Maharashtra assembly sends poll official to jail

March 28th, 2008 - 12:16 am ICT by admin  

(Lead)

Mumbai, March 27 (IANS) In an unprecedented action, the Maharashtra legislative assembly Thursday sent the state’s Chief Election Commissioner Nand Lal to jail for two days for bringing impediments in the working of its privileges committee. Shortly after the order, Nand Lal was picked up by the police from his office in south Mumbai and taken to the Arthur Road Jail.

The two-day imprisonment is a reduced version of the seven-day imprisonment recommended by the house privileges committee that went into the issue of the breach of privilege of the house allegedly committed by the senior bureaucrat by issuing a special gazette notification during the 2006 local bodies election in the state ‘amending’ the state law governing them.

While Nand Lal described his arrest as political vendetta for not succumbing to pressure from Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh regarding delimitation of the Latur assembly constituency, privileges committee chief Janardan Chandurkar said the panel had sought opinion of the solicitor general of Maharashtra and the Lok Sabha secretariat.

Latur in Marathwada is Deshmukh’s hometown.

The genesis of the case, dating back to the 2006 district council and village council elections in the state, lies in Nand Lal’s action - in his capacity as Maharashtra’s chief election commissioner - of issuing a special gazette notification on his own accord promulgating changes in the law governing the conduct of local bodies elections.

Nand Lal had written to then Maharashtra governor S.M. Krishna proposing to effect some modifications in the law. The governor referred the matter to the government and its department of law and judiciary gave an opinion that the proposed changes were not necessary.

This was communicated to the official who then issued the special gazette notification overruling the government, Chandurkar told a TV news channel Thursday.

The privileges committee recommended civil imprisonment of seven days for him for not cooperating with it during its two-year work of examining the case - he did not appear before the committee but sent written response communications and documents through his subordinates.

Deshmukh, however, brought down the imprisonment period to two days.

The punishment is only for bringing impediments in the working of the privileges committee by not cooperating with it and not for breach of privilege of the house which Nand Lal allegedly committed by issuing the notification amending the law passed by the state legislature - the committee is yet to give its verdict on the issue, Chandurkar said.

Nand Lal has been the state election commissioner since June 15, 2004. His relations with the Democratic Front government, however, have not been at their best, particularly with Deshmukh. The officer has targeted Deshmukh several times in the past.

Senior Congress legislator Chandrakant Chajjed told mediapersons that an explanation was sought from Nand Lal for the first time on March 27, 2006 and since then he has been called for explanation at least eight to 10 times.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator and the party’s state unit chief Nitin Gadkari condemned the government’s “malafide” action against Nand Lal, a constitutional authority.

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