Election Commission’s prestige at stake in Dewas
Posted October 20, 2009on:
The prestige and authority of the Election Commission are at stake – in Dewas where a Madhya Pradesh minister is on trial. The criminal complaint against the minister was registered at the instance of the Election Commission during last year’s Assembly elections.
The case has reached a crucial stage with Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) of Dewas D.K.Mittal framing charges under Sections 353 (assault or criminal force to deter a public servant from discharge of his duty)
Bhaskar, a multi-edition Hindi daily reported
on October 25 that the government of
Shivraj Singh Chauhan had started
proceedings for the withdrawal of the
criminal case against Tukojirao Puar and
and 504 (intentional insult) of Indian Penal Code (IPC) against Minister of Sport and Youth Welfare and Tourism Tukojirao Puar and former BJP MP Phoolchand Verma. They were said to have threatened the Returning Officer for Sonkutch (SC) constituency in Dewas district. Originally, the complaint against the two was filed under Sections 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 353 and 506 (criminal intimidation) of IPC.
As the scrutiny of the nomination papers was being held, Tukojirao Puar, who was only Minister of State at the time, accompanied by Phoolchand Verma, had created a ruckus in the office of Dewas Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Sanjana Jain, who was the returning officer for the Sonkutch (SC) constituency. Phoolchand Verma was the BJP candidate from Sonkutch while the Congress had fielded its sitting MLA Sajjan Singh Verma. Puar’s constituency was Dewas
Puar and Phoolchand Verma wanted Sanjana Jain to reject Sajjan Singh Verma’s nomination papers because, they claimed, he did not submit Form-B (letter of authorisation from the party) within the stipulated time. As the lady officer tried to explain the things, Puar had lost his temper and he and Phoolchand Verma had started threatening her and shouting that she had taken a lakh of rupees for adjusting Sajjan Singh Verma’s Form-B, submitted belatedly. The rowdy behaviour of the BJP leaders had lasted for quite some time
After receiving a report, accompanied by a CD of the proceedings in her office, from Sanjana Jain, the Election Commission had pondered over the matter and directed the Chief Electoral Officer of Madhya Pradesh to get a criminal case registered against Puar under Sections 186, 353 and 506 of IPC. As the Sections make it a cognisable offence, Puar was subsequently arrested by the police. At the same time, the Election Commission had ordered immediate removal of Dewas Collector Navneet Mohan Kothari, who was the District Returning Officer, for not sending SDM Sanjana Jain’s report to the Commission promptly.
Shivraj Singh Chauhan told an election meeting at Dewas a few days later that he was proud of Tukojirao Puar. Not only that, he elevated Puar to the cabinet rank when he formed his government after the elections. Puar had won in Dewas but Phoolchand Verma had lost in Sonkutch.
Some time later Dewas SDM Sanjana Jain, who was the Returning Officer for Sonkutch (SC) constituency, again found herself on the wrong side of Puar while trying to carry out the Collector’s instructions and was summarily shifted to a not-so-significant desk job in Bhopal.
Minister of Cooperatives Gauri Shankar Bisen was receiving complaints of adulteration in foodstuffs in Dewas district. He directed the Collector to look into the complaints. The Collector constituted a team headed by SDM Sanjana Jain. In the course of collecting samples from eating-places, Sanjana reached Amrit Restaurant and Sweets. As she was taking the samples, owner of the Restaurant Dinesh Gupta called Minister Tukojirao Puar.
Puar reached the shop in no time and gave a solid tongue-lashing to Sanjana Jain for not being considerate to an ardent BJP supporter. As she insisted on collecting the samples, as she had been doing from other shops during the past week, Puar rang up chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan who was said to have talked to an obliging chief secretary Rakesh Sahni. The same night an order was issued taking Sanjana Jain off the field duty and posting her to a semi-clerical post in Bhopal. The very next day she was relieved of his responsibilities in Dewas. (The government that works with the lightning speed!).
Chauhan has repeatedly shown contempt against the Election Commission’s dictums against the officers who have violated the model code of conduct to serve the interest of Chauhan or his party. He has rewarded such officers at the first opportunity once the period of the code of conduct is over. Moreover, Madhya Pradesh has a despicable record of subverting a fair trial if the accused happen to be the members of the Parivar. Sabharwal murder trial is the latest example. Earlier a Dalit youth was awarded death sentence allegedly for the murder of two young Brahman girls even though he was not even in that town that day. The youth’s life was saved by the Supreme Court which had to say some harsh things about the way the investigation and prosecution of the case was conducted.
There is thus every possibility that the trail of Puar will be derailed at some stage unless, of course, the Election Commission takes interest and deputes its own legal experts to handle the prosecution. If there is a mistrial and Puar and Verma go scot-free, it will have far-reaching demoralising effect on the officers; no one is then likely to take on influential politicians in the name of fair elections.