The Kerala High Court on Friday sought the views of the Election Commission on a plea by the State Legislative Assembly, challenging the Election Commission's decision to keep in abeyance proceedings for the proposed election to three vacancies from the state in the Rajya Sabha. Considering the plea filed by the secretary of the Kerala Legislative Assembly, challenging the poll panel's act, the Court directed the EC to respond to the plea by next Monday.
The Court will consider the matter on Monday. The Election Commission on Wednesday decided to keep in abeyance the schedule of elections to fill three Rajya Sabha seats from Kerala after the Law Ministry flagged some issues.
According to the plea, the EC's decision, "apparently on a reference from the Union Law Ministry, amounts to subservience of the Commission to the Union Executive in violation of its independence, which independence and insulation from executive interference is mandated by the Constitution". Noting that the Election Commission is expected and required to apply its mind to the relevant facts and the Constitutional statutory provisions, the plea said it has necessarily to be presumed that the EC had applied its mind to these factors and thereafter announced the schedule on March 17, 2021.
It said the Commission has not disclosed what the reference was that it received from the Law Ministry, when it was received or how it is relevant. The plea said that apart from the impropriety of the Government of India 'interfering' in the independent functioning of the Commission, it is impermissible for the EC to delay the discharge of its essential constitutional mandate of conducting the elections on time, at the instance of the Ministry of Law and Justice.
"Besides, the requirements of transparency in the functioning of the Constitutional body has been breached," it said. It submitted that since the Electoral College being in existence, there is apparently no reason for the Commission to keep in abeyance the election process to the three vacancies in the Upper House, after initiating the procedure for it.
The Secretary submitted that withholding of the election process will leave much scope for its 'abuse' and the state will be left with three representatives less to represent the aspirations and wishes of its residents in the Council of States. Moreover, the same will adversely affect the legislators of the 14th Kerala Legislative Assembly, in so far as they will be denied an opportunity of electing three representatives to the Council of States, it said.
"The Constitutional and statutory rights of the legislators cannot be trampled upon or negated in any manner", the plea said and sought a directive to the Election Commission to expeditiously act and proceed with the election. The ruling CPI(M) has also filed an identical petition, challenging the Commission's decision.
Election to three Rajya Sabha seats from Kerala falling vacant next month was to be held on April 12. Abdul Wahab of the IUML, K K Ragesh of the CPI(M) and Vayalar Ravi of the Congress will retire on April 21.
The notification for the biennial elections was to be issued on Wednesday. Members of the Legislative Assembly elect Rajya Sabha members.
The MLAs of the outgoing assembly, in which the ruling LDF has a majority, were to elect the three new members. The Kerala assembly elections will be held on April 6 and counting will take place on May 2.