Top Poll Officer Skips Meetings Amid Dissent Over Clean Chits: Sources

New Delhi: 

Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa has recused himself from attending meetings of the Election Commission on deciding violations of the Model Code over what he claimed was his “minority decisions going unrecorded”, NDTV has learnt. The Election Commission had cleared Prime Minister Narendra Modi of any poll code violation in six instances.

The three-member “full commission” of the Election Commission consists of the Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora and the two election commissioners – Ashok Lavasa and Sushil Chandra. The poll panel’s rules express preference for a unanimous view, but provide for a majority ruling in the absence of unanimity.

“I am being forced to stay away from the meetings of the full commission since minority decisions are not being recorded,” Mr Lavasa wrote to the Chief Election Commissioner on May 4. “My participation in the deliberations of the Commission becomes meaningless since my minority decisions go unrecorded,” Mr Lavasa said in the letter.

“I might consider taking recourse to other measures aimed at restoring the lawful functioning of the Commission in terms of recording minority decisions,” he wrote. “My various notes on the need for transparency in the recording and disclosure of all decisions including the minority view have gone unheeded, forcing me to withdraw from participating in the deliberations on the complaints.”

After getting the letter, Mr Arora called a meeting with Mr Lavasa.

According to the Chief Election Commissioner, only minority views in quasi-judicial proceedings can be recorded in the orders and the decisions on poll code complaints are not quasi-judicial proceedings, hence minority views need not be recorded.

The Election Commission on May 4 gave PM Modi a clean chit for a speech delivered in Gujarat on April 21, where he claimed that his government had kept Pakistan on its toes to ensure the safe return of captured pilot Abhinandan Varthaman. This was the last decision of the Election Commission on Model Code violation complaints as after that only notices were sent to other leaders.

The first instance of dissent within the Election Commission – and the poll panel’s alleged attempts to cover it up – flared up on April 25 over an order pertaining to a Rajasthan BJP leader, NDTV had reported earlier this month. Mr Lavasa dissented with the Commission over the clean chits to PM Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah. In all the instances, the Commission chose not to pass an order, thereby pre-empting the opportunity for dissent to be recorded.

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