The Supreme Court Friday sought responses from the Centre and the Sikkim government on a plea seeking quashing of appointment of Prem Singh Tamang as the chief minister of the Himalayan state on the ground that he was not qualified to hold the office as he was convicted for misappropriation of funds as a public servant in the past. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi also issued notice to Tamang, who was recently elected as chief minister, on the contention that as per the election law any person who is convicted under corruption offences shall stand disqualified for a period of six years from the date of his conviction.
The apex court has also sought responses from the parties on a plea seeking stay on Tamang taking any major policy decision or other important governance duties as the state's chief minister. The petition by Bimal Dawari Sharma of the ousted Sikkim Democratic Front Party, which ruled the state for 25 years, alleges that Tamang was a "disqualified" person who is ineligible to contest elections till 2024.
The petition, which has been settled and argued by senior advocate G V Rao, said Tamang was not eligible to contest the election, and also that he has been wrongfully made the Chief Minister of Sikkim. The plea alleged that Tamang was held guilty of misappropriating Rs 9,50,000 while he was the minister of animal husbandry and ecclesiastical department with regard to irregularities in purchase and distribution of milch cows.
Tamang who was held guilty of offences for criminal breach of trust, criminal conspiracy and "gross abuse" of his position as a public servant had also served one year imprisonment between 2017 and 2018, the plea said. "It is clear that the RPA lays down that the commission of serious criminal offences renders a person ineligible to contest in elections or continue as a representative of the people. Such a restriction does provide the salutary deterrent necessary to prevent criminal elements from holding public office thereby preserving the probity of representative government," the petition said..
The plea said that appointment of Tamang as Sikkim's chief minister was "unconstitutional" and "violates the fundamental core of the Constitution". "The appointment of Tamang as the Chief Minister of the State of Sikkim is in conflict with the interest of the nation, common citizenry interest, communal harmony, and prevalence of good governance," the plea said.
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