New Delhi: There is a split within the Election Commission after Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) N Gopalaswamy asked for his colleague, Navin Chawla to be removed in a report to President Pratibha Devisingh Patil.
Gopalaswamy has pointed to several instances of Chawla's apparent misconduct in the report, which is also raising the political temperature in the country.
In a stinging indictment, Gopalswamy has listed 12 instances of Chawla's unfair conduct in his report to the President.
"I will only say that a report has been sent to the President. It is privileged document. I will not talk any more on this," was all Gopalswamy said.
But Chawla is unwilling to give in. There are many within the legal fraternity too who are backing him.
"Why should I resign," Chawla has said.
Controversy has chased Chawla right from the time he assumed charge as an Election Commissioner in 2006, with the BJP going to the Supreme Court asking for Chawla's removal.
The court referred the matter back to the CEC asking him whether he had the powers to act against his fellow commissioners.
Even then the CEC had contended that article 324 (5) empowers him to remove his fellow election commissioners.
Article 324 (5) states that the Chief election commissioner can be removed only by process of impeachment just like the judges of Supreme Court. But two fellow election commissioners can be removed on the recommendations of the CEC himself.
It is silent on the distinction between the CEC giving an opinion on his own and the CEC acting in consultation with the executive. It's on this point that many are questioning Gopalswamy
"The election process is going to start in April and at this stage to create a crisis is wholly improper," said former Union law minister and senior advocate Shanti Bhushan.
"It is constitutionally completely out of line," said N Ram, Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu.
The CEC himself retires on April 20 and Chawla was his successor. After the damning revelations, the elections commissions’ objectivity will continue to be suspected for some time.