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EC gears up for office of profit fallout
March 26, 2006 15:02 IST
With disqualification petitions flooding it, the Election Commission is gearing itself to handle the fallout of the controversy over the office of profit and Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance's battle against one of the Election Commissioners, Navin Chawla.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi's action of resigning her Lok Sabha seat may have made the petitions for her disqualification infructuous but the complaints against the other incumbent MPs, including Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, are still unresolved.
The EC has already taken notice of the petitions received against 10 Communist Party of India (Marxist) MPs, including the Speaker, and others. In most of the cases it has sought more information from the petitions because 'details were lacking', sources said.
Specifically the EC has asked the petitioners including Mukul Roy of the Trinamool Congress to give details like the date of appointment of the MPs to the office said to be held by them, along with documentary evidence to substantiate the contention that these were offices of profit.
This is considered significant because the EC's jurisdiction is said to come into force when an MP or MLA becomes a subject of disqualification only if he is appointed to the post after he becomes a member of the House.
In case the MP or MLA had been appointed before his election, then a complaint could only lie in the form of an election petition in the High Court, which is also bound by law of limitation, experts say.
Chatterjee has maintained that he does not hold any office of profit and he has been chairman of Sriniketan- Santiniketan Development Authority under the West Bengal Town and Country (Planning and Development) Act, 1979, for the last 17 years.
Sources in the EC say that they were well-equipped to handle the cases of disqualification, which is held as a quasi-judicial forum adopting the principles of natural justice giving parties adequate time.
Meanwhile, the Chief Election Commissioner may also be saddled with the task of going into the NDA complaint to the President against Chawla as and when it is referred to him. So far, the complaint has not reached the EC.
In the complaint signed by over 200 MPs, the NDA has demanded removal of Chawla as an EC for which the CEC, under the Constitution, is empowered to give his recommendation to the President.
Chawla has been accused of proximity to the Congress and the Trusts owned by his family allegedly received funds mainly from Congress politicians including from the MP Local Area Development scheme.
Article 102 and 103 of the Constitution provides for disqualification of MPs on various grounds, including if he holds any office of profit under the government of India or any state other than an office declared by Parliament or Assembly by law not to disqualify its holder.
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