Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan has claimed that the Election Commission has no powers to continue its hearing against him on the “paid news” controversy
The proper forum to hear it is the High Court or the Supreme Court and the complainant should file an election petition, he said.
The Commission, which was supposed to continue its hearing against Mr. Chavan on Tuesday, adjourned it after he sent a 25-page representation to it after the July 10 hearing. The Commission has now forwarded the July 12 representation to the complainant — BJP national secretary Kirit Somaiya — for his rejoinder and asked him to send it within three weeks.
Mr. Chavan quoted judgments of various courts and raised his strong objections to the Commission going into his election expenditure issue. He said that as per Section 78 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, the election authority could only check whether the election expenditure account was properly filed or not and could not go into the details of each expenditure.
He also quoted Article 329 (b) of the Constitution, which read: “No election to either House of Parliament or to the House or either House of the Legislature of a State shall be called in question except by an election petition presented to such authority and in such manner as may be provided for by or under any law made by the appropriate Legislature.”
Mr. Chavan said under this Article a winning candidate's election could be challenged only through an election petition.
But Mr. Somaiya dismissed Mr. Chavan's claim. He said the Commission had the authority to inquire into such complaints. He even quoted Chapter III and Section 10A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which dealt with “Disqualification for failure to lodge account of election expenses.”
The complaint against Mr. Chavan was that he arranged publication of news items, masquerading as advertisements, in newspapers praising him in the 2009 State Assembly elections and he had not properly accounted for the expenses in his election expenditure accounts. But he claimed that the newspapers on their own might have published complimentary stories on him.