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Updated: May 17, 2012 23:43 IST

As EC resumes hearing, Chavan's lawyer raises procedural issue

J. Balaji
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Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan. File photo
Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan. File photo

The Election Commission on Thursday resumed its hearing on the complaint of paid news against the former Maharashtra Chief Minister, Ashok Chavan.

Mr. Chavan's counsel wanted to know the procedure the EC would adopt for the inquiry.

After hearing the matter for more than an hour, the EC adjourned the proceedings to May 29. It asked Abhimanyu Bhandari, counsel for Mr. Chavan, to submit by then a written argument, with a copy to the complainant.

Appearing before Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi and Election Commissioners V.S. Sampath and H.S. Brahma, Mr. Bhandari said the argument so far had centred on jurisdiction — whether or not the EC has powers to inquire into the complaint.

After the Supreme Court allowed the EC on May 2 to go ahead with the probe and keep its report on the findings in a sealed cover, Mr. Bhandari wanted to know whether the Commission was going to adopt the Evidence Act, relating to the Civil Procedure Code, and record the evidence of witnesses on oath.

The Supreme Court specifically allowed Mr. Chavan to raise before the EC all contentions he had raised before it.

Mr. Bhandari claimed that no evidence had been placed on record to prove that any consideration was paid for the alleged media coverage.

Newspaper clippings alone — without any evidence from the reporters who filed the stories — would not constitute any evidence to show payment of consideration.

Counsel for the complainant alleged that Mr. Chavan was trying to delay the case, raising procedural issues as the Supreme Court had made it clear that the EC could go ahead with the hearing and take a decision.

The complaint against Mr. Chavan, who won from Bhokar in the October 2009 Assembly elections, was that he had spent money to secure newspaper publicity, without accounting for it in his election expenditure.

The issue was first raised by The Hindu, as advertisements in support of Mr. Chavan appeared in Hindi and Marathi newspapers, camouflaged as news reports.

The Election Commission initiated proceedings against Mr. Chavan on April 2, 2011, on complaints that he submitted an election expenditure of a mere Rs.11,000, though he had paid money to various newspapers for favourable coverage of his campaign.

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