EC complains to President against 'defiant' Khurshid
In an unprecedented action, the Election Commission on Saturday night sought the "immediate and decisive" intervention of President Pratibha Patil after it charged Law Minister Salman Khurshid with "improper and unlawful" defiance of its orders under which he was censured for promising sub-quota for minorities.
In a strongly-worded communication to Patil, the commission said Khurshid's action could "vitiate free and fair polls" in Uttar Pradesh and that the EC was "perturbed because the undermining of its Constitutionally-mandated duties has come from the law minister who has direct responsibility to uphold and strengthen the ECI rather than to denigrate it".
Meanwhile, acting swiftly on the complaint, President Pratibha Patil on Saturday night sent it to the office of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for "appropriate action".
"The President has taken note of the Election Commission's letter and forwarded it to the PMO for appropriate action," Rashtrapati Bhavan spokesperson said.
The commission took the unprecedented decision to complain against a Union minister to the President after Khurshid had told an election rally in UP earlier in the day that he would continue to pursue the line on nine percent sub-quota for minorities 'even if they (EC) hang me'.
Khurshid had earlier been censured for the same statement made on January 8 while campaigning in UP, with EC holding that it was violative of the Election Model Code of Conduct.
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Image: In a strongly-worded communication to President, the EC said Khurshid's action could
'Instead of being remorseful, the minister has chosen to be defiant'
The decision of writing to the President came after an emergency meeting of the full three-member commission headed by S Y Quraishi.
Never before has EC sought presidential intervention to rein in a Union minister in the middle of a crucial election and EC decision is bound to embarrass the government and Congress Party.
Patil may pass on the complaint to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to seek his comments on the issue which was immediately seized by Bharatiya Janata Party to demand Khurshid's dismissal.
The EC said the defiance by a Union minister of the Constitutional body was "unprecedented" and his "improper and unlawful action" has put a strain on the delicate balance of functions between Constitutional authorities.
"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," it said.
"The commission is approaching you with serious dismay and a deep sense of urgency that requires your kind intervention in the midst of the poll process in the state of Uttar Pradesh," said the EC letter to President.
Image: The EC said the defiance by a Union minister of the Constitutional body was "unprecedented"
'A disturbing situation has been created'
The EC cited "certain statements and announcements" made by Khurshid during the course of his campaign in UP, one of which was to the effect that the Congress would provide a quota of 9 percent reservation to the minorities within the existing quota of 27 percent for OBCs.
"He (Khurshid) also indicated that Muslims having a sizeable population will be benefited from this move," the letter noted.
The EC pointed out that it had censured Khurshid for these statements but on Saturday he said he would continue to pursue that line "irrespective of whatever the commission directs".
The EC 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 letter said.
Underlining that the "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 EC said.
"We find the immediate need to draw attention of the executive to the fact that the onus of holding free and fair polls falls on all organs of the state."
Image: Khurshid's action is damaging the level playing field in the election, EC noted in its letter to President