Monday, March 23, 2009

Varun takes on Election Commission over 'harsh' censure

Hitting out at the Election Commission, Varun Gandhi Monday said he was deeply disappointed 'over the unseemly haste' shown by the poll panel in censuring him over his alleged hate speeches and added that it smacked of being done under political pressure.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate from Pilibhit in Uttar Pradesh said he had not been given a 'fair opportunity to appear in person or through counsel' to establish his innocence.
'It is astonishing that such harsh censure should be used without any attempt to ascertain the truth,' Varun Gandhi said in his reply to the Election Commission, a day after the poll panel held him guilty of making communally inflammatory campaign speeches.
The Election Commission had said the 'two speeches (by Varun Gandhi) contained highly derogatory references and seriously provocative language of a wholly unacceptable nature against a certain community'.
Not sparing the BJP, the order stated: 'Any sponsorship of his candidature by the BJP, or any other political party, at this election would be perceived as endorsing his unpardonable acts of inciting violence and creating feelings of enmity and hatred between different classes of citizens of India, destroying the social, democratic and plural fabric of the country.'
Gandhi said in his reply: 'Having received the EC order late last night at 11 p.m. after it had been issued to certain sections of the media much before me, I cannot help but express my deep disappointment over the unseemly haste in which the Election Commission has passed an opinion without giving me even a fair opportunity to appear in person or through counsel to establish my innocence.'
He said that on March 20 in his interim reply to the poll panel he asked to be supplied with the material forming the basis of their notice to enable him to respond appropriately.
'But sadly in utter disregard of the principles of natural justice, the EC has in haste and in unusually censorious language, passed an opinion,' he added.
The BJP candidate further said: 'The EC passed an opinion without providing me a personal hearing, a copy of the report and any material on what the report is based, showing me or even seeking out for itself the original recording (if at all it exists), examining authenticity or source of the tape and without independently applying its mind and conducting a thorough examination of the material (for it cannot be called evidence).'
He also pointed towards other candidates with more serious charges fighting the elections.
'I must point out that there are several candidates in the fray even today who have been convicted of or are being tried for crimes which carry a far larger sentence than the one of which I am accused. In fact the papers over the last few days indicate to us that people against whom cases are pending in the context of 1984 riots have also been given tickets by a major political party,' he said in his reply.
'Despite the same, at least till now, I find that EC's eagerness to exercise its 'recommendatory jurisdiction' begins and ends with my case alone. This itself coupled with the haste with which the EC has acted leaves one to believe that the action has been pressurised by political considerations,' he added.
Gandhi also charged the poll panel with acting beyond its jurisdiction and surpassing its powers.
'Also, in making adverse remarks and recommendations to the BJP and all other parties the EC has acted beyond its jurisdiction and has surpassed its powers including under Article 324 of the Constitution of India.'
He said that he remains confident as he believes that his real court of appeal lies with the people.
'Although by your own action, you have conveyed that confidentiality of communication is not a concern, I am nevertheless extending the courtesy of informing you that this letter is being simultaneously released to the press,' Gandhi said.
Varun Gandhi was sent a notice by the poll panel for the alleged hate content of his election speeches made in Pilibhit. The BJP has said that Varun Gandhi remains its candidate for Pilibhit in Uttar Pradesh.

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