Debate | Is Criticism of Election Commission of India Justified?

The EC has been facing flak for its action and inaction as evident from a letter sent by 66 bureaucrats.

2 min read

In the run up to 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the Election Commission of India has been facing flak for its action and inaction over Model Code of Conduct (MCC) as evident from a letter sent by bureaucrats on Tuesday, 9 April.

66 former bureaucrats have written to President Ram Nath Kovind, expressing concern over the credibility and functioning of the Election Commission for failing to deal with alleged cases of poll violations, particularly those involving the ruling party.

Referring to the instance of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath dubbing the Indian Army "Modi's Army", the bureaucrats said strongest action was required from the EC to "nip such cavalier statements in the bud", but it "contented itself in the present case with a mild reprimand to the UP CM".


‘EC Not Discharging Constitutional Brave Responsibilities’

Talking to Bloomberg Quint’s Tamanna Inamdar, Deb Mukharji, the former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and one of the 66 signatories of the letter sent to EC’s doorstep and SK Mendiratta, former legal advisor of the EC explain the powers that EC can exercise when political players violate Model Code of Conduct.

The debate on criticism of the duties discharged by the EC has taken centre stage because now the elections are round the corner, says Mukharji.

“The bureaucrats have been in touch with the commission since last summer. We had met the former EC chief and written to him concerns surrounding VVPAT. Lately, what we find is as we have said in the letter, variety of issues EC is not discharging the brave responsibilities conferred on it by the Constitution of India,” he tells Bloomberg Quint.

“This is the time when the country looks up to the EC for a fair level playing field. 2019, regrettably, is undoubtedly the most bitterly contested election in the history of independent India,” Mukharji says, adding that the Indian President is the court of last resort when the country faces a crisis.


‘EC Has Limited Powers’

However, according to the former legal advisor to the commission, EC can only act in a very restricted manner and that it’s power cannot uproot players from the political fight.

“The EC has taken the action within their limited powers. The Model Code of Conduct has no statutory backing. Unfortunately, EC’s powers are limited to expressing displeasure, at the most to reprimanding or censure,” Mendiratta tells Bloomberg Quint.

"We write to express our deep anguish that the EC, which has had a long and honourable record of holding free and fair elections despite the enormous challenges of scale and complexity, is suffering from a crisis of credibility today," the letter by 66 bureaucrats said.

The EC's independence, fairness, impartiality and efficiency are perceived to be compromised today, thereby endangering the integrity of the electoral process which is the very foundation of the Indian democracy, the letter added.

A senior functionary of the EC said the poll panel will respond to the letter most likely on 12 April to put forth it's views on the issue.

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