Give power of contempt, to book those who try to defame: EC

New Delhi


The Election Commission has sought the power of contempt to book those who try to defame it by openly questioning the conduct of elections taking advantage of the right to expression.

In a strongly-worded letter to the Law Ministry, the poll panel demanded that the government should amend the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, giving it powers to act against persons or organisations tarnishing its image.

In the letter, which was written on April 24 this year, the poll panel has cited the example of the Election Commission of Philippines, Ghana and Pakistan which have been provided direct power to punish for contempt through legislation.

"The Commission shall have, and exercise the same jurisdiction or powers and authority in respect of Contempt of itself as a High Court has and may exercise and for this purpose, the provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act 1971, shall have effect subject to modifications:

"That a High Court shall be constructed as including a reference to the Election Commission of India" and "a judge shall be constructed as including a reference to the Commissioner or a member of the Commission".

The poll panel also demanded that a subsection "contempt" should be included for civil contempt or wilful disobedience and criminal contempt, "including who scandalises or tends to scandalise or prejudices or interferes or tends to interfere with the due course of any function of the Commission".

The poll panel's remarks came in the wake of opposition parties, particularly the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), raising questions over the reliability of Electronic Voting Machines and some also charged the EC with being an "agent of the BJP".

The AAP alleged the EVMs were manipulated to benefit a particular party in the assembly elections in five states -- Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Manipur and Uttarakhand, and the Delhi civic elections.  - IANS