Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan has claimed that the newspapers on their own might have published complimentary stories on him during the Assembly election on October 13 last year and he had no role to play in the “paid news” scandal.
He also questioned the authority of the Election Commission (EC) to hear the complaint against him and claimed, quoting several verdicts of the Supreme Court, that once a candidate was declared elected, neither the EC nor any other authority had jurisdiction to question his election.
The legal route was the only available option and it could be done only through an election petition. The EC should not have heard the complaint against him in the first place, he said.
Mr. Chavan submitted his argument in writing through his legal counsel Abishek Singhvi when the full Commission – Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla and Election Commissioners S.Y. Quraishi and V.S. Sampath – heard the complaint against him on the “paid news” controversy. The proceedings will continue on July 20.
BJP national secretary Kirti Somaiya, who is the complainant, through counsel Vikram Banerjee and two others asked the Commission to reject Mr. Chavan's contention. He said the provisions relating to the candidate's expenditure accounts was very clear that if there was any failure to submit accounts, or if there was anything improper or defective about it, the Commission could take action under Chapter III and Section 10A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which deal with “Disqualification for failure to lodge account of election expenses.”
According to it “if the EC is satisfied that a person has failed to lodge an account of election expenses within the time and in the manner required by or under this Act, and has no good reason or justification for the failure, the EC shall, by an order published in the Official Gazette, declare him disqualified. Any such person shall be disqualified for three years from the date of the order.” He wanted the EC to punish Mr. Chavan for spending money on “paid news” (asking newspapers to write in his favour) and not showing the expenses in his election expenditure account.
The Hindu had published a series of reports on the malaise of ‘paid news' during both Lok Sabha and Maharashtra State Assembly polls. These included a front page report on Nov. 30, 2009 pointing to the mismatch between Mr. Chavan's claim of having spent a mere Rs. 5,379 on newspaper advertisements and the 47 full pages of ‘news' on Mr. Chavan appearing during the campaign.