New Delhi, Mar 25 (PTI) CPI(M) politburo member Nilotpal Basu on Thursday wrote to Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, questioning the decision to keep in abeyance the schedule of elections to fill three Rajya Sabha seats from Kerala, and termed it a contravention of powers vested in the apex poll body.
In the letter, Basu said the party was 'shocked' at the abrupt announcement of the Election Commission of India (EC).
The decision conveyed through a press note did not elaborate the grounds which the commission found so urgent to put the process of election in abeyance after the formal notification, he wrote.
'We wanted to pointedly question the bona fides of the Government of India to directly intervene in the process of elections whereas no political party or individuals had expressed any disagreement with the authority of the ECI, much less the details of the notification for elections.
'We are afraid that this appears to be completely in contravention of the immense powers of the Election Commission under Article 324 and actually amounts to the relinquishing of its independence,' Basu said.
He further pointed out that the exercise of the powers of the ECI under the rules of the Representation of Peoples Act under section 30 or sub-section 1 of section 39 is clearly a denial of the letter and spirit of the Representation of the Peoples Act.
He said that under section 12 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, a notification is required to be issued within three months of the expiry of the term of a retiring member.
Although this section (proviso) says that no notification shall be issued more than three months prior to the date of expiry of the term, the intention is to hold the election before the expiry of the term, the letter said.
'The provision relating to the election of Lok Sabha too is worded the same way (section 14). Elections to that House are held before the term expires. Only in the case of a casual vacancy, election can be held within six months after the occurrence of the vacancy (section 151 A).
'The words 'for the purpose of filling the seats of members of the Council of States retiring on the expiration of their term of office' make it clear that the notification needs to be issued before the expiry of the term. The word 'retiring' indicates that,' he said.
Basu alleged that the 'ECI is acting at the behest of the government' and accused the poll body of not being transparent for not bringing into the public domain the reasons behind the commission's decision to keep the polls in abeyance.
'We may further point out that the notifications for similar election held in Kerala in March 2016, despite the assembly election was notified on 19th March 2016, went ahead as scheduled. Therefore, going by the precedent of the commission's exercise of powers under similar circumstances does not justify the decision of the commission in the present instance,' he said.
Basu also pointed out that since assembly elections are already underway, including in Kerala, the Model Code of Conduct is very much in force, and therefore, there is no way that the government of India can 'interfere' with the process initiated by Election Commission and no ground for the ECI to entertain such a reference which is contravening with the rules for holding the elections.
'In effect this brazenly compromises the independence of the ECI. It is for the commission's wisdom to explain what such a compromise would imply for the holding of free and fair elections and the credibility, moral and constitutional authority of the commission,' he said.
Urging the commission to reverse the decision of putting in abeyance the process of elections to Rajya Sabha from the state of Kerala, Basu said the move was important to safeguard the 'assiduously built reputation' of the ECI. PTI ASG IJT