New Delhi: A day after the government rejected reports of a possible move by the Group of Ministers (GoM) on corruption to take the model code of conduct out of the purview of the Election Commission , a leading daily on Wednesday published the ‘secret agenda note’ which disclosed the government’s intention.
The Indian Express had yesterday published a report saying the Central government has begun the process to provide statutory backing to the election code, following which the poll panel would lose the right to act on complaints of code violations which would then be dealt with by courts.
Within hours of the report being published, three senior ministers of the UPA government had denied any such agenda for the seventh meeting of the GoM on corruption, headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, scheduled to be held at 1.00 pm today.
Law Minister Salman Khurshid said, "To my knowledge, there is no such thing on the agenda. As far as I understand, it was agreed that once the elections are over there will be an all-party consultation on the issue about electoral reforms which are being pushed by the EC." He added, “But if it is raised by any political party during the course of discussion, we will take it as and when it happens.”
“From where this idea has come? But on the GoM agenda there is nothing,” is what Pranab Mukherjee told reporters.
Telecom and HRD Minister Kapil Sibal said in Lucknow, “I am on the GoM but I am not aware of the agenda. It so happens that bureaucracy makes certain proposals and sometimes we discuss them while at others we reject them.”
Even the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) said in a statement that the claims were “totally misconceived”.
“...There is no such move under contemplation of the Government or the Group of Ministers... The GoM has not made any recommendation to make the Model Code of Conduct statutory or to take it outside the purview of the Commission,” the DoPT said in a release.
However, the note published by the newspaper clearly shows that poll code is on the ‘secret’ agenda of the GoM.
“...The Chairman was also of the view that ‘Code of Conduct’ was one of the biggest excuses to stall development projects, and thus agreed with the request of the Law Minister to flag this issue and its inclusion in the agenda papers. It was also suggested that the Legislative Department may also look into the aspects where executive instructions of the Election Commission of India were required to be given statutory shape. Accordingly, Secretary, Legislative Department, has been requested to make a presentation before the GoM on the progress made in the matter,” mentions the note.
Reacting to the development, Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi told the daily that the government’s move was “highly misconceived” and aimed at curbing the powers of the Election Commission.