gujarats Law Minister declared to be elected unlawfully. Bhupendrasinh Chudasamas election declared illegal, null and void by Gujarat High Court. He had illegally crafted his win in 2017. #GujaratModelExposed,' he said in another tweet.