The Election Commission filed a counter affidavit, defending its order appointing Bhola Nath Director, Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption, DGP, replacing Letika Saran, an action which had drawn the ire of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi.
A Division Bench, comprising Justices Elipe Dharma Rao and M Venugopal had taken suo motu cognisance of a news report on Karunanidhi’s criticism of the Election Commission’s action following which the commission filed a comprehensive affidavit on Monday.
“It is open to the EC to nominate any officer as DGP for conducting elections for avoidance of any controversy. This could never be treated as bias and any such interference is totally unwarranted,” the the Election Commission stated in the court. The court had said Karunanidhi’s statement raised questions whether the The Election Commission could unilaterally announce and fix poll schedule with long gaps between voting and counting dates without following principles of deliberations and consultations.
It had also raised questions whether the Election Commission could unilaterally order transfer of officials in general and DGP in particular without consulting the state government. In reply, the Election Commission said it is within its powers to nominate any DGP for conducting the polls, which cannot be questioned.
The Election Commission also noted Saran has not questioned its decision on the ground of bias and the court cannot take notice of the chief minister’s statement in an election meeting.
“It is within the powers of the Election Commission to decide who shall be district election officer or who shall be the superintendent of police of a district concerned,“ counsel said.
In its affidavit, the Election Commission also asserted it has ample powers under the Constitution, CrPC and Income Tax Act to order search and seizure of vehicles and houses to prevent money distribution.
The court had also earlier directed the Election Commission not to conduct searches or seizures without the authority concerned arriving at “subjective satisfaction” on the nature and source of information.
The court had passed an interim order on a PIL by a retired schoolteacher, seeking direction to restrain authorities from conducting “illegal” and “arbitrary searches” and seizing materials from vehicles on important highways.
When the matter came up on Monday before the First Bench, comprising Chief Justice M Y Eqbal and Justice T S Sivagnanam, Election Commission counsel G Rajagopalan sought a stay, saying it had flooded with reports of money distribution, but it was unable to take any action.
The Election Commission informed the court that cash and property running into crores of rupees had been seized in searches,which had yielded 9,000 detonators and large quantities of sarees and silver. The bench has posted further hearing for Tuesday.