Controversy over EC meeting: The government says the letter was to the secretary or an official representative, not the CEC


ACKNOWLEDGING that the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) had expressed “displeasure” at his letter about a meeting on the joint electoral roll, as reported by Indian Express on December 17, the Department of Justice and Justice said in a statement Saturday that it was “clarified” that the letter was to “the secretary or a representative of the CEC familiar with the subject” to attend the meeting.

The statement from the Ministry of Law – the administrative ministry of the poll panel – is the first official response after The Indian Express reported that Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sushil Chandra and the two election commissioners, Rajiv Kumar and Anup Chandra Pandey, despite expressing reservations, participated in an online “interaction” called by the PMO on November 16th.

This was a day after the EC received a letter from an official from the Ministry of Law that the Prime Minister’s Secretary General, PK Mishra, will “chair a meeting” on a joint electoral roll and “expect the CEC” to be present.

The law ministry statement said the November 16 meeting was to finalize the cabinet memo on some long-awaited reforms and was held virtually. “The subsequent interaction with the Chief Electoral Commissioner and two Electoral Commissioners was informal and intended to smooth out two or three aspects of the final proposal,” the statement said.

The Ministry of Law said that the original convening notice of the PMO dated 12 November was addressed to the Cabinet Secretary, the Law Secretary and the Secretary, the Legislative Department and not to the CEC.

The ministry further said it had sent a letter inviting EC representatives to the PMO meeting as the voting panel has “the necessary expertise and mandate regarding the electoral roll.”

According to the statement, the letter from the Ministry of Law was addressed to a secretary at secretary level in the Commission and that “the last operational section of the letter also requested the secretary, the Indian Electoral Commission to attend the meeting.”

However, the subject line of the letter, dated November 15, as reviewed by The Indian Express, reads: “Video Conference on Joint Election List with PMO Interaction with CEC Reg.”

The letter states: “I am asked to enclose a memorandum dated 12.11.2021 received from the PMO and to state that the Secretary General of the PM will chair a meeting on the joint electoral roll on 16.11.2021 at 16.00 through video conferencing and expect that The CEC will be present during the conference. “

The Ministry of Law said that after receiving the letter from ECI, “the Chief Electoral Commissioner spoke with the Secretary, the Legislative Department and expressed his dissatisfaction with the expression in the middle part of the letter, which gave the impression that the CEC was expected to attend the meeting. The Secretary, Legislative Department, clarified that the letter was to the Secretary or a representative of the CEC who is familiar with the subject to attend the meeting. “

The Ministry further stated: “This meeting on 16.11.2021 was a virtual meeting and no physical meeting was organized in the PMO. The said virtual meeting was attended by officials of the Government of India and officials of the Electoral Commission of India. These questions include the number of qualifying dates for updating the selection list, some aspects of Aadhaar interconnection and requisition of premises.

“After the official meeting, a separate informal virtual interaction was held with the Chief Electoral Commissioner and the two Electoral Commissioners. It is worth noting that the discussion was held with all three ECI Commissioners, and almost. “

Indian Express had quoted a senior EC official as saying the interaction was “informal”.

The Department of Justice said the November 16 meeting was held to discuss the electoral reforms of The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill 2021, recently approved by the Union Cabinet.

The statement said that several EU proposals on electoral reforms were pending.

The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) has addressed several letters (February 2011, May 2013 and July 2020) to the Minister of Law that the pending reforms can be considered quickly. between ECI officials and the Legislature … In the past, several meetings of the Cabinet Secretary and the PMO were held on the joint electoral roll. “

At least five former Chief Election Commissioners (CECs) have told The Indian Express that the Department of Justice’s letter to the Electoral Commission was “unacceptable.” And that the subsequent informal discussion between the whole Commission and the PMO could erode the Community’s image of independence.

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