Sunday, November 17, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

EC’s order correct: experts
S. Satyanarayanan
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 16
Even as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been questioning the jurisdiction of the Election Commission (EC) to ban the proposed “religious” yatra of the VHP from Godhra scheduled to begin tomorrow, a majority of experts termed the EC decision as “constitutional.”

They said it is the duty of the state government to uphold the decision to avoid “disrespect” to one of the most revered constitutional bodies.

However, one expert felt that the EC is “throwing the Constitution into a state of confusion”.

“The EC has absolute powers to direct the state government to take steps as per the statutory powers available to prevent any event from taking place which could be an impediment to holding free and fair elections,” former Additional Solicitor-General of India C.S. Vaidyanathan told ‘The Tribune’.

In the context of the recent ban by the EC on the religious yatra, any defiance by the VHP due to the failure of the Gujarat Government to prevent it would amount to “disrespect” to one of the most revered constitutional bodies, he said.

Explaining the constitutional position, especially in the event of defiance of the directive, Mr Vaidyanathan said, “Although the EC does not have any power to directly punish the state government which fails to implement its directive, the Central government can take cognisance of the constitutional failure and act accordingly and even impose President’s rule.”

“Despite the announcement of the poll schedule, if the EC feels that the situation is not conducive for free and fair elections, it could defer the poll further,” he added.

Senior advocate of the Supreme Court P P Rao terming the EC decision as “constitutionally right”, opined, “If the affected party (read as VHP) feels that the EC directive is unconstitutional, it is free to knock at the doors of the court.”

“If there is open defiance by the party concerned and the state government as well as the Central Government fail to prevent it, then the EC could well approach the court to ensure that its orders are implemented to its satisfaction,” Mr Rao said.

Jurist and Congress Rajya Sabha Member R K Anand asserted that the EC directive to ban VHP yatra “is well within its constitutional responsibility to hold free and fair elections” and any defiance of its directive will mean an “insult” to the constitutional authority.

“First of all, the state government should have acted on its own to prevent any such yatra which can incite communal tension or law and order problem. And now that the EC has given the directive, any failure on the part of the state government to prevent the VHP yatra should be viewed seriously and President’s rule should be imposed immediately,” Mr Anand said.

On other hand, another expert, P.N. Lekhi, felt that the EC was “throwing the Constitution into a state of confusion.”

In a strongly-worded reaction, Mr Lekhi said, “The whims and fancies of the three gentlemen (in EC) are making the authority of President, Governor, elected government or caretaker government denuded of all the executive powers. Though its (EC’s) recent decisions have been obnoxiously unconstitutional, the EC seems to have got a pat on the back by the decision of the Supreme Court, which is unfortunate for the Constitution and for the country.”

Meanwhile, Election Commission officials refused to comment on the issue.

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