The Election Commission is unlikely to reiterate its demand for powers to initiate contempt proceedings against people and parties for making allegations against it without credible evidence. Chief Election Commissioner Om Prakash Rawat told PTI that after the government told the poll panel that it won’t be appropriate to grant contempt powers, it has not reiterated its demand. “Today, we don’t have any such thing in mind to reiterate our demand,” he said. He said contempt powers were sought to counter “unfounded, baseless allegations which vitiate the atmosphere and affect the minds of the electorate”. The government had recently told Parliament that the EC’s demand was examined from legal and constitutional angles. The Law Ministry had also taken into account judicial pronouncements in this regard. “It has been opined that the conferment of power of contempt on the Election Commission may be inconsistent with the law laid down by the Supreme Court,” Minister of State for Law P P Chaudhary had told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply in July last year.
In a letter in April, the Commission had urged the law ministry to amend the election laws so that it could use the ‘Contempt of Courts’ Act against such parties. The letter had come close on the heels of the AAP questioning the impartiality of the EC. “Some even accuse the Commission of working in favour of the winning political parties… In order to address the emerging situation, there is a rationale and a strong-felt need that the Election Commission may also be given power to punish for its own contempt,” the poll watchdog had said. It had pointed out that several election management bodies, including those in Kenya and Pakistan, have “direct powers” to initiate contempt proceedings.