No regret over decision on Modi's Varanasi rally, says V S Sampath

No regret over decision on Modi's Varanasi rally, says V S Sampath

No regret over decision on Modi's Varanasi rally, says V S Sampath

Outgoing chief election commissioner V S Sampath on Thursday said he stood by his decision on standing by returning officer of Varanasi who denied permission for Narendra Modi’s rally at Benia Bagh during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

Sampath also strongly argued that politicians facing murder and other serious charges should be disqualified from contesting elections.

Sampath will be succeeded by senior-most Election Commissioner H S Brahma, who will take charge on Friday.

Just before demitting office on Thursday, Sampath said politicians charge-sheeted for murder and other grave crimes should be disqualified from contesting elections in order to de-criminalise politics.

Sampath also defended his decision to stand by the deputy commissioner and returning officer (RO) of Varanasi, Pranjal Yadav, who had in May denied permission to the Bharatiya Janata Party to hold a rally to be addressed by its prime-ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

Sampath’s decision to stand-by the RO revealed cracks within the poll panel, with Brahma latter revealing to the media that he had not completely endorsed the way the BJP had been denied permission to hold the rally in  communally-sensitive Benia Bagh in Varanasi.

Sampath said that he had no regrets for standing by the deputy commissioner-cum-RO of Varanasi.

“Election is an exercise in level-playing field. Whatever may be the stature of the persons involved, it is the duty of the Election Commission (EC) to deal with the situation without getting unduly affected by the stature of the personalities,” Sampath told journalists on Thursday.

“The EC, unless it has some overriding reasons (to do otherwise), would not doubt the decision-making capabilities of people, when they have taken all relevant factors into account like security aspect of the VIP,” said the outgoing CEC.

He noted that the EC had made recommendations to the government seeking disqualifications of candidates facing cases in which charges were framed by courts and in which charges framed could attract a sentence of five years.

“This is one of the long-pending demands of the EC in the area of electoral reforms. We have said for quite some time that it is not sufficient that people are disqualified on conviction.

Earlier, even after conviction, the legislator was allowed to run the rest of the term by filing an appeal. That was remedied by the Supreme Court’s order on instant disqualification upon conviction,” he noted.

“But what we are asking is why allow the person who is likely to be convicted later creating a vacancy, preventing even at the contest stage (criminal candidates) with of course some safeguards,” said Sampath, who argued for more deterrent against use of “paid news” during elections.

“The only deterrent now is that if he (a candidate) indulges in paid news extensively, he would be breaching his expenditure limits. But, at the same time, it is not a sufficient deterrent,” he said, arguing use of paid news should be made an electoral offence.
DH News Service