The recently concluded elections for the Indian Institute of Architects’ representatives to Council of Architecture (CoA) have been mired in controversy, with several members and contestants raising concerns over alleged malpractice and a lack of transparency in the election process.
A number of members have alleged that the results of the elections are unbelievable, as ambiguity was quite visible in the voting numbers. The letter sent by architect Punit Sethi, one of the contestants, to the president, IIA, mentioned,
“It will not be incorrect to state that these numbers are not only unfair and unjust to the undersigned but also to Members of IIA Haryana and Northern Chapters, who believed in the voting system and participated in the online voting. The numbers in IIA Haryana and Northern Chapters do not limit my objections to the sanctity of the e-voting module to only to these two Chapters. Similar errors are likely to have occurred in the vote tally of the remaining six Chapters as well.”
The IIA has been utilising an online election module to conduct the voting process. However, this has come under severe criticism from members who have accused the IIA of lacking transparency in the digital voting system. In the past, a number of requests were sent to the IIA leadership, demanding an independent agency like NSDL to be appointed for fair conduct of the elections. But these requests have been repeatedly turned down by the IIA, leading to widespread discontent.
The latest elections have amplified the reservations members have expressed over the flawed election mechanism. Many procedural lapses, in addition to glitches in the online module, have been highlighted by the members.
The escalating controversy has put the functioning of the IIA under the scanner. Critics have accused the IIA leadership of being undemocratic, non-transparent, and dismissive of members’ opinions. There are calls for extensive reforms within the IIA to make it more accountable and member-friendly.
Several members have also reached out to the Council of Architecture and the Ministry of Education to urgently intervene in the matter and put the announcement of results on hold until an audit of the elections is conducted. In a letter sent to the Ministry of Education, IIA President, Council of Architecture President, and the Charity Commissioner, Mumbai, Architect Pradeep Kale from the western region has demanded a forensic audit of the entire election process and data compiled during the voting process. The Ministry has asked the IIA to look into the matter at the earliest so that the final result could be notified.
ArchitectureLive! approached Architect Vilas Avachat, President, Indian Institute of Architects, and Prof. Abhay Purohit, President, Council of Architecture, for their comments on the issue. Prof. Abhay Purohit shared,
“The elected representatives of IIA would be members of CoA after gazette notification from the Central Government, as per the Architect’s Act. IIA is conducting online elections from last term, and the elected representatives were duly gazette notified by the Central Government.”
However, architect Avachat did not respond to the request for a comment.
The IIA has also ignored the request by over 50 members to conduct a Special General Body Meeting (SGBM). As per Bye-Law 37(ii), the SGBM should have been convened within thirty days of the receipt of the requisition. Commenting on this, Prof. Ramaraju Rengasamy mentioned,
“..the Special General Body Meeting is a demand of Members to place the matter / issue by a Member to get decided / resolved by the Members only. The president and office bearers are there to take note of the decision and for enforcement. They don’t have any right or power to stop, change, postpone, or intervene in the meeting except as a Fellow Member of the Institute. Therefore, it is the duty of the President, being the Chairman of the Meeting, to immediately convene the meeting, and he has no other say except to convene the Special General Body Meeting if the representation confirms the provisions of the Bye-law. In this case, it seemed to be a clear-cut violation committed by the President and liable for legal action as provided by the Maharastra Public Trust Act, 1950.”
The coming days are likely to see escalated protests against the IIA unless it addresses the election fiasco through credible corrective actions. For now, the bitter election fallout has exposed some deep-rooted issues within one of India’s leading architectural bodies.