New Delhi: The Election Commission on Wednesday put a lid on the standoff with Law and Minorities Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid after he expressed regrets over his "defiance" of the poll body over his remarks on sub-quota for minorities in government jobs in Uttar Pradesh.
The Commission, led by Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi and two Election Commissioners VS Sampath and HS Brahma, met and reviewed the matter in the light of the "regret" letter received from Khurshid and decided not to pursue the matter against him any further in the light of his "clear change of position".
The EC had petitioned President Pratibha Patil seeking her "immediate and decisive intervention" against Khurshid who had stuck to his ground on the quota issue despite his censure by the poll body.
"Based on the Minister s clear change of position as conveyed directly to the Commission, it has been decided not to take any further action in the matter," the Commission said in a statement after deliberating on the issue.
To avoid a repeat of such a situation, the Commission has, however, advised and cautioned all contending parties and those campaigning in elections, particularly those persons holding public offices, to be extremely careful in future.
Before deciding not to pursue the matter further, the Commission took note of the Minister regretting his statement he had made during the course of campaigning in Uttar Pradesh even after his censure from the poll body.
The EC considers that the communication received from Khurshid "establishes a complete and positive reversal of approach" in which he has also committed himself to the Election Commission s efforts to conduct of free and fair election.
The EC had on last Saturday taken strong objection to his comments that he would continue to speak on nine per cent sub-quota for minorities even if the poll body "hangs me". It had written to the President to seek her "immediate and decisive" intervention to uphold the constitutional body's authority.
The EC today noted the Minister underlining his respect for the decision taken by it in the particular case of model code of conduct violation by him and that he had recorded his commitment to ensure that such situations did not arise in future.
Khurshid had, in his letter to the Commission, said he "bows to the wisdom of EC" and regretted his remarks which were seen by the poll body as "defiance" and "contemptuous" of the constitutional body.
The Commission felt on Wednesday that its concern was regarding the minister's approach towards the issue in hand which could have implications on the ongoing elections in Uttar Pradesh and the conduct of free and fair elections in future, besides on the overall Constitutional design.
The EC said the primary purpose of the model code of conduct is to prevent wrongdoings in electoral field and make sure its compliance is foolproof in the current elections as also in future.
"In this particular case, it was incumbent upon the Commission to address and resolve the spillover of larger issues rather than taking any other measure," the Commission said in a statement in support of its stand.
In his letter to the EC, Khurshid had said "I feel disturbed with the developments arising out of one of my statements made in the course of the election campaign. It has also caused me equal measure of sadness."
Contending that it has "never been my intention to transgress the law or the model code of conduct," the Law Minister had said "I have great respect for the Commission and the decisions it takes and has taken." "I treat this matter as unfortunate and regret this statement. I bow to the wisdom of the Election Commission and remain personally committed to ensure that such situations do not arise", Khurshid had said.
"As responsible citizens of this country, it is our obligation to promote the spirit of law, its adherence and enforcement. This is the ethos on which I have woven my entire life and am committed to the Election Commission's effort towards the conduct of a free and fair election process," said the Law Minister in his letter.
Khurshid's letter came close on the heels of Congress disapproving of his comments against the poll panel, saying "people occupying posts of responsibility should speak responsibly".
Khurshid's sub-quota remarks were first made during a rally in support of his wife Louise who is contesting as a Congress candidate in Farrukhabad.
On Saturday night, the Law Minister had at another rally stuck to his sub-quota stand, drawing the anger and unprecedented action of the panel of writing to the President.