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July 28, 1999
Bal Thackeray loses his right to vote
The Election Commission of India has debarred Bal Keshav Thackeray, leader of the ruling Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, from contesting elections or exercising his right to vote till December 10, 2001.
A gazette notification to this effect was issued on July 17, 1999, after the commission's recommendation received President K R Narayanan's assent, EC sources said.
The Supreme Court had convicted Thackeray for corrupt electoral practices and on December 11, 1995, advised the President to debar him from contesting or voting in elections for a period of six years.
The President, however, referred the matter to the Election Commission for its advice. The commission constituted a two-member bench comprising Chief Election Commissioner Manohar Singh Gill and Commissioner J M Lyngdoh to look into the matter.
The bench sent its decision to the President on September 22, 1998.
After considering the various recommendations, the President finally decided to debar Thackeray on July 17 with retrospective effect from December 11, 1995. The period of disfranchisement will, therefore, last only till December 10, 2001.
Subsequently, Maharashtra Chief Electoral Officer D K Sankaran has ordered the deletion of Thackeray's name from the voters' list in Bombay.
Sankaran said he had issued the necessary orders to the Bombay Suburban district collector.
Thackeray's disfranchisement came as a surprise to veteran Congress politician Prabhakar Kunte who had filed the complaint of corrupt electoral practices against the Sena politician.
Kunte thanked the Election Commission, the Supreme Court and the Bombay high court for having made the debarment possible. "I also thank President K R Narayanan for giving assent to the Election Commission's recommendation banning Mr Thackeray from contesting elections and exercising his franchise till December 10, 2001," he said.
Kunte had filed his case in the Bombay high court after losing a by-election to the state assembly way back in 1986 from the Vile Parle constituency in Bombay North-West against Ramesh Prabhoo of the Shiv Sena.
A former state minister, Kunte cited three communal and inflammatory speeches made by Thackeray during the electoral campaign. Justice S P Bharucha, later to be elevated to the Supreme Court, heard the petition and held Bal Thackeray guilty in 1987. As punishment, Justice Bharucha recommended that Thackeray be debarred from contesting or voting in elections.
The judgment was duly challenged in the Supreme Court, but Thackeray lost the case there too.
As evidence, Kunte had produced recordings of the three speeches of the Sena leader. The speeches had also been recorded by the Bombay police.
The Nationalist Congress Party also welcomed Bal Thackeray's disfranchisement.
NCP spokesman Vasant Chavan said Thackeray often fans communal and caste hatred in the state, which cannot be allowed. He said the Sena politician had paid the price for his arrogance and adamancy.
Chavan added that since Thackeray had been debarred from voting, he should also not campaign for his party on "moral grounds".
Meanwhile, the Bombay police have been put on full alert to avert any trouble arising from Thackeray's debarment.
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