Zee Media Bureau/Sushmita Dutta
Mumbai: Rejecting his explanation over the paid news case, the Election Commission on Sunday ordered former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan to submit his representation within 20-days.
In a major setback for the Congress leader, the Commission has also slapped a show cause notice to him, saying that he failed to file his election expenses in the manner as required by the law.
Setting a 20-day deadline to respond to the notice, the Commission said, "He (Chavan) has failed to lodge his account of election expenses in the manner required by the (Representation of the People) Act and rules."
According to reports, Chavan has been found guilty by the EC of fudging poll expenses during state Assembly Elections in 2009.
In the notice, the EC has asked Chavan as to why he should not be disqualified, reports said.
The EC order further said a candidate who is declared disqualified by the Commission under Section 10 of the RP Act "incurs disqualification for contesting further elections to any House of Parliament or State Legislature for a period of three years" and also for continuing as member of any such House if he is already a sitting member from the date of the order of the Election Commission and not from the date on which he contested the election or was elected at such election," PTI reported.
"Therefore, the resignation of the respondent from the membership of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly on 22nd May, 2014, has no effect or impact on the continuance of the present proceedings before the Commission and the proceedings shall continue unabated until logical conclusion thereof," Paragraph 70 of the EC order said.
The full bench of the EC comprising Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) VS Sampath and Election Commissioners HS Brahma and SNA Zaidi issued the 104-page order. It had reserved its decision on the issue on June 19.
Meanwhile, Chavan, who became CM of Maharashtra in December, 2008 replacing Vilasrao Deshmukh, said that the show cause notice issued to him by the EC has vindicated his and Congress` stand and "there is no question of paid news."
"Our stand on the paid news issue has been confirmed by the Election Commission. Even the High Court and Supreme Court had taken a similar stand when our opponents had filed a petition. The courts had rejected their petition. Now this (EC) order is also very clear. There is no question of paid news," Chavan told reporters.
The latest development in the Maharashtra politics may bring more trouble to Congress which won just two Lok Sabha seats out of the state`s 48 in the Lok Sabha Elections 2014.
If the charges are proved then Chavan will be disqualified after which the party`s tally will be reduced to just one.
In 2009 Assembly elections, after Chavan won from Bhokar seat in Nanded, his opponent, independent candidate Madhav Kinhalkar, filed a complaint with the EC, accusing him of hiding expenses on a ‘paid’ supplement titled Ashok Parva (The era of Ashok) in a leading Marathi daily.
However, the ex-chief minister and the daily’s management denied the allegation saying that the supplement was not a paid one.
Taking the above matter into consideration, the EC today said that it cannot accept Chavan`s plea that he was totally unaware, ignorant or had no knowledge of publication of all these advertisements.
Later, the Delhi High Court in 2010, declined Chavan’s plea seeking a stay over the Election Commission`s proceedings. He then moved the apex court in November 2011.
However, on the directions of the Supreme Court, a show cause notice was issued to Chavan by the EC earlier this year asking him to appear before it in connection with the said case.
Earlier, the Supreme Court had passed an order, in which it had given a free hand to the EC to inquire into complaints of paid news cases against any politician.
Meanwhile, welcoming EC`s move, the state BJP president Devendra Fadnavis today said, "EC took step towards a corruption free India, we congratulate them & await final verdict."
With agency inputs