Disturbed by recent controversies that raised questions about its independence, former poll panel heads have urged the Election Commission (EC) to get to the root of why this is happening and fix it. The issue was flagged at a meeting of former Chief Election Commissioners (CECs) with incumbent commissioners OP Rawat, Sunil Arora and Ashok Lavasa on Monday.
Ex-CECs M S Gill, J M Lyngdoh, T S Krishnamurthy, B B Tandon, S Y Quraishi, V S Sampath, H S Brahma and Nasim Zaidi, and former Election Commissioner GVG Krishnamurthy attended the meeting.
“The questions raised about the Commission’s image were discussed. Irrespective of whether these questions are legitimate or not, the former Chief Election Commissioners felt that the Commission should try to get to the root of why this is happening and address it,” Quraishi told The Indian Express.
The EC, under A K Joti as CEC, had come in for criticism after it delinked the announcement of polls in Himachal Pradesh from Gujarat and sent its opinion to the President in the office-of-profit case against AAP MLAs without holding oral hearings on the merits of the complaint. The Delhi High Court, subsequently, said that the EC had failed to “comply with the principles of natural justice” when it disqualified 20 AAP MLAs and “quashed” the disqualification.
“The former CECs also felt that the Commission should come down hard on politicians indulging in hate speech and violations of the Model Code of Conduct. Sometimes when the election period is long, then the hate also lingers longer. There was unanimity on the suggestion to find ways for reducing the number of polling phases in an election,” Quraishi added.
The question of feasibility of the holding Lok Sabha and state elections simultaneously also came up during the meeting, said another CEC on the condition that he not be named. “Going by the legal and Constitutional hurdles in the way, the general feeling was that maybe this (holding simultaneous polls) wasn’t possible,” he added.
Sources said the former CECs felt that there was a need to increase the number of polling stations where results of EVMs are matched with paper-slips dispensed by VVPATs. Currently, VVPAT slips of only one polling booth in every seat are matched with votes polled by EVMs.
“It was a good initiative and if the present Commission finds it useful, the former CECs can meet with them regularly to give feedback. In fact, I feel the political parties should take cue and also hold meetings to seek feedback from each other,” Gill said.