India’s chief election commissioner Sunil Arora. (Photographer: T. Narayan/Bloomberg)

Chief Election Commissioner Says Clean Chit To Modi, Shah Given Based On Facts

Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora on Wednesday rejected criticism that the poll body gave clean chit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah on complaints related to Model code violations due to its “bias”, saying it was decided on merit instead.

"If the clean chit was given, it was given on merit and on the appreciation of facts. I have nothing more to say on that,” Arora said in an interview to PTI. “In all these matters (of complaints of model code violations) you have to get the certified transcripts from the field and you have a report from the district election officer and from the CEO and then a conscious decision is taken.”

Congress president Rahul Gandhi had criticised the election commission for its inaction during the polling stage. “When it comes to issues of the BJP, the EC is absolutely on the straight line, when it comes to the opposition's issues, it is completely biased,” Gandhi had said.

Responding to a question on the Opposition's allegation that the commission was slow in dealing with the MCC violation complaints related to Modi and Shah, prompting the Supreme Court to step in, Arora said the apex court did give some adverse remarks but there was a “gross mismatch” between the understanding of the brief by the commission's advocate-on-record and the brief given by a deputy election commissioner.

He said when the EC started to decide on the complaints, the top court did not press further on the issue. Arora added the EC dealt with all the cases despite being busy in carrying out the “gigantic” electoral exercise.

He also disapproved fellow Commissioner Ashok Lavasa for raising the issue of dissent in the middle of the poll exercise. Arora also said there are “times to remain quiet and times to speak up”, indicating that the issue could have been raised post elections.

In an interview to PTI, the Arora said he is not a “moral judge of anybody, least of all somebody as senior as Lavasa”.

“Whatever may have been his misgivings or feelings, ultimately none of us can tell a lie to ourselves,” Arora said, while noting that all the members of the poll body are not supposed to be “photo copies” of each other.

Lavasa had dissented on a series of clean chits given by the EC to Prime Minister Modi and BJP president Shah concerning their speeches during the election campaign. After Lavasa's demand to record his dissent notes in the EC orders was not accepted, he had recused himself from cases relating to violations of the MCC.

In a strongly-worded letter to Arora on May 4, Lavasa is learnt to have said that he was being forced to stay away from the meetings of the full commission since minority decisions were not being recorded.

On May 21, the EC had rejected, with a majority vote, Lavasa's demand that dissent notes should be recorded in its orders on model code violations and decided that dissent notes and minority views would remain part of the records, but would not be part of its order.

Bloomberg Quint

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