Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora Saturday said any disagreement between Election Commissioners “largely remained within confines of ECI”, and that the three members were not expected to be “template or clones of each other”.
Arora iterated that “eloquence of silence is always difficult but far more desirable which is far to see the election process through instead of creating ill-timed controversies”.
His statement was released in the wake of reports that Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa has, since May 4, recused himself from EC meetings on violations of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) as his dissenting opinion in the three-member panel was not recorded. In a letter to Arora, he reportedly insisted that he will attend the meetings only after dissent notes and minority decisions were included in the orders of the poll panel.
The Indian Express was first to report that Lavasa had, on five occasions, opposed the clean chits given to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah on charges of violating the MCC during campaigning in the Lok Sabha elections. The third member on the poll panel is Commissioner Sushil Chandra.
Arora, in a statement Saturday, said, “The three members of the ECI are not expected to be template or clones of each other. There have been so many times in the past when there has been a vast diversion of views as it can and should be.
“But the same largely remained within the confines of ECI after demission of office unless appearing much later in a book written by the concerned ECs/CECs. I have personally never shied away from a public debate whenever required but there is a time for everything,” he added.
Arora also mentioned that in the last meeting held by the three EC officials on May 5, 2019, it was “unanimously” decided that “some groups” would be formed after the conclusion of the Lok Sabha elections to deliberate issues, including the MCC.
The Congress, coining the phrase “Muzzling of Democratic Institutions” for Modi, said “erosion of institutional integrity is the hallmark” of the present dispensation. Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said Lavasa’s letter to Arora “speaks volumes about a political pressure being exerted by the Modi Govt on the EC”.
“Omitting the dissent of Election Commissioner, simply because he had asked for a notice to be issued to the PM Modi, has severely tarnished the institutional integrity of the Election Commission,” he added.