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EC to extend deadline for CoP panel

By Staff
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Chennai, Mar 23: The Election Commission of India (ECI) today informed Madras High Court it would extend till tomorrow the undertaking that it would not insist on the panel of names for appointment as COP, since arguments were inconclusive on petitions challenging the transfer of Commissioner of Police (COP) R Nataraj.

Following this, a Division Bench comprising Mr Justice P K Misra and Mr Justice F M Ibrahim Kalifullah said the interim order already passed, would continue to operate and postponed the hearing to tomorrow.

Resuming arguments, Advocate General N R Chandran said, ''the contention that the COP's statement would influence the minds of the people, and they would remember it till May eight was wrong and irrational. The COP's statement had nothing to do with the election.

He did not say vote for Ms Jayalalitha.'' Referring to another contention that the state government filing a petition showed personal interest, Mr Chandran said, ''when the ECI had encroached upon the right of the state, based on a complaint, should the state government not defend him.'' ''The state was aggrieved by EC orders because EC had directed the government to send a panel of names. Who was the authority to select the COP? The COP was not governed by the code of conduct,'' he added.

Additional Advocate General A L Somiyaji, also appearing for the state, submitted that the EC jurisdiction would come into play only when the election was notified.

The act was aimed at conducting free and fair election but the power of jurisdiction of the EC was only after notification. The EC had no business to say 'you appoint or suspend or dimiss a person,' he said.

Mr Somiyaji said the model code of conduct applied only to political parties and candidates and not to officials. All clauses in the code dealt with what should be done and what not for political parties. Reservoir of power of the EC would start only when the notification was issued and ended with declaration of results. As the notification had not yet been issued, the EC order had to be set aside. Otherwise, it amounted to interference with the executive power of the state.

He said the COP had expressed his personal views and opinion, and many people might not agree. His statement was not meant to influence voters' minds. He was not addressing a police officers' conference or election meeting. The view that his statement would influence the mind of voters was a perverse view, Mr Somiyaji added.

N Jyothi, appearing for former DGP Lakshminarayan, an intervenor, submitted he had not come to the court to show solidarity but to show that by this transfer, a stigma was created.

According to the EC notification, when an officer was transferred he would not be posted in future elections. This stigma was imposed on the CoP without notice to him.

Mr Nataraj had only spoken about the Chief Minister and not AIADMK General Secretary. Had he mentioned other names including chairperson of UPA, Sonia Gandhi, would EC pass this order? In this case, whether the COP had influenced voters or not, the EC had been influenced by somebody, he said, adding, the EC could not be guided by men in power. The EC must know its limitations, he added.

UNI

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