Previous CECs were of the view that the remark to the European Commission was “unacceptable” and that the meeting was “inevitable”.

Five former Senior Election Commissioners (CECs) have expressed reservations about the Ministry of Law’s letter to the Election Commission expecting CEC Sushil Chandra to attend a meeting chaired by Chief Secretary to the Prime Minister PK Mishra. Previous CECs were of the view that the remark to the European Commission was “unacceptable” and that the meeting was “inevitable”.

Former Central Executive Committees told the Indian Express that the informal discussion after the formal meeting between the plenary and Mishra could damage the European Commission’s image of independence. It should be noted that IE first reported that CEC Chandra and two Election Commissioners, Rajiv Kumar and Anup Chandra Pandey joined the hypothetical interaction called by the PMO on 16 November despite expressing their reservations. The European Commission has received a letter from an official at the Ministry of Law stating that Mishra will chair a meeting on a joint electoral list and “expects the Central Election Commission” to be present.

Former CEC SY Qureshi described the development as horrific and unacceptable. “Does the government summon the Chief Justice of India along with all the other Supreme Court justices to discuss judicial reforms? This is the only analogy that applies in this case…..even the Prime Minister cannot invite the CEC to meet,” he said.

Krishna Murthy, who served as the CEC from February 2004 to June 2005, said that election commissioners are not required to attend any meeting of any government official.

The former CEC O Rawat said such a thing had never happened before, and even when the government sought a meeting, their officers would come to the European Commission office to explain things. “These meetings were not held outside the European Commission, online, or under the leadership of a government official,” he said.

Rawat added, “It appears that the three commissioners responded to the call of decency by not attending the official meeting. But if the three delegates met informally online after the meeting, it would seem rather inconvenient. It seemed they wanted to avoid any resentment.”

The former Central Election Commission said on condition of anonymity that the interaction could have been 100 percent avoidable.

The former Central Election Commission said the optics for interaction with the government while elections for five states are likely to be announced in the coming days do not look good for the commission.

However, former CEC N Gopalaswami had a different view. He said that if the formal meeting ended and the three commissioners interacted separately with Mishra during the informal interaction, then there is nothing wrong with that.

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