EC rejects Advani’s plea on Pratibha

His plea that the Presidential candidates declare their assets has met with a 'no', reports Shekhar Iyer.
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Updated on Jul 05, 2007 10:15 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByShekhar Iyer, New Delhi

Leader of Opposition LK Advani’s bid to get the Election Commission to force UPA nominee Pratibha Patil to declare her assets has met with a ‘no’ from the EC.

In response to his letter to the Chief Election Commissioner that the Presidential candidates declare their liabilities and assets just as the MPs and MLAs do, the EC has sent a communication to Advani that Parliament alone had powers to add new criteria for the elections to the office of President.

Relying on a verdict given by the Supreme Court in 1968 in the Babu Rao versus Zakir Hussain case, the EC has said new conditions in the Presidential election process could not be set without Parliament amending the law that dealt with the election of President and Vice President.

This law was exempted from the changes introduced by the NDA government in 2003 to the Representation of People Act for mandatory declaration of assets and liabilities by candidates for all elective posts after the Supreme Court ruled so in another case.

There was no immediate reaction from the BJP to the EC’s decision excepting from BJP’s Prakash Javedekar who reiterated Advani’s stand.

“The poll panel should have issued directions under Article 324 of the Constitution as stated by the Supreme Court in 2002 for the knowledge of the voters. We will give a detailed response tomorrow.”

Other BJP leaders said, however, the EC’s rejection of Advani’s plea could bring focus on NDA-backed independent nominee Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, forcing him to declare his assets on his own to put pressure on Patil to do so.

Two days ago, Shekhawat’s spokesperson Sushma Swaraj had said he would wait for the EC to respond to Advani’s plea before taking any suo moto step.

The BJP, on its part, finds the EC’s reasoning not to its convenience. Questions are being asked on why the NDA government did not amend the law in 2002 to include the posts of President and Vice-President within the Supreme Court’s directive to the EC for candidates to declare their assets and liabilities.

The Vajpayee government had inserted 33(a) in the Representation of People’s Act (in response to the apex Court’s verdict on asset declaration) to make it mandatory for all candidates contesting for elective posts to give a declaration in this regard.

The BJP had hoped that Patil would be forced to declare her assets and liabilities in the light of allegations against her.

Now, after his appeal to the UPA to replace Patil, Advani has now sent a six-page hand written letter to all MPs and MLAs, seeking a conscience vote “to uphold the dignity of Rashtrapati Bhavan” in the July 19 election.

Advani, who addressed each voter as friend, recalled how a state of Emergency was declared in the country in 1975. "If you have in the president's chair a pliant person, who is loyal not to the Constitution, but just to an individual, this is always likely to happen," he said.

All members of the electoral college, he added, were expected to weigh the integrity and competence of the candidates.

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