‘Unease’ in EC, poll panel deliberates response to Opposition alarm over central agencies action

English | 02 April, 2024 | 10:07 AM
સાંજ સમાચાર

There is a concern that the EC should not be seen as interfering in a judicial process and come in the way of the law taking its course.

There is a sense of “unease” in the Election Commission (EC) over how to respond — if at all — to the Opposition alliance’s demand that the poll panel “stop coercive action” by Central agencies to ensure a level-playing field in the Lok Sabha elections, The Indian Express has learned.

Sources said meetings have been held to explore ways to address the string of concerns — in a five-point charter — raised Sunday at the Ramlila Maidan by Opposition parties regarding fairness of the poll process.

One option, they said, is to issue an advisory to investigative agencies, calling for “neutrality and impartiality” — an echo of what the EC had done in 2019 when it had told the ED to act neutrally after Opposition parties had accused the party in power of using agencies against them. The Commission, it is learned, is also deliberating whether there is room to “go beyond” what was stated in its 2019 advisory.

At the same time, there is a concern that the EC should not be seen as interfering in a judicial process and come in the way of the law taking its course. Sources said that the Commission has to balance the need for a level-playing field for all political parties with the imperatives of due process.

On Sunday, at least three former CECs had told The Indian Express that the action by Central agencies against Opposition parties could potentially upset the level-playing field during the Lok Sabha polls. Two of them said there is scope for the EC to intervene and question why such action cannot be deferred until after the polls.

A Delhi court on Monday sent Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to judicial custody till April 15 after he was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate on March 21. When Kejriwal had knocked at the Delhi High Court after his arrest, the court had refused to interfere at the time, but issued notice to the ED. This case is listed for final disposal on April 3.

On the I-T actions against it, the Congress party had sought a stay on withdrawal of Rs 135 crore from its bank accounts in March this year, but lost its appeal before the Income-Tax Appellate Tribunal. The party also lost in the Delhi High Court a challenge to the search operations conducted by the I-T department. The party had argued that these were “time-barred” and a “delayed action”. It has so far received notices demanding Rs 3,567 crore in taxes for eight years.

Given that the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the I-T department, on Monday told the Supreme Court they “will not take any coercive steps till the elections are over”, sources said a decision by the EC on whether or not to respond formally to the Opposition concerns will be taken soon.

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