EC writes to Prez against Khurshid
New Delhi, February 11
Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid is in trouble for challenging the authority of the Election Commission.
In an unprecedented action, the poll panel tonight sought the "immediate and decisive" intervention of President Pratibha Patil after it charged Khurshid with “improper and unlawful” defiance of its orders under which he was censured for promising sub-quota for minorities.
Acting swiftly on the complaint against Khurshid, the President sent the EC’s letter 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,” a Rashtrapati Bhavan spokesperson said.
In a strongly worded communication to Patil, the Commission said Khurshid's action could “vitiate free and fair polls” in Uttar Pradesh.
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”.
The Commission decided 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 9% 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.
The EC said it was “perturbed” and asked the President to ensure that the EC carries out the duties in accordance with the “constitution and the law”.
In a two-page letter to the President sent through a special messenger, Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi, said “Union Minister (Khurshid) goes on to say that he would stick to his line (on minority quota). We have found the tone and tenor dismissive and utterly contemptuous about the Commission’s lawful direction to him”.
“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 letter. “He (Khurshid) also indicated that Muslims having a sizeable population will be benefited from this move,” the letter noted.
The EC has said his action is damaging the level playing field in the election.
The Commission has expressed shock 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, the letter goes on to say.
Earlier in the morning, the BJP moved the Commission seeking a ban on Khurshid's campaigning in Uttar Pradesh in view of his alleged defiance of the poll body's censure for remarks on sub-quota for minorities' remarks.
The BJP made it clear “If left unchecked, these postures will undermine the legitimacy of the EC and its obligation for providing free and fair elections”.
The BJP complaint said, “Lest the model code of conduct becomes a toothless wonder, there is dire need for the EC 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”.