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Sangma says Pranab holds office of profit,govt denies

Opposition nominee seeks cancellation of Pranab’s candidature; govt says ex-FM resigned from ISI chairman’s post on June 20

Written by Express News Service | New Delhi | Published: July 3, 2012 2:50:14 am

Giving a new twist to the presidential election,Opposition candidate P A Sangma on Monday sought cancellation of UPA nominee Pranab Mukherjee’s candidature on the ground that he continues to head the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) in Kolkata as its chairman—designated as an office of profit—which should disqualify him as per prescribed eligibility criteria.

Sangma’s move created a flutter as his authorised representative Satya Pal Jain filed a formal complaint before the Rajya Sabha Secretary General,the returning officer for the Presidential poll,but the UPA regrouped itself shortly to reject his charge and contend that Mukherjee had quit the ISI last month itself.

“Mr Mukherjee had resigned as Chairman,ISI,on June 20,a week before he filed his nominations,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister P K Bansal told reporters after he and Home Minister P Chidambaram held consultations with Mukherjee.

A PTI report quoted unnamed officials of the ISI confirming this statement and contending that his name still being on the ISI website was a mistake. “Pranab babu has already submitted his resignation as ISI council chairman on June 20. But by mistake,Mukherjee’s name continues to be on the ISI official website. It still consists of names of several retired and veterans of ISI,” the institute official was quoted by the news agency.

Mukherjee will give a formal response to the returning officer by Tuesday afternoon,UPA managers said.

Sources in the Rajya Sabha secretariat said some other complaints had been filed against Sangma as well as by other candidates in the fray,and even though they appear frivolous,the returning officer would have to address them all and announce his verdict by Tuesday evening. Monday was the last day for scrutiny of forms for the July 19 poll,but the period was extended by a day in the wake of complaints.

In his three-page complaint,Jain has contended that Article 58 and 59 of the Constitution lay down qualifications and disqualifications for anyone contesting the Presidential election. Section 58(2) says,“A person shall not be eligible for election as President if he holds any office of profit under the Government of India or the Government of any state under any local or other authority subject to the control of any of the said state.”

The complaint contends that Mukherjee has occupied the office of chairman of ISI,an elected post,since 2006 and that,as per information gathered from various sources,he has not resigned from the post till date. The compliant has cited Mukherjee’s Lok Sabha website profile which states that he continues to be chairman of the ISI,Kolkata. By evening,however,his name had been taken off from the website.

The BJP has demanded that the Election Commission seize all records of the ISI to uphold the “constitutional propriety,integrity and transparency” of the election to the highest office. General secretary and chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said,“In the wake of the objections raised over the candidature of Mukherjee,his nomination is fit to be rejected”.

Government managers have additionally contended that the ISI,in any case,falls in the list of offices of profit that have been exempted. As stated under the Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Act,1959,which was amended on August 12,2006,the ISI,Kolkata,is listed at No 4 as an office of profit that does not disqualify the holder for being chosen as an MP,they maintained.

Prasad,however,countered this,saying the exemption applied only for MPs and MLAs and not for those contesting the Presidential poll.

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