Saturday, February 07, 2009

The struggle in the Election Commission

The current Chief Election Commissioner (the CEC, Mr Gopalaswami) set the cat among the pigeons by recommending recently that an Election Commissioner, Mr. Navin Chawla be removed. This recommendation was made on January 16, 2009, but became public news on the 29th of January, 2009 when it got published as headline news. And it set off a political fire-storm with political parties, constitutional experts, prominent lawyers, all jumping into the arena.
The BJP has made no secret about its displeasure with the Election Commissioner Navin Chawla, accusing him of being very close to the Congress (he was closely associated with the Congress during the excesses of the emergency, he took funds from Congress MP's for a charity promoted by him, etc). They have filed petitions against him for quite some time now, and this action by the CEC is a fallout of those protests.
There were questions raised about the timing of the move by the CEC, but it was soon revealed that the timing was dictated by the reply from EC Chawla (which finally came in December after many months of delay). This handles the issue about the timing of the recommendation.
The Law Minister Mr. Bhardwarj made some rather rotten comments about the conduct of the CEC, but that is understandable given that Mr. Chawla is a favorite of the Congress. Conversely it is alleged that Mr. Gopalaswami is close to the BJP, but one does not have too much knowledge or proof of that. What is true that if the CEC has made numerous allegations about the bias that he has seen in Navin Chawla, then it only just that these are investigated.
The question about whether the CEC has the power in the Constitution to recommend the removal of an Election Commissioner is something that is not for the Government ot decide, and given the multiple opinions by constitutional experts and leading lawyers, this is a question to be decided by the Supreme Court of India.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 8:36 AM