Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa has dissented with the opinion of his colleagues in the Election Commission in five different matters pertaining to alleged violations of the Model Code of Conduct.
Four of his dissenting opinions were in cases pertaining to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Section 10 (Disposal of business by Election Commission) of The Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991, lays down that “all business of the Election Commission shall, as far as possible, be transacted unanimously”.
Dissent is, however, provided for in the Act itself, which says: “If the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and other Election Commissioners (ECs) differ in opinion on any matter, such matter shall be decided according to the opinion of the majority”.
The CEC and ECs are appointed by the President to a tenure of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier. They enjoy the same status and receive salary and perks as judges of the Supreme Court of India.
At present, the Election Commission of India comprises CEC Sunil Arora and ECs Ashok Lavasa and Sushil Chandra. All three Election Commissioners have equal say in the decision making of the Commission.
The Election Commission of India draws its authority from the Constitution itself. Under Article 324, the powers of “superintendence, direction and control of elections” is to be vested in an Election Commission.
The Constitution does not, however, fix the size of the Election Commission. Article 324(2) says that “the Election Commission shall consist of the Chief Election Commissioner and such number of other Election Commissioners, if any, as the President may from time to time fix”.
From the beginning, the Election Commission of India consisted of just the Chief Election Commissioner. However, on October 16, 1989, the Congress government of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi appointed two more Election Commissioners, making the Election Commission a multi-member body.
The appointments were done just before the commencement of the Ninth General Election, and were criticized as being an attempt to compromise the independence of the Election Commission and of CEC RVS Peri Sastri.
On January 2, 1990, the National Front government of Prime Minister VP Singh amended the rules, making the Election Commission a single-member body again.
However, on October 1, 1993, the government of Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao promulgated an Ordinance to provide for the appointment of two more Election Commissioners.
The Election Commission has had three members ever since. The Ordinance was subsequently replaced by The Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Conditions of Service) Amendment Act, 1993, which came into effect on January 4, 1994.