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Paid news case: Delhi HC stays EC show cause notice to Ashok Chavan

In a temporary reprieve to Congress leader and former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan, the Delhi High Court on Monday put a stay on the Election Commission showcause notice sent to him after he was found guilty of fudging poll expenses.

The EC had issued a notice to Chavan asking him to explain why he should not be disqualified for not giving correct details of his 2009 poll expenses.

The Election Commission had on July 14 ordered former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan to submit his representation within 20-days.

In its notice, the Commission stated that Chavan failed to file his election expenses in the manner as required by the law.

Setting a 20-day deadline to respond to the notice, the Commission said, “He (Chavan) has failed to lodge his account of election expenses in the manner required by the (Representation of the People) Act and rules.”

The EC order further said a candidate who is declared disqualified by the Commission under Section 10 of the RP Act “incurs disqualification for contesting further elections to any House of Parliament or State Legislature for a period of three years” and also for continuing as member of any such House if he is already a sitting member from the date of the order of the Election Commission and not from the date on which he contested the election or was elected at such election.”

“Therefore, the resignation of the respondent from the membership of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly on 22nd May, 2014, has no effect or impact on the continuance of the present proceedings before the Commission and the proceedings shall continue unabated until logical conclusion thereof,” Paragraph 70 of the EC order said.

The full bench of the EC comprising Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) VS Sampath and Election Commissioners HS Brahma and SNA Zaidi issued the 104-page order.

Meanwhile, Chavan, who became CM of Maharashtra in December, 2008 replacing Vilasrao Deshmukh, said that the show-cause notice issued to him by the EC has vindicated his and Congress’ stand and “there is no question of paid news.”

“Our stand on the paid news issue has been confirmed by the Election Commission. Even the High Court and Supreme Court had taken a similar stand when our opponents had filed a petition. The courts had rejected their petition. Now this (EC) order is also very clear. There is no question of paid news,” Chavan told reporters.

The EC notice to Chavan caused a major embarrassment for Congress, which won just two Lok Sabha seats out of the state’s 48 in the Lok Sabha Elections 2014.

In 2009 Assembly elections, after Chavan won from Bhokar seat in Nanded, his opponent, independent candidate Madhav Kinhalkar, filed a complaint with the EC, accusing him of hiding expenses on a ‘paid’ supplement titled Ashok Parva (The era of Ashok) in a leading Marathi daily.

However, the ex-chief minister and the daily’s management denied the allegation saying that the supplement was not a paid one.

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