Says promise of quota was made by him as Law and Minorities Minister
In a landmark decision, the Election Commission on Thursday censured Union Law and Justice Minister Salman Khurshid, who is also in charge of Minority Affairs, for violating the model of code of conduct during an election rally in Uttar Pradesh on January 8. It warned him not to repeat such violation.
He had promised a sub-quota of nine per cent for minorities in Uttar Pradesh out of 27 per cent reservation in jobs and educational institutions for the Other Backward Classes.
“In the above circumstances, the Commission hereby censures Shri Salman Khursheed and hopes and expects that such violations of model code would not be repeated by him in future,” said Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi and Election Commissioners V.S. Sampath and H.S. Brahma in their joint order dated February 9.
This is the first time in the history of the Commission, that a Union Law Minister, who has certain administrative control over the EC, is being censured by it and that too after giving him a chance for personal hearing. Congress spokesman and senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi appeared before the EC on behalf of Mr. Khursheed.
The Minister had made the promise while speaking at an election rally in Farrukhabad constituency (Uttar Pradesh) where his wife Louise Khurshid is seeking election.
The EC said it had come to the inescapable conclusion that Mr. Khurshid made a new promise to a distinct targeted group of the electorate among the minorities (on sub-quota). The EC was also satisfied that the promise was made by him as a Union Minister for Law and Minorities Affairs. “The Commission, therefore, cannot help expressing its deep anguish and disappointment over his violation of the model code of conduct. As a Union Minister for Law and Minorities Affairs, he has an added responsibility of ensuring that the model code is observed in letter and in spirit so that elections are conducted in a free and fair manner and all political parties enjoy a level-playing field in the matter of their election campaigns,” it said.
The BJP is the complainant in the case and on behalf of the party its spokesman and senior advocate Ravi Shankar Prasad appeared before the EC on February 3.
The Minister, who himself is a lawyer, had earlier maintained that his speech was just a pro-active one and repetition of what the Congress intended to do to the minorities in the election manifesto to be released.
Moreover, the promise he made (on sub-quota) was already there in the Congress' manifestos for the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and 2002 and 2007 U.P. Assembly polls and there was nothing new. He had only made a declaration of intent and not a policy announcement, Mr. Khurshid had claimed.