Special Correspondent

Seeks constitutional mechanism to check if the body acts with political bias

  • EC must be made accountable: Prakash Karat
  • Need to clarify role of election observers
  • Friction between EC, State Governments undesirable

    NEW DELHI: Calling for a debate on the need for reforms in the Election Commission (EC), the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has outlined four focus areas.

    These included its composition, the modality for the appointment and removal of Election Commissioners, and a legal bar on their taking up political appointments after retirement.

    Asserting that the party was all for strengthening the constitutional body, CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat said on Wednesday that after the April-May West Bengal elections, the party decided to prepare a document for circulation among political parties and sending to the EC to initiate a debate.

    The document, "Election Commission - A Case for Reform," notes: "A case for the reform of the institution comes out very strongly. The need for reforms is felt largely in four areas to ensure that the constitutional objective of holding elections to strengthen democracy in a manner where the widest possible informed choice of the voters can be ensured."

    Releasing the 23-page document, Mr. Karat said that during the West Bengal elections, the names of nearly nine lakh genuine voters were deleted by the EC. At many places, the Central observers took upon themselves the task of serving notice on people asking them to prove that they were not from Bangladesh. "Two MPs and one former MP were given notices asking them to prove that they were not Bangladeshis. Is it that the EC works at the behest of the Trinamool Congress?"

    As for the composition of the EC, the document said Article 325 of the Constitution was insufficient. It sought a constitutional mechanism to "monitor and check if the Election Commission acts with political bias, usurps the powers of governments or does anything with mala fide intention." The EC must be made accountable, it said.

    Another area of concern was its jurisdiction. Certain orders issued during the polls "encroached into the constitutional powers" of the Executive and the Legislature.

    Observers' role

    The document said the role of election observers was the third area of concern. Despite several queries, the EC had not been able to clarify whether the observers were vested with executive powers or not. Though EC documents suggested that their powers were essentially recommendatory in nature and persuasive in practice through the regular EC hierarchy, the observers were actually found to be exercising executive powers, mostly through oral instructions.

    The final area of concern was that while law and order was a State subject, "currently, a unilateral approach is being pursued by the EC, which underlines a contempt and mistrust towards elected State Governments questioning their commitment in defending the Constitution. The friction between the EC and an elected State Government both constitutional bodies is not only undesirable but in a federal situation also potentially dangerous."

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