New Delhi: Ashok Lavasa – the election commissioner who was not in agreement with the decision to give Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah clean chits in the Model Code of Conduct violation complaints against them – has reportedly recused himself from all meetings on MCC issues.
According to the Hindustan Times, Lavasa, a former finance secretary, has said that he will attend further meeting only after the EC starts including dissent notes and minority decisions in its orders. The “full commission” consists of chief election commissioner Sunil Arora, Lavasa and election commissioner Sushil Chandra.
During the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Modi has been cleared of violating the MCC as many as six times. Reports earlier said that Lavasa had disagreed with these decisions, but his dissent had not been officially recorded.
According to NDTV, Lavasa wrote to CEC Arora on May 4 saying that his involvement in EC meetings had become “meaningless”. I am being forced to stay away from the meetings of the full commission since minority decisions are not being recorded. My participation in the deliberations of the Commission becomes meaningless since my minority decisions go unrecorded.”
“I might consider taking recourse to other measures aimed at restoring the lawful functioning of the Commission in terms of recording minority decisions,” he continued. “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.”
According to HT, Lavasa had sent Arora several reminders on including dissent notes in official orders before he finally decided to no longer attend EC meetings. The EC has reportedly not held any meetings on MCC-related matters since May 4 because of Lavasa’s letter.
The EC had earlier argued that dissent notes and minority decisions need not be recorded because decisions on MCC violations are not a quasi-judicial decision. A former CEC, though, said on condition of anonymity that such dissenting opinions have to be included in the final order even in cases of MCC violations.
After reports that Lavasa had made his disagreement clear and wanted it officially recorded, CEC Arora issues a press statement on Saturday saying there had been an “unsavory and avoidable” controversy on the EC’s internal functioning. “The three members of the EC are not expected to be template or clones of each other,” Arora said. However, such disagreements had largely been kept private, he argued.
Arora also said that at the May 14 EC meeting, it was unanimously decided that “some groups shall be formed to deliberate the issues, which arose in the course of conduct of Lok Sabha elections, just as it was done after Lok Sabha Elections 2014. Out of the 13 issues/areas that were identified, Model Code of Conduct is one of them.”
The poll panel has faced widespread criticism this election season for its perceived partiality towards the BJP and the prime minister. Opposition parties, civil society members and others have said that while Modi has repeatedly invoked the armed forces to campaign and also allegedly used hate speech, the Election Commission insisted on granting him clean chit after clean chit.
In addition, as The Wire has reported, the EC uploaded details of the orders passed on the complaints against Modi much later – and even then, left out key details. It put out the replies sent to the complainants, but not the details of the reports of the respective district or state election officials or area police officers. On other complaints, though, the EC has published these details as well.