Ex-Maha CM Chavan's poll account stayed by SC

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today stayed an ongoing probe by the Election Commission 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 three-judge bench of justices Altamas Kabir, SS 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 also issued notices to the poll panel, the Maharashtra unit of the BJP and other complainants including BJP leaders Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Kirit Somaiyya on whose plea the probe had been launched.

The bench sought replies to its notices within two weeks and posted the matter for further hearing on December 2.

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.

The EC had begun proceedings against Chavan on April 2 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. 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.

Koda, in a separate petition to the high court, had challenged the EC notice of October 7, 2010 and January 26, 2011, threatening him with disqualification for allegedly not filing detailed accounts about his poll expenses during the 2009 elections.

The Delhi Highh Court had also dismissed his plea, empowering the poll panel to go ahead with the probe.