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EC Chawla present in CD hearing

EC Navin Chawla remains present as poll panel hears CD case, writes Anil Anand.

india Updated: Apr 20, 2007 02:50 IST

In a set back to the BJP, Election Commission on Thursday rejected the party’s demand to keep the Election Commissioner Navin Chawla away from the hearing on the controversial CD released by the saffron party in Lucknow recently.

Setting the issue at rest, an EC order ruled : “ Mere pendency of a case cannot ipso facto lead to the conclusion of existence of a bias or apprehension of the same.” Later the panel began the hearing on the CD issue and reserved its order on the subject.

The EC order further stated that the panel saw “no reason” to constitute a bench of only two Commissioners. “It has been decided that all three members would hear the matter further and adjudicate on it,” it observed.

On the other hand, an embattled BJP kept flaunting the ideology card before the EC. The party argued that it was beyond the panel’s jurisdiction to decide what constituted secularism. The BJP also said to have challenged the EC’s powers to derecognise political parties for violation of the Model Code of Conduct.

In a related development, Bahujan Samaj Party has petitioned the EC demanding “stringent action” against the publication of a “ fictitious booklet” titled “ Karyakarataon ke liye Behanji ka sandesh”.

The party claimed that it had contacted the printers of the booklet who denied having printed it. Stating that it was an attempt to tarnish the BSP’s image, the party has demanded registration of a case to book the culprits.

Later, talking to media-persons after the hearing, BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad said, the party had argued that the prime responsibility of the EC was to conduct free and fair elections. “ It should not get into ideology…. Secularism or pseudo secularism…. Or act like an ombudsman of ideology,” he further said.

Prasad argued that the validity of EC's power on derecognition is yet to be tested. “Also, you cannot add, while sitting in the EC, new disqualification norms as the Constitution sets out criteria for eligibility of MPs and MLAs," the party told the EC.

Hinting at the possibility of seeking recourse to legal action, Prasad said the party had informed the panel that option to challenge the EC’s decision legally was open to the BJP.

Congress, BSP, CPI(M) and VP Singh-led Jan Morcha also took part in the proceedings.

Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal said he had argued in favour of the panel issuing an interim order asking the BJP to publicly apologize on the contents of the CD. Similar arguments were placed by the CPM’s Nilotpal Basu and VP Singh led Jan Morcha’s Vipin Malik.