Barely a week before he retires on June 10, the Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi, in a parting shot, has refused to accept the Centre diktat of seeking its permission before entering into agreements with other countries.
The Election Commission, during Quraishi’s nearly two year tenure as CEC, signed MoUs with the election commissions of at least six countries on cooperation in the conduct of free and fair polls.
Earlier this year, the Cabinet Secretariat had asked the law ministry, which deals with the EC on administrative matters, to inform the commission that it should seek prior approval before entering into such MoUs."The government should be aware about the necessity and the financial implications before any authority signs agreements with foreign countries," the Cabinet Secretariat stated.
The law ministry’s suggestion to the EC was met with a blunt response that it had consulted the external affairs ministry each time an agreement was signed with any country.
“Not only have we consulted the external affairs ministry before signing all the MoUs, details of which are on the EC website, but there were occasions when they encouraged us and provided details on what kind of agreements were to be signed,” Quraishi told HT.
“We have been in constant touch on such matters at the foreign secretary-level,” he said.
Asked about the law ministry’s advisory to the EC, Quraishi said: “Proper procedures have been followed. If some department that has no role in the matter has a problem, then the commission is not concerned with it.”
Quraishi has been at loggerheads with the law ministry on the issue of commission’s autonomy. In January, the EC had withdrawn its proposal for the creation of an autonomous body to impart electoral training to professionals of other countries.
The EC proposal to set up India International Institute of Democracy & Election Management as a society ran into trouble when law minister Salman Khurshid opposed it on grounds that a detailed project report was required.