J. Venkatesan IN THE HINDU
‘Grounds pleaded in petition do not fall within ambit of disqualifications laid down in the law’
We cannot add or lay down any new grounds for disqualification: Election Commission
NEW DELHI: The Election Commission (EC) has held not maintainable a complaint filed by an advocate alleging misuse of public funds by the Uttar Pradesh government for installation of statues of elephants and Chief Minister Mayawati to promote the symbol of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
On a petition from advocate Ravi Kant, the Supreme Court asked the EC to pass appropriate orders on the petition.
The State government contended that the Commission had no jurisdiction to seek information about the statues and the expenditure when no election process was notified.
It argued that there was no provision under the Representation of the People Act and the Rules to call for such information.
Difference in posture
The BSP contended that the elephant statues showed the trunk raised in a welcome posture, whereas in the party symbol, the trunk was lowered.
Mr. Ravi Kant argued that the statues of elephants installed in temples were symbolic, whereas the intention behind installing a large number of statues of elephants was clearly to draw political mileage for the BSP.
He also sought the disqualification of Ms. Mayawati.
The EC — comprising Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi and Commissioners V.S. Sampath and H.S. Brahma — in its order on October 11 said: “The grounds pleaded in the petition of Mr. Ravi Kant seeking disqualification of Ms. Mayawati do not fall within the ambit of any of the disqualifications laid down in the law.
“The Commission cannot add or lay down any new grounds for disqualification. Therefore the prayer for her disqualification is rejected.”
Role of Model Code of Conduct
On the plea for freezing the BSP symbol, the EC said this question could be considered only if the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) was violated. It was well settled that the MCC would come into play only when the Commission announced the schedule for an election. The order, however, said that if a party, whether ruling or in the opposition, by misusing public funds for its own partisan ends, “erects or installs statues of its party symbol, even during non-election period, the party cannot absolve itself of the accusation that it has acted in breach of salutary principles underlying the objects of the MCC— maybe not in letter, but undoubtedly in spirit.”
‘Cannot gauge impact’
The EC said it was not in a position to gauge the impact of the statues and the extent of impact on the mind of the electors as the State government had refused to furnish even the basic information as to where and how many statues had been installed.
‘No undue advantage’
While holding that the complaint was not maintainable, the EC, however, said: “At the time of elections, the Commission would no doubt take appropriate steps and measures to see that the statues of Ms. Mayawati and the BSP’s symbol ‘elephant’ do not disturb the level-playing field and give undue advantage to the BSP vis-à-vis other political parties.”