For Congress Leader Ashok Chavan, Big Setback in 'Paid News' Row

FILE photo: Congress leader and former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan

New Delhi: In 45 days, the Election Commission must decide whether Congress leader Ashok Chavan under-reported his election expenses in 2009, when he successfully ran for the state legislature, the Supreme Court ruled today.

Mr Chavan is contesting the national election now from Nanded in Maharashtra. If he wins his election, but is found guilty, he will be disqualified immediately as a parliamentarian and be barred from contesting for the next three years. (India Votes 2014: Full Coverage)

Today's Supreme Court order rejected Mr Chavan's argument that the Election Commission does not have the authority to decide whether a candidate can be disqualified for misrepresenting how much money was spent on his or her campaign.

"I accept the Supreme Court's order, I will now fight my case with the Election Commission," said Mr Chavan, who was removed as Chief Minister of Maharashtra in 2010 after allegations of corruption.

He has been accused by the BJP and others of concealing the money he allegedly spent in 2009 on "paid news" - a series of newspapers ran articles praising his achievements.

Mr Chavan has denied any wrong-doing and said the newspaper reports were objective assessments of his work.

The Congress was derided by political opponents for choosing Mr Chavan as a candidate for the national election despite the fact that its vice-president, Rahul Gandhi, had professed zero-tolerance on corruption. (BJP targets Rahul Gandhi after Congress fields tainted Ashok Chavan)

Mr Chavan has been accused by the CBI of using his office as chief minister to allow the misappropriation of flats meant for retired defence officers and their families. Mr Chavan's relatives allegedly landed three apartments in the 31-storey Adarsh Housing Society in Mumbai. (Ashok Chavan Gave Clearances as Quid Pro Quo, says Probe Panel Report)
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