Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa has recused from meetings on violations of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) in protest over his minority decisions going unrecorded in the Commission’s final orders, even as Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora issued a statement Saturday that disagreement between Commissioners was not new as they were not “clones of each other”.
A meeting of the full Election Commission (EC) has been called Tuesday to discuss Lavasa’s recusal. Lavasa is learnt to have informed Arora of his decision on May 16, after his suggestion, dated May 4, on recording his dissent in EC orders on MCC violations and two subsequent reminders on May 10 and May 14 went unheeded.
What law says on dissent in ECI
The law says that all EC business shall, “as far as possible, be transacted unanimously”. Dissent is, however, provided for in the Act itself: “If the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners differ... such matter shall be decided according to the opinion of the majority”.
Stating that his minority decisions “continue to be suppressed in a manner contrary to well-established conventions
observed by multi-member statutory bodies”, Lavasa wrote on May 16, “In the present circumstances, I am left with no option but to keep away from such proceedings. Further, I may also take recourse to other requisite measures in respect of the above.”
The Indian Express earlier reported that Lavasa had on five occasions, opposed clean chits given to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah on charges of violating the MCC during their campaign for the Lok Sabha polls.
It has learnt that Lavasa had also recommended time-bound disposal of all MCC complaints. He had recommended that the EC should spell out “predictable punitive action” for repeated violations of the MCC. His colleagues did not agree to this either.
Calling media reports on Lavasa’s recusal “unsavoury” and an “avoidable controversy”, Arora said in a statement Saturday, “The three members of 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 remission 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.”
Arora also mentioned that in a meeting of the full Commission on May 14, it was unanimously decided that some groups will be formed after the conclusion of the Lok Sabha polls to deliberate on 13 issues, including the MCC.
In another press statement that followed Saturday afternoon, the CEC said, “It needs to be clarified categorically and unambiguously that this is purely an internal matter of ECI and any such speculation, innuendoes and insinuations in this regard should be eschewed.”