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Trouble for BJP, hope for Cong

In a setback to the BJP, the EC rejects the party’s demand to keep Election Commissioner Navin Chawla away from the hearing on the controversial CD case, writes Anil Anand.

india Updated: Apr 20, 2007 04:18 IST
Anil Anand

In a setback to the BJP, the Election Commission on Thursday rejected the party’s demand to keep Election Commissioner Navin Chawla away from the hearing on the controversial CD case. The saffron party had released the CD containing communally-sensitive matter 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 bias or apprehension of the same.” Later, it began the hearing on the case and reserved its order on the subject.

The 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 will hear the matter further and adjudicate on it,” it observed.

An embattled BJP, on its part, kept flinging the ideology card at the EC. The party argued that it was beyond the panel’s jurisdiction to decide what constituted secularism.

In related development, the Bahujan Samaj Party petitioned the EC demanding “stringent action” against the publication of a “fictitious booklet” titled Karyakarataon ke liye Behanji ka sandesh. The party claimed 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 demanded the registration of a case against the culprits.

Talking to mediapersons 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 said. Prasad argued that the validity of the EC’s powers 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.” Prasad said the party had informed the EC that the option to challenge the decision legally was open to it.

The Congress, BSP, CPI-M and Jan Morcha also took part in the proceedings. The Congress’s Kapil Sibal said he had argued in favour of the panel issuing an interim order asking the BJP to publicly apologise for the CD.