The Karnataka High Court on Friday declared the election of the lone Janata Dal (Secular) MP from Hassan, Prajawal Revanna, as “null and void” for filing false information in his election affidavit during the May 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Interestingly, Prajwal (33), grandson of former Prime Minister H.D. Devegowda and son of former Karnataka minister H.D. Revanna has been disqualified based on a petition filed by former minister A. Manju, who is now the JD(S) MLA from Arkalgud in Hassan district.
During the 2019 elections, Devegowda had vacated the Hassan seat for his grandson’s debut in electoral politics and shifted to Tumakuru Parliament constituency. While Prajwal managed to win the seat, Devegowda suffered a humiliating defeat.
In the May 2019 Parliament polls, Prajwal had won 6,76,606 votes against BJP nominee A. Manju, who had polled only 5,35,282 votes. On September 30, 2019, the High Court had issued summons to Prajwal over the incomplete election affidavit filed along with his nomination papers based on a petition filed by A. Manju and a lawyer G. Devarajegowda.
However, High Court Justice John Michael D'Cunha on January 17, 2020, dismissed Devarajegowda’s petition on the grounds that he had not followed due procedure under Section 81(3) of the Representation of Peoples Act. Manju’s petition was also dismissed on technical grounds that he had failed to file the mandatory affidavit in the prescribed format that enumerated instances of corrupt practices as alleged against Prajwal.
Following Manju’s appeal against the high court order, the Supreme Court, in December 2021, directed the high court to examine the petitions afresh, while observing that any violations of procedure in filling of the petitions would be a matter to be considered at the stage of trial.
As per an inquiry conducted by the state Election Commission, based on the information furnished by the then deputy commissioner of Hassan (also returning officer) Priyanka Mary Francis, the affidavit was allegedly incomplete. The candidate had mentioned a vacant site in Holenarasipur, but the site had a building and a cinema theatre. He had failed to mention the transactions and revenue earned over the last five years. Prajwal had mentioned a loan amount of Rs 26 lakh as borrowed from his grandfather H.D. Deve Gowda, which was not mentioned in the affidavit filed by the latter.
On Friday, High Court Justice K. Natarajan, who declared the election of the returned candidate (Prajwal) as null and void, also rejected the prayer to declare A. Manju, the runner-up as the returned candidate citing findings that he was found to be involved in corrupt practices, as alleged by Prajwal Revanna in his counter petition.
Deputy Chief Minister D.K. Shivakumar said the HC verdict was a “warning bell” to all the elected representatives and that he could comment only after going through the judgement copy in detail.
An embarrassed Manju said, “I had filed the case in 2019 alleging that Prajwal had furnished wrong information in his affidavit and the court has ruled in my favour. I thank the court for it. It is a peculiar situation. When I filed the case, I was in a different party. But today, I am in the JD(S) and I will discuss with my party leaders Devegowda, Kumaraswamy and Revanna as our party MP has been disqualified. “
One of the petitioners, Devarajegowda, while speaking to reporters said that the court had also barred Prajwal from contesting in any election – from Gram Panchayat to the Parliament, for the next six years.