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Published On: Sat, May 18th, 2019

EC became ‘Election Omission’:Congress demands probe into charges made by Ashok Lavasa

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LAVASANEW DELHI : Demanding a probe into charges made by Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa, the Congress on Saturday alleged that eroding institutional integrity has been the hallmark of Modi government and asked whether the poll panel has become “Election Omission” and a “puppet” in the PM’s hands.
Lavasa is learnt to have written to the Chief Election Commissioner that he will be recusing from EC meetings as his dissent was not being recorded on clearances given by the poll panel to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over alleged poll code violations.

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala asked whether the EC will save itself more embarrassment by recording Lavasa’s dissent notes, as he accused PM Modi of “muzzling” democratic institutions. Mr Lavasa disagreed with the Commission on the clean chits to PM Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah. In all the instances, the Commission chose not to pass an order, pre-empting the need for dissent to be recorded.
Congress leader Ahmed Patel said there must be a credible investigation into the issues raised by Lavasa, alleging that the sanctity of the electoral process and the institutional integrity of the Election Commission of India is in jeopardy.
“There must be a thorough credible inquiry into the issues raised by Mr Lavasa and restoration of the Commission’s independent status as the watchdog of world’s largest democracy. Mr Lavasa’s letter – contents of which have appeared in the media – is extremely serious.

In a statement, Surjewala said: “Election Commission has become ‘Election Omission’. Shri Ashok Lavasa, one of the three members of the CEC, who dissented on multiple occasions when the Election Commission was busy giving clean chits to Modi-Shah duo opts out of EC meetings as the ECI even refused to record his dissent notes.

Amid reports that Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa has recused himself from meetings on Model Code of Conduct (MCC) matters, pending the demand for inclusion of dissenting opinion in orders, the Election Commission of India (ECI) on Saturday said no such meetings had been held lately.
Reports in a a section of the media stated that Mr. Lavasa wrote to Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora thrice, demanding that minority opinions be made part of the orders on MCC issues.

He gave a dissenting opinion in at least four cases, in which the ECI did not find any violation in the speeches of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah, by a majority of 2:1. When asked, Mr. Arora had maintained that dissenting opinions were not incorporated in any non quasi-judicial directive, which included MCC matters. Such orders are signed by an official, not the Election Commissioners.
“The order, in which the campaigning period in nine constituencies of West Bengal was curtailed by a day, has been signed by Mr. Arora and two Election Commissioners, including Mr. Lavasa. This, because it pertains to the Representation of the People Act,” said an official. In his letters dated May 4, 10 and 14, Mr. Lavasa said minority views needed to be included for greater transparency.

Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa has stopped attending meetings to decide on violations of the Model Code of Conduct over his “minority decisions going unrecorded”  Some of his objections involve the Election Commission’s clean chit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in six instances.
The three-member ECI consists of the Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora and two election commissioners – Ashok Lavasa and Sushil Chandra. The poll panel’s rules express preference for a unanimous view, but also allow a majority decision.
“Minority decisions recorded by me in several cases continue to be suppressed in a manner contrary to well-established conventions observed by multi-member statutory bodies,” Mr Lavasa wrote to the CRC on May 16. “…It appears futile for me to participate in the deliberations of the commission until its lawful functioning is restored in terms of including the minority decisions recorded by me,” he said.
“In the present circumstances, I am left with no option but to keep away from such proceedings. I may also take recourse to other requisite measures in respect of the above (lawful functioning of the commission in terms of including my minority views),” Mr Lavasa said. After the letter, Mr Arora called a meeting with Mr Lavasa.

The last round of the seven-phase national election will be held tomorrow. Results will be out on May 23. According to the CEC, only minority views in quasi-judicial proceedings can be recorded in the orders and the decisions on poll code complaints are not quasi-judicial proceedings, so minority views need not be recorded.

The Election Commission on May 4 gave PM Modi a clean chit for a speech delivered in Gujarat on April 21, where he claimed that his government had kept Pakistan on its toes to ensure the safe return of captured pilot Abhinandan Varthaman. This was the last decision of the Election Commission on Model Code violation complaints as after that only notices were sent to other leaders.
Referring to Mr Lavasa’s letter, the CEC in a statement today said the three members of the election body “are not expected to be template or clones of each other, there have been so many times in the past when there has been a vast diversion of views as it can, and should be.”
I personally never shied away from a public debate whenever required but there is time for everything,” Mr Arora said.(With Agency Inputs ).

 

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