EC to start hearing of paid news case against Ashok Chavan

NEW DELHI: With the Supreme Court having given its clearance earlier this month, the Election Commission has announced its decision to proceed with the hearings in the “paid news” case against former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan.

The case pertains to a complaint filed by Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Madhavrao Kinhalkar, Kirti Somaiya and four others regarding publication of advertisements in various newspapers during the election campaign period for the Maharashtra Assembly held in September-October 2009 ‘in the garb of news eulogising him and his achievements as CM’. Chavan had won assembly polls from Bhokar constituency.

The Commission is to commence hearing on 17 May. Sources in the Commission told that the case will be heard expeditiously so that it does not have to start anew under a new incumbent since the Supreme Court noted that chief election commissioner SY Quraishi is laying down office on 10 June.

The complaint alleged that Chavan had showed just Rs 5,379 as the expenses on newspaper advertisements in his accounts filed before the Commission. In the complaint filed on November 2009, it was specifically prayed that the account of election expenses of Chavan under Section 10 A of the Peoples‘ Representation Act 1951 should be investigated.

Chavan had moved the Delhi High Court and then the Supreme Court, but both ruled that the EC was well within its rights to probe the accounts.

Justices Altamas Kabir and J. Chelameshwar on 2 May said the EC could go ahead with the probe but the findings should not be made public. The EC had begun proceedings against Chavan on 2 April 2011.

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