The Ministry of Law and Justice on Saturday released a detailed memo justifying the PMO’s “informal interaction” with the electoral commissioners. The ministry said the November 16 meeting was to finalize the Cabinet note on some of the reforms and was held virtually. The ensuing interaction, he added, with the chief electoral commissioner and two election commissioners was “informal” and “aimed at ironing out two or three aspects of the final proposal.”
Several proposals from the Election Commission of India (ECI) regarding electoral reforms are long overdue. The Chief Electoral Officer (CEC) sent several letters including letter n ° 3/1/2011 / SDR / 480 of 3.02.2011, letter n ° 3 / ER / 2013 / SDR of 14.05.2013 and letter n ° 3 / ER / 2018 / SDR / 409 of 08.07.2020 to the Minister of Justice that the current reforms can be examined quickly. The Legislative Department is the nodal department for matters related to the Election Commission and regular interaction takes place between officials of the ECI and the Legislative Department.
Previously, several meetings were held by the Cabinet Secretary and PMO regarding the Common Voters List. The PMO’s ID dated 12.11.2021 regarding a meeting on the common voters list to be held on 11.16.2021 has been addressed to the Cabinet Secretary, Legal Secretary and Secretary of the Legislative Department. It was not addressed to the Chief Electoral Officer. Given that the Election Commission of India has the necessary expertise and mandate regarding the voters list and in light of previous letters from the Chief Election Commissioner to the Minister of Law, the Secretary of the Legislative Department ruled appropriate to invite officials of the electoral commission to this meeting.
As a result, the Under Secretary of the Legislative Department sent a letter No F. No.H-11021/6/2020-Leg.2 dated 15.11.2021 to the Secretary of the Election Commission of India (ECI) to assist at the meeting of 16.11.2021. The letter was addressed to the Secretary and the last operative paragraph of the letter also requested the Secretary of the Election Commission of India to attend the meeting. After receipt of the letter by the ECI, the Commissioner General of Elections addressed the Secretary of the Legislative Department, expressing his displeasure at the expression in the middle of the letter which gave the impression that he was expected from the CEC to attend the meeting. The Secretary of the Legislative Department clarified that the letter was intended for the secretary or a knowledgeable CEC representative to attend the meeting.
This meeting of 16.11.2021 was a virtual meeting and no physical meeting was organized at the PMO. The said virtual meeting was attended by officials of the Indian government and officials of the Election Commission of India. After the officials meeting, some issues required further adjustments. These issues include the number of qualifying dates for updating the electoral rolls, some aspects of the link with Aadhaar and the requisitioning of premises.
After the formal meeting, a separate informal interaction took place virtually with the Chief Electoral Officer and the two Election Commissioners. It can be noted that the discussion was held jointly with the three Commissioners of the ECI, and virtually.
It is important to note that following these deliberations with the electoral commission, a proposal was drafted by the legislative department which was submitted for consideration to the Union cabinet which approved the proposal to introduce “the project. of the Election Laws (Amendment) Act 2021 during the current period. session of Parliament.
It is recalled that the Legislative Department organizes meetings with officials of the Election Commission and other relevant government departments on issues related to electoral reforms. The meeting of 16.11.2021 was to finalize the Cabinet Note on some of the reforms and it was held virtually. The ensuing interaction with the Chief Electoral Officer and two Election Commissioners was informal and aimed at ironing out two or three aspects of the final proposal.
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