Congress: EC wants to set new precedent of 'dark secrets', 'secluded chambers'

Published: May 22, 2019, 12:04 IST | mid-day online desk

The EC had maintained that the dissent notes cannot be made part of the order as poll code violation cases are not quasi-judicial in nature

Congress: EC wants to set new precedent of 'dark secrets', 'secluded chambers'
Election Commission

On a day Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora and fellow commissioner Sushil Chandra turned down his demand to incorporate minority view in orders relating to model code violations, Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa on Tuesday said he still believes that transparency is important and such cases should be dealt in a time-bound manner.

Talking to PTI after the meeting, Lavasa refused to comment on the issue of Commission maintaining a status quo, saying, "minutes of the meeting will be drawn, instructions will be issued. Only then there would be clarity."

"In the meeting of the Election Commission held today regarding the issue of MCC (Model Code of Conduct), it was, inter alia, decided that proceedings of the commission's meeting would be drawn, including the views of all the commission members," the Commission said in a statement after the meeting, which lasted for more than two hours.

"Thereafter, formal instructions to this effect would be issued in consonance with extant laws/rules, etc," it further said. Lavasa said, "Till the time there is clarity on the reasoning of the views, it is premature to say (anything)."

He said he continues to "say that transparency is important ... minority view should be included and there should be time-bound procedures. My view is very clear."

Explaining the order, a Commission official said dissent notes and minority views would remain part of records of the poll panel.

Lavasa had dissented on a series of clean chits given by the Commission to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah on their speeches during the election campaign.

As his demand to record his dissent notes in EC's orders was not met, Lavasa recused himself from cases relating to relating to violations of model code of conduct.

In a strongly-worded letter to Arora on May 4, Lavasa is learnt to have said that he is being forced to stay away from the meetings of the full commission since minority decisions are not being recorded.

The EC had maintained that the dissent notes cannot be made part of the order as poll code violation cases are not quasi-judicial in nature and that they are not signed by the chief election commissioner (CEC) and fellow commissioners.

Such orders are usually signed by the principal secretary concerned or secretary of the EC, the official said. Lavasa had dissented in as many as five of the 11 EC decisions involving complaints against Modi and Shah for alleged MCC violation and where they were given a clean chit.

As per the law governing the functioning of the EC, efforts should be to have unanimity but in cases of dissent, a majority (2:1) view prevails.

In his May 4 letter, Lavasa is learnt to have also said that his participation in EC meeting is "meaningless" as his dissent remained unrecorded.

He had said that his notes on the need for transparency have not been responded to because of which he has decided to stay away from meetings on model code related complaints.

Sources said Lavasa had written to the CEC about the issue on at least three occasions.

A day before the counting of the votes polled in the Lok Sabha election, the Congress on Wednesday termed as "constitutional travesty" the EC's rejection of Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa's demand that dissent notes should be recorded and alleged that the poll watchdog wanted to set a new precedent of "dark secrets" and "secluded chambers" in performing its duties.

"A Constitutional travesty! ECI wants to set a new precedent of 'dark secrets' & 'secluded chambers' in doing its constitutional duties. "If CEC can't play fair in its functioning, can it play fair in ensuring a free & fair election?," Congress's chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala wrote on Twitter.

His comments came a day after the Election Commission (EC) decided not to record the dissents put forward by the members of the "full commission", overruling Lavasa.

On Tuesday, the poll panel rejected with a majority vote Lavasa's demand that dissent notes should be recorded in its orders on model code violations, days after the simmering tension within the EC over the issue came out in the open.

The "full commission" of the panel, comprising Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora and two other members -- Lavasa and Sushil Chandra -- deliberated on the contentious issue, after which the EC said dissent notes and minority views would remain part of the records but would not be part of its orders.

As his demand for recording his dissent notes in EC's orders was not met, Lavasa recused himself from cases relating to violations of the Model Code of Conduct.

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Edited by mid-day online desk with inputs from Agencies

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