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CEC move has no takers, Chawla won't quit

CNN-IBN
Jan 31, 2009 at 03:48pm IST

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New Delhi: Just weeks before General Elections, the nation could be staring at a constitutional crisis involving the body that is in charge of conducting free and fair polls - the Election Commission.

Sources tell CNN-IBN Election Commissioner Navin Chawla, whose removal has been recommended to the Government by CEC N Gopalswami, will not quit despite the complaint against him.

ALSO SEE CEC complaints, wants Navin Chawla removed

Chawla appeared to be in a combative mood, saying the "dignity" of the Constitutional body is "paramount".

“The Commission has conducted flawless elections for the past several years. We will continue to do so.The dignity of the Commission is paramount," he said.

Asked whether he contemplated quitting, Chawla said "I am not even aware of the CEC recommendations. I do not want to say anything.

Gopalaswami had written to the president demanding Chawla's removal on charges of partisanship.

The controversy has erupted nearly two months before Gopalaswami's tenure ends. Chawla, the senior-most Election Commissioner, was considered as the natural choice for the top post when Gopalaswami demits office on April 20.

The recommendation is based on a petition by the BJP which had complained against the "partisan" functioning of Chawla.

The Chief Election Commissioner's recommendation ahead of the general elections brings to the fore the differences among the three-member body which has often been marred by clashes over crucial decisions.

The Editor-in-chief of The Hindu who broke the news confirmed that his report about CEC's recommendation against Navin Chawla is true.

He said that CEC's decision does not follow the Constitution. "Yes this news is absolutely confirmed and what the CEC has done is very wrong. Only the appointing body, which in this case is the Govt of India, has the authority to seek removal of an Election Commissioner. The CEC sat on this issue even though several BJP leaders had approached him with their doubts. At that time he had not even called for a meeting about the issue. All this has created unnecessary controversy and muddy waters,” he said.

Former CEC TS Krishnamurthy said, “This is very unfortunate. The crux of the problem is that the government has not brought parity amongst the three election commissioners as far as removal is concerned. There is a difference in the removal procedure of the CEC and the other Election Commissioners. The government had been apprised of this in 2004 yet they didn't do anything”.

The CEC's decision has invited severe criticism from the legal fraternity

“If he had a complaint against Chawla he should have said so earlier. He should have told government then and asked for an enquiry. To say this on the eve of the election is wholly improper and CEC should resign!” said Supreme Court lawyer Shanti Bhushan.

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