Belgian row: Former CEC Gill bats for Sonia

Updated on Feb 17, 2008 03:07 AM IST
MS Gill, who has been the longest serving CEC, told HT that the panel had “no reason” to even deliberate on the complaint which alleged that by accepting the Belgian honour.
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Hindustan Times | By, New Delhi

The controversy generated by divergent views in the Election Commission on the handling of the “frivolous” complaint against Congress president Sonia Gandhi receiving a Belgian honour in 2006 was “avoidable” and “has not done any good to the panel” said former Chief Election Commissioner MS Gill.

Gill, who has been the longest serving CEC, told the Hindustan Times that the panel had “no reason” to even deliberate on the complaint which alleged that by accepting the Belgian honour, Sonia had shown allegiance to that country’s Constitution.

Sonia was conferred the Order of Leopold, the second highest civilian award in Belgium, and an honorary doctorate by the Belgian government during her visit to the European country in November 2006.

The commission had on Friday, by a majority of 2:1, issued notice to Gandhi seeking her response to an allegation that she had incurred disqualification as Member of Parliament by accepting the award from the King of Belgium. The majority felt that the commission had to give the person against whom a complaint had been received the opportunity to respond to the charge, irrespective of the merits of the case.

“This petition should have been summarily dismissed by the EC… I see no reason for the EC to debate on this petition whose sole purpose seems to be to seek publicity,” Gill said.

“Having remained in Nirvachan Sadan for eight years, it makes no sense to me to have issued notice on the Belgian award subject,” he emphasised.

Referring to the growing trend of such petitions and complaints being filed with impunity, Gill said certain people who “want to be noticed and seek self-importance” indulge in such acts. He felt that the “superior judiciary” should take serious note of these tendencies and deal with the matter sternly”.

Gill wondered how being honoured by a foreign country affected the nationalistic feelings of a person. In the past many world leaders like the former French President Charles De Gaulle were honoured by the Belgian government. India too has bestowed honours on world leaders like South African leader Nelson Mandela. He asked, “Have they become less patriotic after being honoured for their contributions by other countries?”.

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