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CCA: I never thought of postponing the assembly elections due to the increase in Covid | India News

In his first interview, Chief Elections Commissioner Sushil Chandra said that the strong turnout in the assembly’s polls was a vote of confidence in the EC. He also spoke about the difference of opinions with EC Rajiv Kumar to TOI’s Bharti Jain. Excerpts:
Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar stated in the draft affidavit that was not presented at Madras HC that the EC had considered postponing the recent elections in light of the increase in Covid. At what stage was this considered?
At no point in the commission was there thought to postpone the elections. Only one request was received to bludgeon the last two phases, and at that time, the EC had discussed various consequences of doing so. Taking into account the logistics of the manpower and the deployment of the central forces, which is decided well in advance, it was not considered necessary to pound the last two phases.
Did the EC at least consider postponing the later phases when requested by Congress in view of Ramzan? Was there such a suggestion from any member of the EC?
Ramzan, like all festivals and holidays, was considered before planning the elections. No one in the EC expressed any opinion on the postponement of the elections.
Why did Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar’s separate affidavit offer to take personal responsibility if Madras HC did not withdraw his ‘murder’ comment, not submitted by EC?
The affidavit and miscellaneous application (MA) before Madras HC and then the SLP in the Supreme Court were approved by both commissioners, or basically, the EC. He (Kumar) had mentioned very clearly that he was absolutely fine with the MA draft and gave his thumbs up. Likewise, SLP was also approved by him. So the documents that were presented in court had the approval of the commission.
The affidavit (written by Kumar) is a separate issue. That was discussed with the lawyer before going to Madras HC and he had opined that an affidavit could only be filed on behalf of the commission. In an SLP, it is not about filing an affidavit. If there is a difference in an organization, matters are decided on the basis of precedents, rules, and judicial pronouncements. There are procedures in the commission to handle this type of situation.
There seems to be the impression that the opinion of 50% of the EC was not heard, given that it currently has only two members.
All the opinions of the electoral commissioner were incorporated and that is why he approved the miscellaneous application and the SLP. In reality, both EC members were on the same page that Madras HC CJ’s oral observations should be withdrawn. The CV has now issued a ruling in our favor. The court made it clear that the HC’s statements were harsh and inappropriate. Nor did it attribute any blame for the pandemic to the EC.
Considering the alleged pressure on Nandigram’s counting officer after he rejected a recount demanded by the TMC agent, is EC considering providing post-election protection to ROs in general?
Election-related officials often face the ire of the new government in the post-election phase. The EC is concerned about this. Last year, the commission ordered chief secretaries not to initiate disciplinary proceedings against senior officials in the CEO’s office until one year after their term expired. EC will also deliberate to ensure that its field officers, including counting officers, are not targeted to perform their statutory duties fairly and neutrally. A similar one-year ban (on disciplinary action) for counting officers can be discussed.
How does the EC rate itself on the conduct of recent surveys?
The elections were completed peacefully with 82.2% of voters in West Bengal, 82.3% in Assam, 83.4% in Puducherry, 74.5% in Kerala and 73.6% in Tamil Nadu exercising their right to vote. Successful democratic transition within the prescribed time frame, despite the pandemic situation, is an achievement.
Do you think it is necessary to review the EC Covid 2020 guidelines?
The guidelines worked well for the Bihar surveys. By the time the last elections were announced in February, the Covid situation had improved significantly. Health authorities or experts did not indicate that a second phase of the pandemic was approaching. However, the commission did not provide its protocol. During the later phases, as the Covid situation escalated, EC responded by reviewing its instructions. But the EC is absolutely open to reform.
Have the attacks on the EC by politicians for its impartiality and fairness affected its credibility as an institution?
The credibility of an institution comes from the trust placed by the voters. With a high voter turnout despite Covid, it is certainly another brand of faith after the successful Bihar elections in 2020. All stakeholders accepted the result. The credibility of the EC institution is as strong as ever.

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