NEW DELHI: Uproarious scenes were witnessed in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday when opposition members made a determined bid to raise the issue of the Election Commission not announcing Lok Sabha and assembly by-elections.

The opposition members including Mr. Basudey Acharia, Mr. Somnath Chatterjee, Mr. Saiuddin Choudhary (CPI-M), Mr. Jaipal Reddy, Mr. Thampan Thomas (Janata Party), Mr. Dinesh Goswami (AGP), and Mr. Balwant Singh

Ramoowalia (Akali Dal) were on their feet the moment the House re-assembled for the day.

As opposition members persisted with their demand, the Speaker, Mr. Balram Jakhar, announced that the observations of members would not go on record. Mr. Jakhar ruled that the Election Commission was an independent and autonomous body and its decisions could not be debated in the House.

The Speaker advised the members to approach the Election Commission if they had any grievances. “Unless and until the statue is changed I cannot allow a discussion on that,” he said.

At one point, the Speaker told Mr. Madhu Dandavate (Janata Party), “The Election Commission is not answerable and accountable even to the Government. If they (Commission) had any grudge against the Government, they can override the Government. If they can have elections in the three states they could have announced the by-elections also. Nothing should stop them. Even if the Government had suggested anything, they could have overruled it.”

Mr. Dandavate told the Speaker that he had given notice for moving a motion under Rule 184 and wanted to know its fate.

The motion sought a statement by the Government regarding the pending by-elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies.

The Speaker announced that he had ruled out the motion.

The Janata leader demanded to know the reasons for ruling out his motion in which, he said, he had made no mention of the Election Commission. The Speaker remarked, “I do not have to give any reasons.”

Mr. Jakhar remarked, at one stage: “I cannot allow any aspersions on the Commission’s decision. I am not going to break the rules. Tomorrow you will hang it around my neck. Why should I allow it? I am not prepared to get myself hanged…I do not know why you are asking them. You can’t waste my time.”

The issue arose a number of times during the debate on electoral reform Bills that followed. Mr. Jaipal Reddy (Janata Party) remarked: What is the point in haying electoral reforms when they are not holding by-elections.

Article extracted from this publication >> December 30, 1988