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Pointless to speak of simultaneous polls before legal framework is ready: Chief Election Commissioner Rawat 

‘Once that is done, then Election Commission is a creature in the Constitution. We have to perform willy-nilly to deliver the elections in whatever way it is prescribed in the law,’ said OP Rawat.

india Updated: Jan 23, 2018 22:33 IST
Indo Asian News Service, New Delhi
EC,Election,Election Commission
Chief Election Commissioner Om Prakash Rawat said the Election Commission got the notification to this effect ‘just 10 days back’ and is examining the issue.(PIB Website)

There is no point in speaking of simultaneous polls to the Lok Sabha and all the state assemblies before putting the legal framework in place, new Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) OP Rawat said here on Tuesday.

Rawat, who took over as the 22nd CEC, also said an expert committee at the poll panel is examining the matter of electoral bonds and is likely to place its report before the Commission in a few days.

“We have already replied to the government, detailing what Constitutional amendments and what logistics would be required for holding simultaneous polls... Unless legal framework is in place, we do not have to talk about anything else,” Rawat said when asked if simultaneous polls are possible by 2019.

“Preparing legal framework, making amendments to the laws will take time. Once that is done, then EC is a creature in the Constitution. We have to perform willy-nilly to deliver the elections in whatever way it is prescribed in the law,” he added.

On government notifying the electoral bonds for the funding of political parties, Rawat said the EC got the notification to this effect “just 10 days back” and is examining the issue.

On the timing of disqualification of 20 Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs — which came just days ahead of former CEC AK Joti demitting office — Rawat said the matter was decided after due consideration and was done at this point to avoid re-hearing of the case from scratch.

“The timing of a judgment is determined by the flow of events. Three Commissioners have heard the case — (Nasim) Zaidi, (AK) Joti and myself. The Election Commission works either on unanimity or majority.

“Now, when Zaidi retired only one Commissioner was there. So the Commission felt it could not be decided unless the second Commissioner is on board. So they requested me and I came on board.

“Again such a situation was arising when Joti was retiring and I would be alone. So the matter was open to re-hearing. So either you decide or you leave it open. And such also, it has already taken more than two years,” Rawat said.

Have some of his predecessor actions dented the poll panel’s credibility and the trust deficit is at an all time high between the EC and the political parties?

“I don’t think so because I feel in our working this kind of expression of adversity is not really indicative of trust deficit. Public perception is most important in fact. We are working for a public perception of absolute neutrality, impartiality and commitment to the cause of free fair elections...,” he said.

On penal action for levelling allegations against the EC, Rawat said the poll panel has never considered it.

“We never contemplated any penal action. We welcome all kinds of criticism because it gives us an opportunity to improve, reform and work harder to ensure neutrality and impartiality in elections which is our duty,” he said.

“In fact, it was an order of the Uttarakhand High Court where they mentioned that anybody talking adversely of EC, EVMs will be penalised. But we never even took note of any such act by anyone in the context of HC order,” he added.

He said that the controversy over the integrity of EVMs or VVPATs is still not “past us”.

“We will have to work harder to ensure that more credibility is in place for these machines and our electorate, all stakeholders are convinced of their infallibility. We will continue doing it,” Rawat said.

Rawat, a retired Madhya Pradesh cadre Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of the 1977 batch, joined the poll panel as an Election Commissioner on August 14, 2015.

As the CEC, he will oversee elections to the state legislative assemblies of Karnataka, Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, including the ongoing assembly elections in Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura.

First Published: Jan 23, 2018 22:27 IST