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Election Commissioner Opts Out of Meetings on Poll Code After Dissent on Clean Chits Goes Unheard

Lavasa claimed that 'minority decisions are going unreported' and has insisted that he will attend the meetings only after dissent notes are included in the orders of the commission.

News18.com

Updated:May 18, 2019, 5:27 PM IST
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Election Commissioner Opts Out of Meetings on Poll Code After Dissent on Clean Chits Goes Unheard
Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa.

New Delhi: Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa, who had disputed the poll body’s decision to clear Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party national president Amit Shah of multiple charges of violating the Model Code of Conduct, recused himself from attending all meetings to discuss issues relating to MCC.

Lavasa claimed that “minority decisions are going unreported” and has insisted that he will attend the meetings only after dissent notes are included in the orders of the commission, reported the Hindustan Times.

The matter has reportedly remained a major hurdle for the Election Commission to conduct meetings to discuss MCC violations since May 4.

The Election Commission’s rules prefer a unanimous view, but also has a provision for a majority ruling in the absence of unanimity.

The Commission’s decision to give a clean chit to PM Modi and Shah in all cases of MCC violations was received with grave criticism from across quarters. The matter accentuated when reports suggested that Lavasa had disagreed with the poll body’s decisions, but this dissent wasn’t registered in the orders that were passed.

On May 4, Commissioner Lavasa wrote to the Chief Election Commissioner saying that he was forced to stay away from the meetings of the full commission since minority decisions are not being recorded.

Further, NDTV quoted his letter: "I might consider taking recourse to other measures aimed at restoring the lawful functioning of the Commission in terms of recording minority decisions. My various notes on the need for transparency in the recording and disclosure of all decisions including the minority view have gone unheeded, forcing me to withdraw from participating in the deliberations on the complaints."

Soon after receiving the letter, Commissioner Sunil Arora called a meeting with Lavasa.

However, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora on Saturday denied any controversy in the internal functioning of the Election Commission over the handling of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) saying that "the three members of the Commission are not expected to be templates or clones of each other".

The CEC's reaction came on reports of a letter written to him by Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa, recusing himself from attending Full Commission meetings held to decide on MCC violations, after his dissent on the clean chit given to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah on their respective speeches, went unrecorded.

Lavasa, in his letter, insisted that he would attend the meetings if his minority decisions were also included in the orders of the Commission.

"There has been an unsavoury and avoidable controversy reported in sections of the media today about the internal functioning of Election Commission of India with respect to the handling of the Model Code of Conduct.

"This has come at a time when all the CEOs (Chief Election Officers) and their teams across the country are geared towards the seventh and last phase of polling tomorrow followed by the gigantic task of counting on May 23," said a statement issued by the CEC.

"The three members of the ECI are not expected to be templates 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," said the statement.

The three-member "Full Commission" consists of Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora and two Election Commissioners, Ashok Lavasa and Sushil Chandra.

On May 4, the EC gave a clean chit to PM Modi for a speech delivered in Gujarat on April 21, where he said that his government had kept Pakistan on its toes to ensure the safe return of captured pilot Abhinandan Varthaman. He was also clear of all the charges of MCC violation for his speech in Varanasi when he said that 42 terrorists were killed to avenge the death of 40 CRPF personnel in Pulwama. Even Shah was cleared of the charges for saying “it was difficult to make out if Wayanad is in India or Pakistan.”

This was the last decision of the Election Commission on Model Code violation complaints as after that only notices were sent to other leaders.

According to the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991, if the chief election commissioner and other election commissioners differ in opinion on any matter, such matters are decided according to the opinion of the majority.

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| Edited by: Ahona Sengupta
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