THE ELECTION Commission (EC) has turned down Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren’s request to disclose its opinion shared with the state Governor in the disqualification matter against him.
Soren’s legal counsel had written to the EC on September 15 stating that the hearings held before the poll panel were judicial in nature, so a copy of the opinion tendered to Governor Ramesh Bais should be shared with his client.
In its reply, EC said any communication between the EC and a Governor is “privileged” under Article 192 (2) of the Constitution and revealing it before an order is passed by the Governor would amount to “breach of constitutional propriety”.
The Commission is also learnt to have cited a recent case before the Supreme Court (DD Thaisii Vs Election Commission of India) regarding the EC’s opinion on a complaint seeking disqualification of 12 BJP MLAs from the Manipur Assembly. In this matter, the EC has said, the apex court did not order it to disclose its opinion after the counsel for the poll panel informed the court that disclosure of privileged communication would be improper.
The EC also said that any document pertaining to a reference received from the Governor under Article 192(2) is also exempt from disclosure under the RTI Act unless a final order is passed by the Governor.
On August 25, the poll panel, in its opinion sent to Bais, had recommended Soren’s disqualification under Section 9A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, for allegedly misusing his position to allot a stone-mining lease to himself last year. Section 9A prohibits elected representatives from entering into any contract with the government for “supply of goods” or “execution of any works undertaken” by it.
The state is in political turmoil as Bais hasn’t officially apprised the state government of the EC’s view on Soren’s eligibility to continue as MLA. Meanwhile, the JMM has alleged attempts by the BJP to poach the ruling alliance’s MLAs.
Before writing to the EC, the party had asked the Governor to announce his decision based on the Commission’s opinion. The JMM memorandum to the Governor had stated that “purported selective leaks from your (the Governor’s) office” on the issue have led to a “state of chaos, confusion and uncertainty, which vitiates the administration and the governance of the State”.
“This also encourages political brinkmanship to destabilise the democratically elected government headed by CM Soren by illegal means… disqualification, if any, of the CM will not have any effect on the government.”