The Election Commission pulled up the Union home ministry on Friday over news that it had announced fresh compensation for 1984 riot victims, questioning why it had not denied the media reports if no decision had been taken in this regard as claimed by the government.
In an order on the issue, the EC said the absence of a denial by the home ministry led to an “unmistakable impression” that a decision has actually been taken.
The commission said there should be an assurance that "such instances do not recur in future."
The EC was deciding on the home ministry's response to its notice issued on October 31 after news appeared that the government would give a fresh compensation of Rs 5 lakh to each of those killed in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
The commission had asked the government to give an explanation on the news item by November 3 as the election model code of conduct was in place in view of assembly bypolls in Delhi.
Referring to the MHA's response to an earlier EC letter, the poll watchdog said while government has maintained that no decision was taken regarding compensation, the news was "widely published" and disseminated not only in the print media but also on the electronic media.
‘Several panel discussions on various TV channels were also arranged,’ pointed out the EC order sent to the MHA.
‘The commission has also not come across any denial of the above news by the government in the electronic media, etc. Thus, it cannot be denied that the above news item gave an unmistakable impression to the electorate that a decision to the above effect was in fact taken by the government and that had the likelihood to effect of disturbing the level playing field when the Model Code of Conduct was in force in Delhi in the context of the then ongoing bye-elections to the Delhi assembly (for three seats), which ought to have been avoided,’ the two-page order said.
In its October 31 letter, the EC noted that the model code of conduct was in force in Delhi where by-polls were to be held to three assembly seats -- Krishna Nagar, Mehrauli and Tughlaqabad -- on November 25.
These seats fell vacant after the MLAs were elected to the Lok Sabha in general elections in May.
Since the President dissolved the Delhi assembly on November 4, the bypolls have since been cancelled.
The home ministry has decided to give Rs five lakh each to the next of kin of 3,325 victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots triggered after assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
The compensation to the families of the anti-Sikh riot victims will be given in addition to what they have so far received from the government and other agencies from time to time, a senior government official said.
Of the 3,325 victims, 2,733 were killed in Delhi alone while rest of the victims were from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and other states.
But on November 3, the home ministry had informed EC that it has not taken any decision on the compensation.