Maha ex-CM in soup over fund fraud in elections

Maha ex-CM in soup over fund fraud in elections

Maha ex-CM in soup over fund fraud in elections

Former Maharashtra chief minister and Congress MP Ashok Chavan landed in serious trouble on Sunday when the Election Commission (EC) indicted him for not mentioning
expenditure he had incurred on publication of advertisements during the 2009
Assembly polls.

The poll panel has also asked him to explain his position within 20 days.

In a strongly worded order, the commission has asked him to explain why he should not be disqualified from the electoral process as per provisions of the Representation of People Act for his failure to disclose his account of election expenses for publication of 25 advertisements in various newspapers in Maharashtra.

“The respondent (Chavan) had given his implied authorisation for the publication of the 25 advertisements in various newspapers, and had knowingly taken advantage of such publications of the advertisements relating to the public meetings/rally of Sonia Gandhi, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Salman Khan,” observed the poll panel.

Though the chain of consequences is not clear at this moment, any unfavourable decision by the EC may have a bearing on Chavan's continuation as Lok Sabha member.

In the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, the Congress had tried to stop the EC from pursuing the case by approaching the Delhi High Court and Supreme Court. But efforts went in vain.  

“The commission has decided that the respondent (Chavan) has failed to lodge his account of election expenses in the manner required by the Act and rules. The commission is of the considered view that the respondent cannot validly claim ignorance about the publication of the above-mentioned 25 advertisements in which his name, the name of his constituency and also his photograph prominently appeared,” said an EC bench.

The bench consisted of Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath and Election Commissioners H S Brahma and S N A Zaidi, in its order.

On allegations of paid news against Chavan, however, the poll panel noted that they should be seen as general party propaganda for the Congress and highlighting the achievements and development works undertaken by the state government headed by Chavan.

“The commission is of the considered opinion that the aforementioned publications, although can be established as being sourced from the political parties (by the admission of Pudhari newspaper and corroborative evidence of identical articles in other newspapers), cannot be held to be promoting or procuring the election of the respondent from the Bhokar Assembly constituency,” it observed.

Reacting to the order, Chavan, who recently won the Lok Sabha polls on a Congress ticket from Nanded, told Deccan Herald, “I did not give any consent for the publication of these advertisements. The commission has asked me to furnish details of the expenditure incurred on publication of advertisements worth Rs 16,000. I will submit my reply.”

Chavan’s had unsuccessfully pleaded that even if the total expenditure on the ads, which according to his calculation comes to Rs16,924, was added to his expenditure of Rs 6,85,192 incurred or authorised by him in connection with his election, such total expenditure would come nowhere near the maximum limit of Rs 10 lakh, as permissible under the law, noted the panel.

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