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Updated: January 24, 2010 15:51 IST

Poll panel to discuss statute change on EC removal issue

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Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla. Photo: Rajeev Bhatt
The Hindu
Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla. Photo: Rajeev Bhatt

Once its Diamond Jubilee celebrations are over, the three-member Election Commission will discuss amendment of the Constitution to see that the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) does not have the power to remove an Election Commissioner.

“I don’t believe that I have the power. I have the power only of consensus. We are a three-member Commission. Only for administrative reasons, there is a CEC. Otherwise our powers are completely equal,” Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla told PTI in an interview.

Mr. Chawla, against whom his predecessor N. Gopalaswami had made the unprecedented recommendation for his removal last year, said that since the CEC does not have such a power, the Constitution should reflect that position.

As the Commission celebrates the Diamond Jubilee on Monday, he felt that a multi-member Commission is “ideal” on several grounds.

Asked what has been the government’s reaction to his view on the issue, Mr. Chawla, who will demit office in July after more than a year as CEC, said he has still not written to the government.

“I propose to consider that (writing to the government) after the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. I have not written yet. We have to discuss it in the Commission,” he said.

Mr. Chawla had assumed the office after the first phase of Lok Sabha polls last year following government’s rejection his predecessor’s recommendation for his removal on the alleged ground of “partisanship“.

Article 324 of the Constitution provides that while the CEC shall be removed only by an impeachment procedure, the other ECs shall not be removed except on the recommendation of the CEC.

The BJP relied on this provision to seek the removal of Mr. Chawla and Mr. Gopalaswami had also insisted that he had such a power.

The CEC had earlier said he will write to the government making his recommendation for the Constitutional amendment.

To a question whether he was going to consult the other Commissioners on the issue since the Constitution vested such a power only in the CEC, Mr. Chawla said, “I never do anything without consultation with others. That is why I say we are a three-member Commission. The Full Commission takes a view on everything.”

Asked if he was ready to sacrifice the power of the CEC to recommend removal of an EC, Mr. Chawla said, “You have to read the Constitution with the letter and spirit of the Seshan order of the Supreme Court. I must abide by that. I do not think myself of ‘I’.”

With three members, Mr. Chawla said, even if one person retires, two others remain. That would lead to moving the lessons of the past and good practices of the present and future from one Commission to another, Mr. Chawla said, adding, “So there is continuity. There is great strength in my view.”

He ruled out the possibility of differences among the members coming in the way of effective or efficient functioning.

“I think it devolves on a good chairman to carry foward the work in complete harmony. We work in complete harmony. It is already 15-16 years since (T.N.) Seshan’s time, and it has been a multi-member Commission. It has worked well,” he said.

He said when three individuals were there, there were bound to be different perceptions.

“We would expect that. Otherwise why have three if everybody had to have necessarily the same view. But we must harmonise,” the CEC said.

Mr. Chawla said that two Commissioners could overrule the CEC though it has not happened at the moment “because we feel with three, you get better inputs“.

“After all before a decision is taken, there is an extensive discussion and if then we don’t get divergent views, then why have three, we can as well have one. I think the strength lies in multi-member Commission and it has been proved,” he said.

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