M S Gill slams E C for notice to Sonia

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New Delhi, Feb 17 (UNI) Former Chief Election Commissioner M S Gill today came down heavily on the Election Commission for seeking on explanation from Congress President Sonia Gandhi on her being conferred with highest civilian honour by the Belgian Government and felt that Indians getting such honours should be 'appreciated and not derided'.

Taking exception to the EC issuing notices on a 'frivolous petition' questioning the Congress President's loyalty to the nation after receiving civilian honours from foreign governments, Dr Gill told UNI that former President of United States dwight D Eisenhover, former French President Charles De Gaule, among others, had all been past recipients and it should have been a matter of pride rather than taking note of numerous petitions field before the EC.

Stating that the notices issued by the EC amounted to 'harassment for self publicity', he said the the body should have issued notices only after 'careful consideration and pros and cons' of such action. He also noted the judicial officers at the Magisterial level too were tempted to follow such a path, issuing notices on petitions that should have been 'summerily dismissed'.

''Too many of such notices will affect the 'credibility' of the institutions they represented,'' he said without taking names.

Dr Gill, presently a Nominated Member of Rajya Sabha said at a time when British Government thinks of offering honoujring cricketer Sachin Tendulkarwith a peerage in recongnition of his contribution to the game, issual of notices to citizens for making the country proud was not a correct trend.

The former CEC also 'agreed and sympathised' with the contention of Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee's grievance against former President A P J Abdul Kalam for forwarding all complaints on the Office of Profit Bill without verifying facts.

The office of the Speaker of Lok Sabha is a high constitutional office in Indian democracy and Mr Chatterjee's arguments were 'valid'. His grievances should have been tackled 'wisely' by the President's Secretariat before sending the complaints to the EC.

A newspaper report quoting Mr Chatterjee said that the Speaker was 'surprised' when the President's office referred the complaint of Trinamool Congress leader Mukul Roy alleging that Mr Chatterjee had occupied the office of profit by virtue of being the Chairman of the Sriniketan Shantiniketan Development Authority (SSDA). He was peeved that the President's office, without seeking any explanation, had sent the letter to the EC, which, in turn, acted as an 'investigation agency'. "When the Government expanded the list of exception for the office of profit, it looked as if I was being exonerated", Mr Chatterjee was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

UNI MCN VD GC1908

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