Justice hegde on salman kurshid
Union Law Minister Salman Kurshid landed himself in a mess when during the election campaign in Uttar Pradesh he promised a 9 per cent sub quota for the minorities in state government jobs if the Congress won in the state. This was something that the Election Commission of India did not take too kindly and termed it as a violation of the election code of conduct.
The Election Commission of India even wrote to the President of India seeking an intervention into the matter. Today however the Congress has chosen to downplay the incident while stating that it has instructed none of its leaders to violate the poll code of conduct. However the Congress remained silent on the fate of Salman Kurshid.
The rules on this issue are very unclear and considering it was a first time offence only a reprimand would be possible, according to former Judge of the Supreme Court of India, Justice Santhosh Hegde.
Justice Hegde spoke with rediff.com about the issue and also stated that it appears to be a clear ploy on part of the Congress. Whether Kurshid is pulled up or not really does not matter too much here, because the party has finally announced what it wanted to while catering to the 19 per cent minority population in Uttar Pradesh.
I feel that sacking Kurshid is too much of a punishment considering it was a first time offence. A proper reprimand should be what both the Government and the Election Commission should be looking into now. However if he decides to challenge any order of the Election Commission once again or does not follow the poll code of conduct then it would be suitable to act against him by disqualifying him. This is something that the Election Commission could recommend and ultimately it is in the hand of the government as to what action needs to be taken. However there is a need for a precedent to be set and hence it is important that there are strong words which come out from the government.
However action ought to be taken on the issue. It is not as though Kurshid was not aware of the consequences or the law and the legalities attached when he made such a statement. It appears as though he said that he cared a damn about the Election Commission of India and also the poll code of conduct.
Kurshid did try to get away by saying that this was a government policy and not an announcement per se when he was speaking about the 9 per cent quota. It is not as though he did not know what was right and what was wrong during an election campaign. Ultimately this is just a jugalary of words and the Congress has done it very smartly. However in my view what Kurshid has said is surely a violation of poll code of conduct. One cannot announce new projects during the course of an election and I feel that the Election Commission is doing the right thing by taking up this matter seriously.
In this issue I find that the hands of the election commission are tied. They have pointed out a certain violation. However there is not much they can do either. Hence they have written to the President of India who again has nothing much to do in this issue. At the end of the day it is Kurshidâ€™s party which will have a bigger role to play as they are the ones who should be acting on the issue.
Will the Congress act is another issue all together. They appear to be desperate in Uttar Pradesh. They have put Rahul Gandhi in the front and are now desperate to prove their point. They can go to any extent to ensure that his campaing does not go wasted and hence all this circus. They have miscalculated the entire scenario and have put Rahul Gandhi in front and they are now going to all possible lengths to ensure that he does not come out a loser at the end of it.
Kurshid in my view is not that naÃ¯ve that he would not understand the repurcussions of such statements. He was a very good advocate and is also a decent man. Hence I feel that these statements are engineered. I in fact was surprised when I saw a man like Kurshid making such a statement. What has surprised me more is that he chose to confront the Election Commission which is a constitutional body. He holds a very high office and according to me people in high offices must show character instead of resorting to such things. Challenging an authority such as the Election Commission in my view is something uncalled for. In my view he ought to have settled this diplomatically instead of dragging it and showing defiance in the first place.
I do not think that the Congress would sack Kurshid. As I pointed out earlier these are not his statements, but appear to be engineered as the Congress is desperate in Uttar Pradesh. Moreover they are also aware that there is not much either the Election Commission or the President of India can do as the ball is very much in their court. However it would be good for the system is the party could show some character so as to set a precedent and ensure that such things do not happen in the future.
The bigger issue is whether it is too late. The message has been conveyed by the Congress and they have managed to tell the 19 per cent Muslim population about what they would do once they come to power. This exactly was the game plan and it has paid off for the Congress.
Although the existing law provides for a reprimand as it is a first time offence, I personally feel that stronger laws ought to be in place so that politicians do not get away with such statements which are aimed at pulling in the votes. Moreover the Election Commission of India should have written first to the government instead of the president as the real power lies with the government. Had they done so the government would have been under much more pressure to act on the issue.