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This case will remain etched in Eshwar Khandre’s memory

Eshwar Khandre was almost thrown out of the proceedings in an election petition, pending before the High Court of Karnataka, challenging the legality of his election in the 2018 polls held to the State Assembly, without him knowing about it for nearly two years. This was because his personal assistant, who was suffering from a disease causing forgetfulness, had forgotten to inform the MLA for Bhalki about the court matter.

Though the High Court accepted Mr. Khandre’s contention on why and how he was unaware of the proceedings for two years,

it allowed him to join the proceedings by asking him to pay a hefty sum of ₹5 lakh. He had been thrown out of the proceedings way back in August 2019 after being treated as ex parte as he did not respond to the court’s notice.

While asking him to pay the sum to the Chief Minister’s COVID-19 care fund within three weeks, the court also warned him against seeking any adjournment in proceedings in future, except for genuine reasons.

Justice Krishna S. Dixit passed the order on a petition filed in June 2018 by defeated BJP candidate D.K. Sidram.

Mr. Khandre had filed an application on July 17, 2020, seeking permission to participate in the proceedings after coming to know about it through reports published in two Kannada dailies on July 10 and 11, though the court’s notices were served two years ago.

Acute encephalopathy

The court, after going through the records, accepted the claims of Mr. Khandre that the notice issued by it was, in fact, served on his personal assistant (PA) Mainalle Basavaraj Baburao. However, the PA, who was suffering from a condition that entailed forgetfulness and that escalated later and came to be diagnosed as “acute encephalopathy”, had not informed the MLA about it.

The court also noted from the medical records that the disease had badly affected the PA’s grey matter, rendering his memory pond unyielding, and he was admitted to a hospital in Pune for two months between June 3 and August 10, 2019, as an inpatient. He breathed his last on October 11 this year, as per the medical reports.

On the petitioner’s doubt over whether Mr. Khandre was genuinely unaware of the proceedings, the court observed that a returned candidate would not stand to gain from avoiding court matters as in doing so, he runs the risk of likely being unseated from the victorious position.

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