Election commission seek action against ‘Lawless Law Minister’

published on February 12, 2012

EC livid over Khurshid’s Code of Misconduct
PIONEER NEWS SERVICE | NEW DELHI/LUCKNOW

In an unprecedented move, a “shocked” Election Commission on Saturday called for an “immediate and decisive” intervention of the President as a “defiant and aggressive” Law Minister Salman Khurshid continued to be “dismissive and utterly contemptuous” of the Constitutional authority by yet again violating the model code of conduct in Uttar Pradesh. Khurshid even dared the Election Commission to take action against him.

In a strongly-worded letter rushed to President Pratibha Patil, Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi said Khurshid’s actions could “vitiate free and fair poll in UP” and termed as “improper and unlawful” his latest act of challenging the election watchdog to “hang him” while raking up the issue of reservation to Pasminda (backward) Muslims.

The BJP, which had earlier in the day complained to the EC about Khurshid’s latest violation of the code of conduct, demanded his immediate sacking from the Cabinet and asked the Prime Minister to clarify the Government’s stand on the “extraordinary situation” that has arisen. The Congress promptly distanced itself from Khurshid leaving him to fend for himself. The Law Minister remained incommunicado. Meanwhile, the Samajwadi Party too demanded Khurshid’s resignation.

Incidentally, the commission chose to complain to the President this time after its attempts earlier to rein in the Law Minister by taking up the matter with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and later by censuring him for violating the code of conduct for his statement on increasing minority sub-quota to nine percent failed to restrain him. A Rashtrapati Bhavan spokesperson said the President took note of the Election Commission’s letter and forwarded it to the Prime Minister’s Office for appropriate action.

While the EC has sought to assert its Constitutional authority, sources said by seeking a “decisive action” against Khurshid, the election watchdog in effect has sought his dismissal from the Government, which it could not have asked for directly. Ideally, in such cases the EC would have got an FIR lodged against the violator by the district returning officer and proceeded against him accordingly.

The EC’s move is unprecedented since never has the Commission sought Presidential intervention and action against a Union Minister in the midst of an election. The PM’s move will be keenly awaited even as it has already given the Opposition yet another opportunity to embarrass the Government and Congress.

Addressing an election meeting in Farrukhabad, from where his wife Louise is contesting the polls, Khurshid had on Friday said that the EC had censured him, but even if the “Commission hangs him or does anything else”, he would ensure that people of Pasmanda community get their rights.

“We have found the tone and tenor of the Union Minister dismissive and utterly contemptuous about the Commission’s lawful direction to him, besides the fact that his action is damaging the level playing field in the election. The above response of a Union Minister and that too, the Law Minister, to the Commission’s decision in a MCC case has created a disturbing situation. The Commission is shocked that instead of being remorseful about the violation of the Model Code, that carries the consensus of all political parties and the sanction of the Supreme Court, the Minister has chosen to be defiant and aggressive. This is unprecedented,” Quraishi wrote, after the full Commission deliberated on the matter in an emergency meeting.

The Commission is perturbed because the undermining of its constitutionally mandated duties has come from the Law Minister who has a direct responsibility to uphold and strengthen the ECI rather than to denigrate it, Quraishi maintained adding the delicate balance of functions between constitutional authorities has come under a strain.

Earlier, in a complaint submitted to the EC against Khurshid, BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said: “If left unchecked, these postures will undermine the legitimacy of the Election Commission and its constitutional obligation for providing free and fair elections. Lest the model code of conduct becomes a toothless wonder, there is dire need for the ECI to impose sanctions more stringent than mere censure.”

“It is now more than apparent that the Law minister will continue undaunted to seek votes on the basis of religion—a practice abhorred by the Commission It is, therefore, necessary in the fitness of things to keep him away from the scene of elections,” he said. Naqvi asked the Prime Minister to immediately sack Khurshid.

Senior BJP leader and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said that these statement shows desperation in Congress to attract Muslims in its fold. “These are appeasement policies which would not work in the on-going election,” he said while his party colleague Rajnath Singh termed it unfortunate.

On the other hand, repeatedly embarrassed by Khurshid-first by his comment on Congress president Sonia Gandhi shedding tears after seeing pictures of Batla House encounter and now him challenging the EC, the Congress distanced itself from the Law Minister’s comment. Congress spokesman Rashid Alvi said the party was not responsible for ‘individual’s comment’ and has ‘nothing to say’ on the Law Minister’s remarks.

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