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Advisory board rules NSA against Varun 'not valid'

Advisory board rules NSA against Varun 'not valid'

Author: Our Political Bureau
Publication: The Time of India
Date: May 10, 2009

Matter does not end here though as Mayawati government plans to appeal in Supreme Court

IN A MAJOR EMBARRASSMENT FOR THE Mayawati government as well as the Centre, the UP advisory board set up by the Allahabad High Court to go into the validity of imposing NSA on BJP leader Varun Gandhi, has ruled invoking of the Act against the Pilhibit candidate "invalid." This gave the BJP an opportunity to claim that invoking of the NSA against Varun Gandhi was dictated by political considerations.

The three-member advisory board - headed by Justice Pradeep Kant, a senior judge of the Lucknow Bench of the HC - has reportedly handed over its findings to the state government. The latter is mulling its next course of action, which includes appealing in the Supreme Court against the advisory board's order rejecting the grounds for invoking NSA against Mr Gandhi.

For now, the Mayawati administration is bound by the advisory board's ruling and must order revocation of NSA against the BJP leader with immediate effect. An appeal in the apex court may, however, help it buy time until May 13, when the last round of polling in the state is scheduled.

According to reports, the UP advisory board was not satisfied with the material submitted by Pilhibit district magistrate to justify the slapping of NSA against Mr Gandhi for making communally-charged remarks during election speeches in Pilhibit.

Incidentally, the Centre had only some time back rejected Mr Gandhi's plea for revocation of NSA against him saying that it did not find "any material evidence or ground in the representation to justify revoking of the order or interfere in exercise of its power under section 14 of the Act."

The relief to Mr Gandhi may have repercussions on the upcoming electoral battle for the remaining 14 parliamentary seats in UP. Though slapping of the tough charges against Mr Gandhi is said to have been a conscious move by the BSP to woo the minority community, the need for it to revoke the same now may backfire. The BJP, on the other hand, will harp about its "victimisation" theory.

Mr Gandhi, who is currently on parole, had on April 28 submitted his representation before the advisory board in the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court. He subsequently appeared in person to argue that the CD, based on which the EC had ordered an FIR to be registered against him, was not genuine. The whole thing, he said, was part of political vendetta directed at him.

As the ultimate statutory authority on the NSA, the advisory board has the right to approve or revoke the government order invoking the act against Mr Gandhi. Its verdict is final and binding on the state administration.

The BJP on Friday welcomed the relief for Mr Varun Gandhi, saying that the rejection of the validity of NSA against Mr Gandhi is a rebuff to the Mayawati government. "We welcome the development. It is a slap in the face of Mayawati govt. Now, the people of Pilibhit will answer them," BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

The state government had invoked NSA against Mr Gandhi on March 29, following which he was lodged for almost two weeks in Pilhibit/Etah jail. However, the Supreme Court, following an undertaking from him that he would not indulge in any more communal rhetoric, ordered his release on parole on April 16.

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