Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has assured the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) SY Quraishi that the government respects the constitutional status and functional autonomy of the commission.
Singh's assurance is understood to have been given in his recent reply to a letter from Quraishi, in which the CEC had complained that law minister Salman Khurshid was trying to undermine the poll panel's authority.
Khurshid had, in an interview to a TV channel in the last week of December, said every institution was under some control of the government. He had cited the example of law ministry granting permission to the Election Commissioners for their foreign tours.
The example was given in the context of anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare's reservation over the government retaining administrative control over the CBI during the debate on the lokpal bill.
This had angered the election commission and Quraishi had shot off a letter to the PM. He confirmed his exchange of letters on Friday on the issue of administrative control of the commission. “We did write a letter couple of weeks ago but can't share anything more on this.”
Quraishi, however, downplayed differences with Khurshid. “We have some perspectives which we share...it is a ridiculous idea (personal differences with Khurshid) and we are friends. It is just institutional issues,” the CEC said.
In his reply, the PM is understood to have assured Quraishi that any apprehensions that the EC may have will be taken care of. Sources in the panel said there had been no problem with the government so far but Khurshid's statement had raised doubts.
In a separate development, Khurshid, who has replied to the poll panel's notice for his statement on granting 9 % quota for Muslims, said on Friday he had no regrets on the issue. “Why should I regret? You regret when you do something unlawful.”