Hours after reports of Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa opting out of EC meetings merged, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora on Saturday issued a statement saying that it was an “unsavoury and avoidable controversy on the internal functioning of the ECI over the matter of Model Code of Conduct.”

He said the uncalled for controversy has erupted at a time when the poll officers across the country are preparing for the seventh and the final phase of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls on May 19.

Admitting that there can be differing opinions among the election commissioners, he said, “The three members of EC are not expected to be template or clones of each other. There have been so many times in the past when there has been a vast diversion of views as it can, and should be,” adding that the views largely remained within the confines of the EC unless it is mentioned in a book much later written by the concerned ECs or CECs.

He said he never did shy away from public debates whenever required, but asserted that there was a time for everything.

He further said that on May 14, the Commission in a meeting had unanimously decided that some groups may be formed to deliberate the issues, which arose in the course of conduct of the Lok Sabha polls and that the Model Code of Conduct was one among the issues.

Earlier, reports emerged that Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa — who dissented in four decisions taken by the Election Commission giving clean chits to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah in cases of alleged violation of poll code — had recused himself from attending meetings on deciding violations.

PM Modi was given a clean chit in three cases, while Shah was let off in one incident of violation of the model code of conduct during election campaigns.

The decisions were taken based on 2:1 majority as per prescribed law which governs the functioning of the poll panel.

According to reports, Ashok Lavasa had opted out of the decision making meetings on MCC since May 4 claiming his “minority decisions were going unrecorded”.

NDTV quoted a letter by Lavasa to the Chief Election Commissioner as saying, “I am being forced to stay away from the meetings of the full commission since minority decisions are not being recorded. “My participation in the deliberations of the Commission becomes meaningless since my minority decisions go unrecorded.”

“I might consider taking recourse to other measures aimed at restoring the lawful functioning of the Commission in terms of recording minority decisions. My various notes on the need for transparency in the recording and disclosure of all decisions including the minority view have gone unheeded, forcing me to withdraw from participating in the deliberations on the complaints,” he further wrote.

The EC had taken nearly a month to dispose of complaints against PM Modi and Amit Shah. Finally, it disposed of the cases against the two leaders on May 3 after the Supreme Court issued a notice to the poll body.