'Arjun Singh's quota remarks not media's imagination'
New Delhi, May 11: The media has found an unlikely ally in the Election Commission over news reports attributed to HRD Minister Arjun Singh on the controversial issue relating to OBC quota in premier government-run educational institutions such as IITs and IIMs.
''It would be a case of credulity stretched to its breaking point if one were to attribute all that was reported in the media...to nothing which was said to them but to merely a figment of their imagination,'' the commission said in its five-page letter sent to Cabinet Secretary B K Chaturvedi yesterday.
Pointing out that persons in power had, for obvious reasons, a ''higher responsibility'' in upholding the Model Code of Conduct, the EC said, ''In the instant case, the Commission had come to the sad conclusion that they cannot be perceived to have done so.'' However, the EC clarified that it was not pronouncing an adverse finding of the violation of the Model Code of Conduct by Mr Arjun Singh as it was aware that ''circumstantial evidence, however good, cannot completely substitute for conclusive proof.''
The commission observed that ''maybe, Shri Arjun Singh did not specifically mention any percentage of seats to be reserved for the OBCs, but it cannot be gainsaid that his statement, rather assurance, on 5th April, 2006, that the reservations would be effective from the coming academic year did trigger a nationwide debate, and agitation on a highly sensitive issue concerning the whole country, including the people of the five States/Union Territory (Pondicherry) which were in the thick of elections then.''
It said three facts stood out in the whole episode. First, the Cabinet Secretariat had sent back on April 3 the quota proposal received from the HRD Ministry on this issue, stating that account be taken of the fact that the election process had already commenced in five states and that the proposal may, therefore, be submitted for consideration of the Cabinet either after consultation with the EC or kept pending till the election process was over.
Second, Mr Arjun Singh ''did say, rather assured on 5th April, 2006'' that reservation would be effective from the coming academic year 2006-07 and would cover central institutions.
Third, a rash of electronic media reports, attributed to the Minister, appeared on April 5 and 6 on this issue which did not merely state that the government was contemplating a law but also mentioned the percentage of reservations, the institutions which it would cover in its ambit, the EC said.