NOT everything appears to be in a fine fettle in the Election Commission as one commissioner has said, as New Age reported on Tuesday, that some internal irregularities have called the commission into question. Election commissioner Mahbub Talukder has come up to say that the commission secretariat has not maintained or is unwilling to maintain its accountability for which the commission has to shoulder responsibilities. He has said such ‘arbitrary action’ of the secretariat has breached the constitution, the Representation of the People Order 1972, the Election Commission Secretariat Act 2009, and the rules framed under the laws. The commission’s secretary has not, as Mahbub Talukder says, informed the four commissioners of a recent recruitment test and the associated expenses. The commissioner is reported to have wanted to know from the secretariat why no action has been taken against the 135 job-seekers who were expelled from the viva voce examination. The commission’s senior secretary at a meeting on November 14, however, said that the appointment and financial matters fall outside the jurisdiction of the commission and the chief election commissioner is reported to have supported the statement of the secretary.
The secretary at hand, who has brushed aside any allegations of taking ‘arbitrary decisions’, however, says that the law and the rules require that the secretariat should discuss only election-related issues with the commissioners. But whatever has happened in the commission suggests that the secretariat wants to call all the shot, which reeks of an interference in the constitutional agency, keeping all but the chief election commissioner in the dark. And the chief election commissioner coming to support what the secretariat does also speaks of intransparency in the commission. Consequently, all the commissioners have sent an unofficial note to the chief election commissioner seeking clarification on the functions of the secretariat as the commissioners have thought that without having proper coordination between the commission and the secretariat, it is ‘impossible to hold fair elections.’ This is not the first time issues of coordination and some other matters have gone awry in the commission. Issues of the same nature have also surfaced in the past. There should be no absence of coordination within the commission and with the secretariat for a proper functioning of all that the commission and the secretariat are mandated to do. The institution of accountability which is meant to help in the furtherance of democracy should work in a democratic environment within itself. The commissioner in question thinks that any repeat of unwarranted conduct could be avoided if the constitution and two other laws and their rules are strictly adhered to.
It is, therefore, time that the chief election commissioner realised that nothing meaningful could be achieved if other commissioners are kept in the dark about many of the activities that the commission and the secretariat do. And the commission secretariat would do well in making decisions by having all the commissioners in the know.
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