Law ministry

CEC not summoned to meet PM’s office: Ministry of Law

The ministry said several ECI proposals for electoral reforms have been pending for a long time and CECs have written to the Minister of Justice on several occasions since 2011 asking that the matter be considered.

A day after a controversy erupted over India’s electoral commission being invited to attend a meeting with the prime minister’s office, the justice ministry said on Saturday that the November meeting was for the secretary or representative of the Chief Electoral Commissioner (CEC) and not the CEC itself.

The ministry said several ECI proposals for electoral reforms have been pending for a long time and CECs have written to the Minister of Justice on several occasions since 2011 asking that the matter be considered.

“The Legislative Department is the nodal Department for matters related to the Electoral Commission and regular interaction takes place between ECI officials and the Legislative Department. Previously, several meetings were held by the Cabinet Secretary and the Prime Minister’s Office regarding the common voters list,” the ministry said.

The Prime Minister’s Office had written to the Cabinet Secretary, the Legal Secretary and the Secretary of the Legislative Department on November 12 regarding the Common Voters List meeting to be held on November 16.

“He was not addressing the [CEC]. Because [ECI] has the necessary expertise and mandate in terms of the electoral list and in view of previous letters from the [CEC] addressed to the Minister of Justice, the Secretary of the Legislative Department deemed it appropriate to invite officials of the Election Commission to this meeting,” he said.

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The Under Secretary, Legislative Department, November 15 wrote to the Secretary, ECI, regarding the meeting.

“The letter was addressed to the secretary and the last operative paragraph of the letter also asked the secretary, [ECI] to attend the meeting. After receipt of the letter by the ECI, the [CEC] spoke with the Secretary of the Legislative Department, expressing his displeasure with the expression in the middle of the letter which gave the impression that the CEC was expected to attend the meeting. The secretary of the Legislative Department clarified that the letter was for the secretary or a representative of the CEC with knowledge of the matter to attend the meeting,” the ministry said.

The meeting was held virtually and officials from the Center and ECI attended, the ministry said.

“After the leadership meeting, some issues required further adjustment. These issues include the number of qualifying dates for updating voter lists, certain aspects of the Aadhaar link and the requisition of premises. After the formal meeting, a separate informal interaction took place virtually with the [CEC] and the two election commissioners. It should be noted that the discussion took place with the three commissioners of the ECI, and virtually,” the ministry said.

He said these deliberations had led to the Legislative Department’s proposal, the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill 2021, to be submitted to the Cabinet, which approved it for introduction during the current session of Parliament. .

“It is recalled that the Legislative Department organizes meetings with officers of the Electoral Commission and other relevant government departments on issues related to electoral reforms. The meeting on 16.11.2021 was supposed to finalize the Cabinet note on some of the reforms and it was held virtually. The subsequent interaction with the [CEC] and two election commissioners were informal and intended to iron out a couple of aspects of the final proposal,” he said.