New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Election Commission to proceed with its probe into the authenticity of former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan`s spendings during the 2009 state assembly polls allegedly involving expenses on "paid news".
A bench of justices Altamas Kabir and J Chelameshwar, however, asked the Commission`s counsel Meenakshi Arora to ensure that findings of the probe if completed are "kept in a sealed cover".
The bench passed the order on an application moved by former state minister Madhav Kinhalkar seeking direction to the Commission to complete the probe before June 10 as the present Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi is due to demit office by that date.
Acceding to the plea, the apex court said the Commission can go ahead with the probe and the findings but these shall not be made public.
The bench further posted for hearing on Thursday the Special Leave Petition filed by Chavan challenging the Commission`s jurisdiction to entertain the complaint of "paid news" against him.
On November 3, 2011 a three-judge bench of justices Altamas Kabir, S S Nijjar and J Chelameswar temporarily halted the Commission from probing Chavan`s poll account on his appeal against a Delhi High Court order, which had allowed the probe.
While staying the EC probe, the apex court bench had also issued notices to the poll panel, the Maharashtra unit of the BJP and other complainants including Kinhalkar, BJP leaders Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Kirit Somaiyya on whose plea the probe had been launched.
On September 30, the high court gave the poll panel its
green signal to go ahead with the probe into Chavan`s poll account on the complaints of the then Congress chief minister taking advantage of the "paid news".
However, the apex court on November 3, 2011 stayed the EC probe.
The EC had begun proceedings against Chavan on April 2, 2011 on the complaints, which alleged that he had shown to the Commission a poll expenditure of merely Rs 11,000 despite paying money to various newspapers for favourable coverage of his election campaign.
Chavan had challenged the EC probe against him saying that the Commission had no power to probe his account, but the high court had said the poll panel was well within its right to probe it.
The high court on September 30 had given the poll panel its green signal to go ahead with the probe into Chavan`s poll account on the complaints of also former state minister Madhav Kinhalkar, who was defeated by Chavan from the Nanded assembly constituency.
While dismissing Chavan`s plea against the poll panel`s probe, the high court had said, "The Commission can go into the truthfulness or untruthfulness of the accounts filed by the elected candidates.
"The Commission has correctly appreciated and understood the law laid down therein and, therefore, we concur with the view expressed by it (EC)," the bench had said.
While dismissing Chavan`s plea, the high court had also dismissed a similar plea by former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda, currently in judicial custody in Ranchi for his alleged role in a money laundering and corruption case.
The EC had begun proceedings against him for his alleged failure to submit his detailed poll expense account in a 2009 bye-election in which he was elected as Singhbhum MP.