J. Venkatesan

EC counsel says it involves serious questions of law for future

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to the Tamil Nadu Government on an appeal filed by the Election Commission challenging a Madras High Court order that the Commission's direction to transfer Police Commissioner R. Nataraj was not binding on the State Government.

A Bench comprising Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice D.K. Jain issued the notice after hearing senior counsel Fali Nariman for the Commission and counsel Subramonium Prasad for the State Government.

Mr. Nariman submitted that the matter required consideration as it involved important questions of law. " I am not seeking stay of the impugned judgment." Mr. Prasad said with the transfer of Mr. Nataraj after the poll notification was issued, it would only be an academic exercise and sought dismissal of the appeal.

The Commission asked the State Government to shift Mr. Nataraj taking serious view of an interview given by him in a newspaper saying, "Chief Minister Jayalalithaa is the perfect example of the ideal woman. I think she is an icon and every woman should look up to her."

On petitions filed by the State Government and some former Directors General of Police, the High Court held that the Commission did not have the power to direct transfer of an official before the notification on the commencement of the election process was issued.

Subsequently, Mr. Nataraj was shifted and Letika Saran appointed.

Assailing this judgment dated March 31, the Commission, in its special leave petition, said the model code of conduct would come into operation from the date of announcement of the polls and not from the date of the actual notification.

It had to assess the ground situation in each State regarding infrastructure, postings of several officials including police all of whom would play a vital role in ensuring free and fair elections. The Commission could not be expected to wait till the actual notification for initiating such steps.

If the interpretation of the High Court was to the accepted as being correct it was bound to create numerous difficulties in the smooth conduct of elections particularly during the period following the announcement of the polls and the issuance of the notification, the Commission said and sought a direction to quash the impugned judgment.