New Delhi: A divided Election Commission has sent to the President its opinion on whether Congress President Sonia Gandhi should be disqualified as a Member of Parliament for receiving a foreign award, highly placed sources said today.
Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami, who demits office tomorrow, is believed to have taken the view that there was need for further enquiry into Gandhi receiving the “Order of Leopold”, the second highest civilian award in Belgium during her visit there in November, 2006.
The two other Election Commissioners Navin Chawla, who succeeds Gopalaswami, and S Y Quraishi are understood to have recommended that the enquiry was complete and no further action was called for, the sources said.
Gopalaswami refused to divulge the stand taken by him or the two Commissioners but confirmed the issue was before the President.
“I do not want to say anything on this because this is a case on which the decision will be taken by the President. So until the decision is taken, there can be no discussion on this,” he said.
Asked as to at what stage the case was now, the CEC said, “the point is that the President has not taken a decision yet. The matter will be finally decided at the appropriate time”.
Under the conduct of business rules in the Election Commission, in case of difference of opinion among the three commissioners, the majority view will prevail. In this Belgian honour case, the view of the two Election Commissioners may prevail over the CEC’s view.
The controversy arose out of a petition from a Kerala advocate who had sought the disqualification of Gandhi for accepting the Belgian honour.
The petition cited Article 102(1)(d) of the Constitution, which states that anybody who owes allegiance to the Constitution of another country should be disqualified from the Parliament membership.
The petitioner alleged that accepting the award amounted to owing allegiance to the Constitution of that country.
Acting on a reference from the then President A P J Abdul Kalam, the Commission had earlier issued a notice to Gandhi as also sought details from the Ministry of External Affairs.
The Commission was split 2:1 even at the time of issuing notice to Gandhi.