Mumbai: In a setback for former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan, the Election Commission has summoned him for a hearing on May 23 in the paid news case. Chavan is accused of running paid news in newspapers during the 2009 Maharashtra Assembly polls.
The Supreme Court had last week ruled that the EC had power to investigate candidates' poll expenses and could even disqualify them. If disqualified as an MLA, Chavan may face similar action if he is elected as an MP from Nanded this time.
Earlier, speaking to IBN18 Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai, Chief Election Commissioner VS Sampath had said that the commission needs to intensify activities against money power. Here is an excerpt from the interview:
Rajdeep Sardesai: You have been able to, to some extent, stop muscle power but not money power.
VS Sampath: The problem of money power has become acute in the past one or two decades with economic transparency, liberalisation, economic prosperity.
Rajdeep Sardesai: But spending Rs 50 to 60 crore is no longer a level playing field?
VS Sampath: No, that is what I am telling you. So this is all the more reason why the EC should intensify activities against money power. It is not sufficient if the commission alone starts intensifying.
Rajdeep Sardesai: How? You have to disqualify a candidate if necessary. You can't just send a notice. Take the Ashok Chavan case. You sent him a notice in connection with the paid news. Eventually he was found guilty, matters went to the High Court. Now 5 years later the matter is still in the court. Finally the SC has given a verdict. So if I am a candidate I will spend Rs 50 crore and win an election and wait for the commission to disqualify me 5 or 6 years later.
VS Sampath: I have to tell you the legal position in the case. After the nominations are accepted, the candidates are declared as candidates in the elections, until the election is over there is no power with the commission to disqualify a candidate.
Rajdeep Sardesai: The worry is that all you can do is send a notice. So there is no fear within the politician of the Election Commission.
VS Sampath: No, like the arms of the law, the wheels of the law, they will grind, they will keep moving. For example, even in Ashok Chavan's case, since it seems to be a pioneering case, in that matter where the commission has stopped exercising its jurisdiction with regard to the correctness of the accounts because it is the first case, it had to go through the test of judicial scrutiny at the High Court level. It will not be the same for future cases.