Atrocious, avoidable, not even the PM cannot call a meeting: ex CEC

Atrocious, avoidable, not even the PM cannot call a meeting: ex CEC

At least three former Chief Election Commissioners (CEC) told The Indian Express on Friday that the government letter in which the acting head of the voting panel was expected to attend a meeting was “unacceptable” and the subsequent informal discussion between the full Commission and the prime minister’s chief secretary could “Erode” the image of independence of the EC.

Describing the development as “appalling,” former CEC SY Quraishi said, “This is unacceptable by any explanation. Would the government call on the Chief Justice of India along with all the other Supreme Court justices to discuss the judicial reforms? That is the only analogy that applies in this case. So why call the (Electoral) Commission to a meeting? Even the Prime Minister cannot summon the CEC for a meeting. “

The Indian Express reported Friday that CEC Sushil Chandra and the two election commissioners Rajiv Kumar and Anup Chandra Pandey joined an online “interaction” convened by the Prime Minister’s Office on November 16 despite reservations.

The interaction took place one day after the EC received an unusually worded letter from an official in the Ministry of Law, the administrative Ministry of the voting panel, that Prime Minister PK Mishra’s main secretary will “preside over a meeting” in a common electoral roll and “wait for CEC” to be present.

Chandra was not available for comment, but a senior EC official said the CEC, upon receipt of the note, made its “displeasure” feel to the Justice Ministry and stressed that he would not attend the meeting. However, although he and the other two commissioners stayed away from the video meeting, in which their subordinates were present, according to the precedent, the three joined an “informal interaction” with Mishra immediately afterwards.

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Quraishi said: “Any meeting that takes place between these authorities (the commissioners and the government) will surely arouse suspicion (in the minds of the people). Our officers (EC) know everything. They are the ones who process the (electoral) reform proposals. Officials are trained precisely for this purpose and regularly attend to explain the Commission’s point of view at government meetings. It’s not about commissioners attending a government-requested interaction. “

Another former EC chief, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the interaction was “100% avoidable.” “Attempts have also been made in the past (for the full Commission to attend government meetings). But we never went for these. It shouldn’t have happened, ”said the former boss.

A third former CEC said that the prospect of an interaction with the government so close to the announcement of elections in five states does not look good for the Commission. Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Punjab and Manipur will go to the polls early next year. “Frankly, nobody looks good after a meeting like this. Neither the government nor the EC. While they may have discussed reforms, the point is that we have certain rules and protocols in place. And these standards and practices exist because they have a purpose. It is necessary to preserve the neutrality and independence of the Commission and even the perception of independence. In my experience as a CCA, it is possible to get your proposals approved without causing any erosion of your perceived independence. “

“All I can say is that Election Commissioners are not required to attend any meeting called by officials, taking into account their constitutional status. Of course, if the government requires it, clarifications can be requested from ICE in writing, for which answers can be given in writing, ”said former CEC TS Krishnamurthy.

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A senior EC official said that the Election Commissioners’ interaction with the PMO was about “long-pending reforms, such as multiple deadlines to facilitate a common electoral roll,” and was intended to “accelerate the reforms.” . In fact, these were part of the amendments approved by the Cabinet on Wednesday.

When asked about the appropriateness of the interaction between the full Commission and the PMO, the senior official said: “This was informal, not a meeting. The Commissioners did not discuss any issues related to the elections (the five Assembly elections for which will be notified soon). This was only for the rapid elimination of electoral reforms ”.

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