New Delhi, May 9: The Supreme Court today put an interim stay on the Election Commission’s (EC) proceedings against former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda.
The single judge order, by Justice Altamas Kabir, gave the EC four weeks to reply to Koda’s petition questioning the jurisdiction of the commission to quiz him.
The EC is probing whether Koda submitted inaccurate account of expenditures during the 2009 parliamentary elections. It claims that Koda’s expenses run contrary to his Income Tax (IT) records.
Koda, who is also the Singhbhum MP, currently under trial in a Ranchi prison for various financial irregularities he allegedly committed as chief minister.
Koda’s plea to Delhi High Court that only Jharkhand High Court had the power to judge the veracity of his poll accounts was rejected in September last year. He then refused to appear before the poll commission on the grounds that he had filed a petition in the Supreme Court.
Koda’s case was clubbed with that of another former chief minister, Ashok Chavan (Maharashtra) who has been accused of paying publications to print news in his favour before the elections.
Both Koda and Chavan, who stand to lose their seats if found guilty, have challenged the jurisdiction of the EC.
On May 2, the Supreme Court allowed the poll panel to continue its probe into allegations against Chavan but directed it not to disclose its findings until the apex court gave its verdict on the former chief minister’s petition.
While the EC claims that the Representation of the People Act empowers it to probe candidates who are suspected of giving false accounts, Koda and Chavan claim that the commission can only check the manner of filing the accounts and not their veracity.
An EC source said: “It is surprising that the court gave an interim stay to Koda straightaway when in a similar case (Chavan’s) they allowed us to continue the probe. We will study the notice and reply to it.”
Speaking to The Telegraph, Koda’s lawyer Himanshu Shekhar said, “If your friend, your cousin or any supporter goes and spends money in the name of getting you elected, you cannot be hauled up for that. If there is a question of inaccurate accounts, only the high court can go into it. The Election Commission does not have the power to conduct a roving enquiry based on documents given by the Income Tax department.”