Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora on Saturday (May 18) described as “unsavory” and “avoidable” reports that fellow commissioner Ashok Lavasa has decided to recuse himself from meetings related to model code violations till he is not allowed to record his dissent.
He also said in the last meeting of the commission on May 14 that it was “unanimously” decided to form groups to deliberate issues which arose in the course of conduct of Lok Sabha elections. “Out of the 13 issues/areas which were identified, the model code of conduct is one of them,” Arora said in a statement. He said the report on Lavasa’s decision not to take part in model code-related issues comes at a time when the poll watchdog is gearing up for the last phase of Lok Sabha polls and counting of votes.
“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 the ECI,” Arora said. The poll panel’s laws suggest preference for a unanimous view, but provide for a majority ruling in the absence of unanimity. In a strongly-worded letter to Arora on May 4, Lavasa is learnt to have said he is being forced to stay away from the meetings of the full commission since minority decisions are not being recorded. He is also learnt to have said his participation in the meeting is “meaningless” as his dissent remained unrecorded.
Lavasa said his notes on the need for transparency have not been responded to so he has decided to stay away from model code-related complaints. The EC’s legal division had opined that dissent cannot be recorded on decisions as model code violations are not part of a quasi judicial hearing where all the three — the CEC and two fellow commissioners sign. The majority view is conveyed to the parties concerned. The dissent remains recorded in the file only and not made public. Lavasa had dissented in some of the 11 decisions the EC took on complaints against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah for alleged model code violations. The two were given a clean chit in all the decisions.