After months of alleged harassment by government agencies, Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa has said the path to honesty “often turns out to be tortuous”.
In an article in The Indian Express, Mr Lavasa – the only dissenting member of the commission in cases of alleged Model Code violations by the Prime Minister and senior BJP leaders – wrote: “The honest, however, go on regardless, perhaps driven by an inner force that borders on recklessness. A society that creates hurdles which exhaust the honest or wound them paves the path for its own perdition”.
According to a report in The Indian Express, three of Mr Lavasa’s family are under the scanner of investigative agencies.
In September, a notice was sent to Mr Lavasa’s wife Novel S Lavasa for discrepancies in income tax filings, sources told NDTV. The department had sought information “related to foreign exchange”, the sources said. In a statement, Mrs Lavasa said she has “paid all taxes due” and “disclosed all income” and that she was cooperating with the department.
In November, the Enforcement Directorate started an investigation against Mr Lavasa’s son Abir Lavasa, and the company in which he is a director, for alleged violation of foreign exchange laws.
Mr Lavasa’s sister Shakuntala Lavasa, a paediatrician, too received a notice from the tax department.
In the article published this morning, Mr Lavasa spoke of “loneliness” and “isolation” suffered by the honest. “It is naïve to expect those that have been opposed by the honest to meekly accept the ascendance of the meek. They strike back… (and) the could be shunned by friends and foe alike”.
On what he called “non-discretionary application of rules”, Mr Lavasa wrote obsession with it could “create an army of inert bureaucrats who would delight more in the preservation of rules than finding solutions to problems”.
“The Prevention of Corruption Act is meant to be a deterrent against exercising judgement with malafide intent; if it throttles individual initiative taken in right earnest, bureaucrats would be more servants and less civil,” he added.
Ahead of the Lok Sabha election, Mr Lavasa made headlines dissenting against the majority judgment regarding instances of alleged Model Code violations by PM Modi and senior BJP leaders. Six such complaints were filed against the Prime Minister on which the Commission had given him clean chit. In some of those cases, Mr Lavasa had disagreed with his colleagues.
He soon stopped attending meetings, saying “minority decisions” were being “suppressed in a manner contrary to well-established conventions observed by multi-member statutory bodies”.
The Chief Election Commissioner had said only minority views in quasi-judicial proceedings can be recorded in the orders and the decisions on poll code complaints are not quasi-judicial proceedings, so minority views need not be recorded.