Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, in a statement, has expressed his displeasure over the ‘unsavoury and avoidable controversy’ over election commissioner Ashok Lavasa’s reported letter to him regarding the internal functioning of the ECI. CEC Arora has stated that there have been always some disagreement or dissent among the three election commissioners as it can and should.
However, CEC Arora has emphasized that the seventh and last phase of polling is upon the ECI as well as the mammoth task of counting on 23 May. He has added that all the CEOs across the country, their staff and senior officers at the ECI headquarters have been working at their best throughout the phases and barring this instance (Lavasa’s letter) the work has been largely peaceful, free, fair and transparent.
The controversy surfaced when EC Ashok Lavasa reportedly recused himself from further meetings of the commission over Model Code of Conduct issues until dissent or minority views of a member are brought out in the final order. Lavasa had recorded his dissent over the ECI’s clean chit to PM Modi and Amit Shah over complaints of MCC violation. He had stated that in five instances, the PM and Amit Shah had got a clean chit by 2:1 majority.
To Lavasa’s dissenting view, the ECI had clarified that it was not mandatory to issue formal orders in all MCC violation cases. Also, since the violation of MCC is not a quasi-judicial verdict recorded after due hearings, the dissent note was not required to be the part of the final order. This was the legal view of the ECI and it was also communicated to Lavasa. However, unsatisfied, Lavasa still chose to opt out of attending meetings over MCC violations.
The CEC has asserted that the election commissioners are not expected to be template or clones of each other and they do have a dissenting view in many instances. He also mentions that till now, the disagreements had remained within the confines of the ECI.
Expressing his disapproval of Ashok Lavasa’s allegations over the functioning of the ECI and the media controversy being built on it, the ECI asserted that though he has never shied away from debate, there is a time for everything.
CEC Arora also addressed the issue of disagreement over the handling of MCC violation allegations and stated that it was decided in the ECI’s meeting on 14 May that certain groups will be formed to deliberate over the issues and out of the 13 areas that were identified, MCC was one too. He also highlighted that it was a unanimous decision. Such deliberations, the CEC mentioned, were also held after the 2014 elections.