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Poll panel steps into RS debate
Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, June 5: The Election Commission today moved the Supreme Court against the order of a vacation bench that had stayed the Rajya Sabha polls questioning the practice of electing members from states they did not belong to.

In an application filed in the apex court, the commission contended that the notification for the June 21 elections had already been issued and that under the Constitution, “once the election process” has been initiated, no court could intervene.

The interim order came yesterday on a public interest litigation by columnist Kuldip Nayar, a retired nominated member of the Upper House, who argued that the practice of electing members from states other than their own was unconstitutional and sought their disqualification.

In their order, Justices Ruma Pal and B.N. Agarwal directed the commission not to issue a notification for the biennial polls scheduled for June 23. “If the notification is not published in the gazette, it shall not be published and if it is already published, it shall not be given effect to,” the bench had said and fixed June 14 as the next date of hearing.

Seeking vacation of the order, the poll panel pointed out that the notification for the elections had been issued on Friday morning and the election process was already on.

The commission said under Article 324, “superintendence, direction and control of elections” were “vested” with it and pointed out several earlier verdicts of the apex court by which an election petition could be brought only after the elections were over.

A standing counsel for the commission said the poll panel’s application might be taken up on Monday itself, “given the urgency of the matter”.

He said an unprecedented constitutional impasse would arise out of the apex court’s interim stay order as a few Union ministers are yet to be elected to either House of Parliament.

Shivraj Patil, who lost the Lok Sabha election from Latur in Maharashtra, has been made home minister. He has to be elected to the Rajya Sabha within six months. Congress veteran P.M. Sayeed was defeated from Lakshadweep but made a minister. He, too, has to be elected to the Rajya Sabha.

PMK chief S. Ramadoss’ son, Anbumani Ramadoss, is also a minister and has to be elected to the Upper House.

Another Congress casualty could be Gandhi family loyalist Satish Sharma, who vacated the Rae Bareli constituency for Sonia Gandhi and was expected to be brought to the Rajya Sabha from Andhra Pradesh.

But Congress sources do not see any threat to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh — who is from Punjab but was elected from Assam — even if the apex court quashes the elections. They said the court’s order is unlikely to have retrospective effect.

Asked to comment on the interim order, Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said: “The matter is sub judice. The Government of India will place its views before the court when the matter comes up for hearing. We hope the issue will be resolved soon.”

The CPM today issued a statement saying the Rajya Sabha is the council of states and the members elected should be from the states concerned.

It also called for a return to secret ballot in elections to the Upper House.

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