Election Commission mulls advisory on ‘misuse of agencies’ concerns : Report


The Election Commission of India (ECI) is likely to issue advisory with regard to the concerns of ‘erosion’ of level playing field and ‘misuse’ of central agencies raised by Opposition INDIA bloc. The advisory may be issued to the Union government or central investigation agencies, according a report.

A delegation of INDIA bloc parties had last week urged the poll panel to ensure ‘level playing field’ during the upcoming Lok Sabha Elections 2024. The panel also requested the poll panel to make sure that the central investigation agencies take action against the opposition leaders only after taking due approval from the commission.

This after Enforcement Directorate arrested Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in connection with his alleged role in the now-scrapped Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22.

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“This isn’t about an individual or any party but it relates to the basic structure of the constitution. When a level playing field is needed for an election and you do not let the field be level by misusing agencies, it impacts free and fair elections and ultimately democracy,” Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said after meeting the poll panel.

Singhvi, who was part of INDIA bloc delegation is also representing Arvind Kejriwal in the ED case. Arrested on March 21, Kejriwal is under ED custody until March 28.

During the last week’s meeting, INDIA bloc leaders listed recent actions by central agencies against Opposition leaders including Kejriwal. The panel reminded the ECI of an advisory it issued to enforcement agencies during Lok Sabha elections polls to ensure neutrality and keep the poll panel apprised of all actions.

In 2019, the poll panel had instructed investigation agencies under the Union Finance Ministry to ensure that their pre-poll raids remain politically neutral. The panel also mandated the agencies that its officials be informed in advance before any exercise is undertaken.

“The Election Commission strongly advises that all enforcement actions during the election period, even when conducted ruthlessly with a view to curb the blatant electoral malpractice (of using money power to influence voter behaviour), be absolutely neutral, impartial and non-discriminatory. Further, in case of suspected use of such illicit money for electoral purposes, the Chief Electoral Officer should be kept suitably informed while the Model Code of Conduct is in force,” the 2019 letter by poll panel had said.

Also Read : Lok Sabha Elections 2024: BJP sees ‘egregious partiality’ in EC action against party members

The instructions had come hours after income tax officials raided the homes of the then Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath’s former private secretary Praveen Kakkar in Indore and former advisor Rajendra Kumar Miglani in Delhi recovering  9 crore. The Lok Sabha elections 2019 were held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19.

On similar lines, the ECI is expected to issue either a strong advisory to the Centre or a specific communication to central investigation and enforcement agencies, according to a report in the Economic Times.

Apart from Kejriwal’s arrest, the opposition also mentioned to the poll panel the January 31 arrest of the then Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren  and the alleged freezing of bank accounts of the Congress party.

The seven phase Lok Sabha polls begin on April 19. The results will be declared on June 4.

Opposition parties in INDIA bloc are organised a rally in Delhi on March 31 in Delhi’s Ramilila Grounds to protest the alleged misuse of central agencies by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre

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Published: 27 Mar 2024, 06:47 AM IST


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