PMO maintains informal interaction with EC on electoral reforms; sources say there is no irregularity

Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra and fellow Commissioners Rajiv Kumar and Anoop Chandra Pandey recently organized an “informal interaction” with the Prime Minister’s office to fill the gaps in understanding of key electoral reforms between the electoral panel and the ministry Justice, EC sources insisting on Friday that the question of expediency does not arise in doing so.

The commission had lobbied for reforms to electoral laws and related issues, and the virtual interaction in November took place to “fill in the gaps in understanding the views of the Ministry of Law and the Election Commission (EC ) ”, They declared.

According to the sources, amid a series of correspondence between the government and the electoral panel on electoral reforms, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) took the initiative to organize “informal interaction” with the three commissioners. .

Responding to a report published on Friday that the Justice Ministry sent a letter to the EC saying the Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary would chair a meeting on the Joint Voters List and “expects the CEC” to be present, the sources said the three commissioners did not attend this formal meeting.

Responding to the report, former Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) SY Quraishi said it was “absolutely shocking”. When asked to explain his words, he said his words sums it all up.

The sources indicated that senior EC officials attended the formal meeting, in addition to officials from the Ministry of Justice.

The legislative department of the Ministry of Law is the nodal agency for matters relating to the EC.

The sources said the outcome of the informal interaction with the PMO enabled the Union cabinet on Wednesday to approve various electoral reforms that the EC had insisted on being introduced in the current winter session. of Parliament.

One of the reforms is to link Aadhaar to the electoral rolls on a voluntary basis. The other will allow eligible young people to register as voters on four dates per year. As of now, there is a qualifying date – January 1 of each year – to register as a voter for those who turned 18 or older on January 1.

The sources pointed out that crucial electoral reforms have been pending for 25 years.

The EC had written to the government to encourage the reforms and the Ministry of Justice had asked for clarification. Informal interaction, sources said, helped fill in gaps in understanding key issues. “Reforms have to be done like this,” said a senior EC official.

There is no impropriety in pushing for reforms, the sources said.

They recalled that the CECs wrote letters to ministers of law, including Ravi Shankar Prasad and incumbent Kiren Rijiju, requesting their assistance in the implementation of electoral reforms.

Usually, ministers of law and legislative secretaries have met with commissioners on various issues in Nirvachan Sadan. Commissioners never appeal to ministers within the framework of the protocol since the EC is an independent constitutional body.

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