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HC seeks rethink on Jogi bag ban

New Delhi, Nov. 18 (PTI): Delhi High Court today asked the Election Commission to reconsider its decision to ban procurement of five lakh school bags meant for SC/ST children after the Chhattisgarh government gave an undertaking that it will not distribute them before the Assembly elections.

Justice B.D. Ahmed, who had earlier sought clarification from the commission on its October 24 directive to the state government to stop distribution and procurement of the bags, asked it to let its decision known in a week.

The direction came on a petition by D.M. Pocketwala, who bagged the order for supplying school bags with chief minister Ajit Jogi’s photographs printed on them. Pocketwala had challenged the poll panel’s bar on procurement, saying it would jeopardise the contract.

“It is understandable that the commission stopped distribution of school bags to enforce the model code of conduct in view of the forthcoming elections, but it could not have stopped the procurement as the contract was entered into much before the elections were announced,” Pocketwala’s counsel submitted.

The bags manufactured in Mumbai are now in transit across the state, the counsel informed the court.

The Chhattisgarh government today filed an affidavit undertaking not to distribute the school bags till completion of the poll process. “If the election commission lifts the ban on procurement, we will ensure that the school bags are not lifted till polls are over,” the government said.

Earlier, the commission’s counsel had said: “We do not have any problems in allowing procurement of school bags provided the Chhattisgarh government undertakes not to distribute the same till completion of the electoral process...”

The poll panel maintained that it was a routine practice to enforce the model code of conduct after announcement of polls.

CM exempted

Jogi, who had been charged by the CBI with using forged documents to tarnish the image of the Centre and the Intelligence Bureau, was today exempted by a Delhi court from personal appearance in the case till January 15.

Metropolitan magistrate Shahabuddin granted the exemption after Jogi’s counsel pleaded that being at the helm of affairs, he could not leave Chhattisgarh at election time.

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