The Election Commission (EC) has written to the Law Ministry, seeking powers to act against those questioning the poll panel’s credibility through unfounded allegations.
The Commission, The Indian Express has learnt, has sought amendments to the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, to empower it to punish anyone being disobedient or discourteous towards its authority. The letter was written over a month ago and the matter is currently under consideration with the Law Ministry.
In its letter, the EC has cited examples of its counterparts abroad, including the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), which can initiate contempt proceedings against anyone sullying its image. This year, for instance, the ECP issued a contempt notice to cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan for accusing the election body of bias in a case of foreign funding. The case is still being heard by the ECP.
The demand, made by the EC by virtue of being a constitutional authority, is significant against the backdrop of political parties, especially Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), accusing the panel of playing favourites. The Commission, currently, has no specific powers to act in such cases.
Matters came to a head recently when Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal questioned election commissioners A K Joti and O P Rawat’s impartiality in a media interview, prompting the latter to recuse himself from all AAP-related matters in future. The unprecedented decision, Rawat said, was imperative to protect the credibility of the Commission.
Kejriwal, in an interview, had alleged that two of the three election commissioners were close to the ruling dispensation. He was answering a question related to the office-of-profit case being heard by the EC against 21 AAP MLAs. “One of the election commissioners, A K Joti, was chief secretary of Gujarat under (Narendra) Modiji. The second election commissioner has come from Madhya Pradesh and has been very close to Shivraj Singh Chouhan. So, independence of both these election commissioners is under question,” he was quoted as saying.