The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Poll over, CPM guns for panel

New Delhi, May 13: Emboldened by its sweep in Bengal, the CPM has turned up the heat on the Election Commission.

On Thursday, soon after the results were out, party general secretary Prakash Karat called for a debate on “reforms” in the commission.

Now, Karat has written to the President about complaints forwarded to him by the commission against party MPs accused of holding offices of profit.

The CPM leader has charged the commission with “violating basic norms of jurisprudence” by forwarding complaints without evidence. It had asked petitioner Mukul Roy to get the relevant information after conceding that his complaint did not have “documentary evidence”.

“We strongly believe that there has been an unwarranted and unjustified exercise of power and authority on the part of the Election Commission of India ' unwarranted because it has violated basic norms of jurisprudence,” said Karat. “Unjustified because the commission has transgressed all rules of fair play.”

The commission’s move gave credence to the allegation that the named MPs do hold offices of profit, he said. “This impression should not have been created by an unbiased constitutional authority like the Election Commission,” Karat added, demanding that it should not proceed further.

“It should reject the purported complaint against the members belonging to the CPM.”

The letter stressed: “No quasi-judicial authority can seek to obtain materials from a party with a view to make out a cause of action where none is disclosed. It was incumbent upon the commission to reject the petition if the petitioner did not disclose any case whatsoever.”

Within hours of its landslide victory in Bengal, where in the absence of a credible Opposition the commission was seen as the government’s main opponent, the CPM leadership put the poll panel in its line of fire.

Following complaints of “scientific rigging” by the CPM in the past, the commission announced a five-phase election this time and deployed an unprecedented number of central paramilitary forces. The ruling party saw this as an affront.

Yesterday, politburo member Sitaram Yechury said in Parliament: “We cannot have the commission saying that they alone conduct free and fair elections.”

He dismissed the contention that the commission is a constitutional body and cannot be discussed in the House, saying: “Parliament can discuss any issue. There is no immunity for anybody.”

But Yechury clarified that the CPM’s demand for reforms has nothing to do with the “appointment” procedure of the members of the commission. That is an issue the BJP is raising a hue and cry about.

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