Fresh controversy over poll code issue

A fresh controversy broke out over reports that powers of the EC are being curtailed but it was dubbed as "totally mischievous" by the Government.

New Delhi: A fresh controversy broke out on Tuesday over reports that powers of the Election Commission are being curtailed but it was dubbed as "totally mischievous" by the Government which also said this may be considered as part
of electoral reforms if political parties want it.

A battery of ministers, who are in the GoM on corruption Pranab Mukherjee, Kapil Sibal and Salman Khurshid, besides the Department of Personnel vehemently denied that there was any proposal to rein in EC by giving statutory backing to
the Model Code of Conduct (MCC).

"The contents of the report are totally misconceived as there is no such move under contemplation of the Government or the Group of Ministers," the DoPT said in an official statement.

The DoPT was reacting to reports that the Group of Ministers on corruption was going to consider giving a statutory backing to the MCC at its meeting tomorrow, a move that would take away the powers of its enforcement from the EC to courts.

"The GoM has not made any recommendation to make the MCC statutory or to take it outside the purview of the Commission," the DoPT said.

However, a DoPT note for the GoM makes a mention of the issue. It was suggested that the Legislative Department may look into the aspects where "executive instructions" of the EC were required to be given statutory shape.

It noted that the chairman of the GoM to tackle corruption Finance Minister Mukherjee was of the view that the MCC was one of the biggest excuses to stall the development projects, and thus agreed with the request of the Law Minister to flag
the issue and its inclusion in the agenda papers.

According to the note, Secretary, Legislative Department, has been requested to make a presentation before the GoM on the progress made in this regard.

Mukherjee, however, said, "there is no such thing. I don`t know from where this idea has come. But in the GoM agenda, there is nothing."

Law Minister Khurshid said there was no such thing on the agenda. "As I understand, it was agreed that once the elections are over, there will be an all-party consultations on issues about electoral reforms, many of which have been
pushed by the Election Commission itself," he said.

The issue of giving statutory shape to executive instructions issued by the EC was not on the draft agenda of the all-party meeting, he said.

"But if it is raised by any political party during the course of discussion, we will take it as and when it happens," Khurshid said.


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