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Monday, June 21, 2021

Thought of deferring polls but decided against it: Dissenting EC Rajiv Kumar

Kumar wrote that such a move would have caused “massive hue and cry and popular discontentment” and exposed the Commission to the accusation of favouring one party over another.

Written by Ritika Chopra | New Delhi |
Updated: May 8, 2021 7:42:56 am
Rajiv Kumar

THE Election Commission (EC) had considered deferring a few phases of the recently held Assembly polls given the rising number of Covid cases but decided against it since the imposition of President’s Rule could have proven to be “damaging” for the poll body. The dissenting election commissioner, Rajiv Kumar, is said to have written this in his affidavit that was rejected by the Commission, and not filed with the Madras High Court.

Kumar wrote that such a move would have caused “massive hue and cry and popular discontentment” and exposed the Commission to the accusation of favouring one party over another.

The EC, he said, had also looked into the option of merging the remaining three phases of West Bengal elections but that wasn’t legally feasible since Section 30 of the RP Act, 1951, states that each election phase is distinct and has to be notified separately.

He added that while it was legally possible to merge the last two phases (phase 7 and 8) since their dates of notification were same (March 31), the EC ensured no campaigning took place between April 26 and April 29 by increasing the ‘silence period’ from 48 to 72 hours before polling.

The Indian Express had first reported on Friday that one of the two election commissioners had offerred to resign as “punishment” if the Madras High Court (HC) so desired in a separate affidavit.

In his affidavit, Kumar is said to have stated that the court’s oral observations — on the Election Commission’s role in conducting elections during the second Covid wave — had demoralised the EC’s rank and file.

Urging the court to not punish the institution but the individual, he is said to have requested the court to withdraw its oral observations or hold him personally accountable. For the latter, he offered to take personal responsibility and resign.

“It is submitted that democracy is at peril due to loss of faith in ECI across the length and breadth of the country. I, as Election commissioner cannot escape individual responsibility and leave it to the judgment of Hon’ble court to punish in the manner, the Hon’ble court is pleased to so decide. The Institution, however, needs to be absolved of the doubts cast on it to save the democracy, lest everyone else start making insinuations, allegations in much more magnified, exponentially derogatory terms,” said Kumar’s draft affidavit.

But this affidavit was rejected by the Election Commission and never filed with the HC nor attached with its Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court against the Madras High Court’s “murder-charges” remark.

Kumar’s affidavit lists out over 30 points of action taken by the EC to argue that the Commission was ahead of the COVID curve. He also added that the EC was never warned of a COVID19 “tsunami” which had “overwhelmed all organs of polity and society”.

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