Mrunal Manmay Dash

The Orissa High Court on Monday annulled the election of Cuttack-Babarati Congress MLA Mohammed Moquim for allegedly failing to furnish detailed information regarding criminal cases against him in affidavit during the filing of nomination in 2019.

The court passed the judgement during the hearing of a petition filed by BJD leader Debashish Samantaray on July 3, 2019 who complained that some of the columns prescribed in the declaration paper were struck down by Moquim which requires declaring all the criminal cases against a candidate.

While seeking direction declaring his election null and void and asking the Election Commission for fresh polls, the petition has further cited that Moquim had also not disclosed correct facts about his assets and liabilities. The HC had framed 36 issues for consideration in the election case.

The court ruling has effectively made Cuttack-Barabati Assembly Constituency vacant until the next election. Moquim’s annulment of last election in 2019 means he cannot be called as ex-MLA too. However, he can always go to the Supreme Court to appeal against the HC ruling.

It is pertinent to mention here that the HC has not made any comments on his candidature in the future elections.

Rajya Sabha MP & BJD leader Debashish Samantaray, who had moved the HC on July 3, 2019 against Moquim said, “Information that is mandated for a candidate to disclose in the affidavit should be revealed. If something is concealed, it may be caught during the scrutiny. Mohammed Moquim had hidden information about his criminal cases. People then did not believe it.  He has 16 criminal cases against him.”

He added that the Cuttack voters should think of the kind of mistake they made by choosing the candidate. 

Gopal Agrawal, the counsel of the complainant said, “During nomination filing, Moquim had struck off some columns in nomination form 2-B. It was the duty of the returning officer to cancel the nomination of the candidate at the time of scrutiny. The returning officer illegally accepted his nomination. The High Court quashed the nomination papers of Mohammed Moquim.”

On the other hand, Moquim said that he would move the Supreme Court against the HC order. “I will again fight the upcoming elections from the Barabati-Cuttack seat and the HC order will make no difference to his elections,” he asserted.
Meanwhile, the BJP burned the effigy of the legislator and demanded his arrest.

Moquim, a first-time MLA, had earlier filed an interim application seeking rejection of the election petition at the very threshold in its entirety for want of cause of action without entering into the merits of the case. However, the court had dismissed the Congress MLA’s plea on June 20, 2022.

On September 29, 2022, the Special Vigilance Court, Bhubaneswar convicted Moquim in the OHRDC loan scam and sentenced him to three years imprisonment along with a fine of Rs 50,000. However, the High Court had since granted him bail and consequent stay on the execution of the sentence, also the imposition of the fine.

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