NEW DELHI: Accusing the
Central Election Commission
of working at the “behest of the government”,
on Thursday wrote to chief election commissioner Sunil Arora strongly opposing ECI’s decision to put in
to three Rajya Sabha seats in
due to fall vacant next month.
EC had, though a March 17 release, announced polls to the three seats falling vacant on April 21 owing to the retirement of three Kerala MPs, Congress’ Vayalar Ravi, CPM’s KK Ragesh and IUML’s Abdul Wahad.
However, in a March 24 release, it said, “The Commission…had announced schedule for biennial election for 03 seats to Council of States from Kerala as mentioned therein, with the notification scheduled to be issued on March 24….In the meanwhile, a reference has been received from the Ministry of Law & Justice. Pending examination of the reference, the Commission has decided to keep the aforementioned proposed notification and schedule in abeyance till further orders.”
Calling the decision in contravention of powers vested in the apex poll body, CPM polit bureau member Nilotpal Basu said the party was “shocked” that EC attributed its “abrupt announcement” to the intervention of the
ministry of law and justice
, but failed to elaborate on the grounds on which the decision was taken.
“We wanted to pointedly question the bona fides of the
Government of India
to directly intervene in the process of elections whereas no political party or individuals had expressed any disagreement with the authority of the ECI, much less the details of the notification for elections,” Basu said in his letter.
“We are afraid that this appears to be completely in contravention of the immense powers of the Election Commission under Article 324 and actually amounts to the relinquishing of its independence,” he added.
Basu also quoted past precedents to argue that elections to RS seats in March 2016 had gone ahead despite assembly elections being notified the same month.
“Therefore, going by the precedent of the commission's exercise of powers under similar circumstances does not justify the decision of the commission in the present instance,” he said, adding that with the Model Code of Conduct in place, “there is no way that the government of India can “interfere” with the process initiated by Election Commission.”
“In effect this brazenly compromises the independence of the ECI. It is for the commission's wisdom to explain what such a compromise would imply for the holding of free and fair elections and the credibility, moral and constitutional authority of the commission,” Basu alleged, even as he urged EC to reverse its decision in the interest of safeguarding the “assiduously built reputation” of the ECI.