In an embarrassment for the BJP ahead of the Delhi polls, the Election Commission has pulled up the Union home ministry for not denying media reports that it had decided to give Rs 5 lakh compensation to victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
In a reply to the EC that sought an explanation on media reports that the government had decided to give compensation to the anti-Sikh riot victims in the Capital, the ministry outrightly denied such claims.
“No decision (on giving compensation) has been taken,” the ministry told the EC.
Media reports on October 31 stated that the home ministry had decided to give additional compensation of `5 lakh to 3,325 riot-affected families costing the pubic exchequer `166 crore.
But the ministry failed to issue any statement denying these media reports, giving the EC enough indication that the government was trying to influence voters when it had announced the bypolls to three assembly constituencies in the Capital and the model code of conduct was in force.
The news reports had appeared a few days before the government decided to dissolve Delhi assembly and hold fresh elections in the Capital, after which the EC denotified the bypolls.
“The commission has observed that the news was widely published and disseminated not only in the print media but also on the electronic media and several panel decisions were also arranged…It cannot be denied that the news item gave an unmistakable impression to the electorate that a decision was taken by the government,” the EC said in a letter to home secretary Anil Goswami.
The EC said no action on the part of the government to deny the news had the “likelihood to effect of disturbing the level playing field” when the model code of conduct was in force.
Seeking an assurance from the government that such instance will not happen in future, the EC told the ministry that it should have been avoided.
Reacting to the EC letter, a home ministry official said: “The ministry had agreed to give additional compensation in principle only after deliberations. The formal decision is yet to taken in this regard.”