A day after S K Mendiratta, legal advisor to the Election Commission of India for over five decades, told The Indian Express that he was not consulted on the disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs for holding “office of profit”, and delinking the announcement of Gujarat elections from Himachal Pradesh, the AAP hit out at the commission, calling it biased.
“Since the time the disqualification case was being heard by the EC, we have been saying that their working seems biased. Once the election dates for Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat were delinked, the Congress alleged that the EC was biased. Now it is clear and proven that the EC is biased. In an independent country, where the entire democracy and democratic process is under the watchful eye of the EC, it poses a massive danger,” said AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj.
Both decisions, taken when A K Joti was Chief Election Commissioner, had been met with criticism. In the AAP MLA’s disqualification case, the Delhi High Court had said it was against the principles of natural justice to not give them a hearing. The court had asked the EC to define ‘office of profit’ and give the MLAs a hearing. The MLAs have now been called by the EC on May 17.
In the Gujarat election schedule issue, the Opposition had alleged that the Commission favoured the BJP government by giving it a longer window to campaign. “This is very alarming because it shows that the EC is biased… If the advice is not coming from the legal advisor, Mendiratta, it is coming from the PMO. It is clear that the BJP and EC are conspiring to destabilise the Delhi government,” Bhardwaj said.
Mendiratta had Wednesday told The Indian Express at Idea Exchange, an interaction with the newsroom, “I was (working) on contract with them (EC). I have given them my opinion whenever it was sought. In this case (office-of-profit complaint against AAP), they did not feel the necessity of seeking my opinion. So I (have) just kept away.”
“Public perception is (the) main strength of the Election Commission. We have to see that the public perception (of EC) does not go down. The way some people have come up to me and discussed things, (it seems) these two or three decisions may have created some dent in the fair name of the Election Commission. I would not like to mince words,” he added.
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