Quraishi reacts to report, says it is an attempt to curb ECI's powers

A day ahead of a meeting of the Group of Ministers on corruption, the Union Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions issued a carefully worded denial of a news report suggesting that the government wanted to give the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) statutory backing so that complaints relating to its violations could be tried in a court of law, rather than being left to the discretion of the Election Commission.

“The GoM,” the press note said, “has not made any recommendation to make the Model Code of Conduct statutory or to take it outside the purview of the Commission.”

Official sources, while clarifying that the suggestion on giving the MCC statutory backing had been on the table long before the battle between Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid and Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi over reservations for religious minorities had hit the headlines, stressed no such decision had as yet been taken.

However, Ministry sources told The Hindu that given how often elections are held, there was “concern in many quarters that the MCC often ended up stalling development work.”

Mr. Khurshid told journalists that taking the MCC out of the ECI's control, as far as he knew, was not on the GOM's agenda for Wednesday, but when all-party consultations are held after the elections, it could be considered if other parties wished to do so. The collective view of various parties, he said, would help the government pass the measures “conveniently” in Parliament. But the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) clarified it was totally opposed to the idea.

Meanwhile, a combative Mr. Quraishi, responding to the news report, described it as an attempt to curb the ECI's powers and said that if the courts begin to adjudicate on MCC violations, the matter would go on for years, allowing the culprits to continue enjoying the fruits of power.

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