Centre gives clean chit to Navin Chawla

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J. Venkatesan

Says no ground for interference; Jaswant's charges `unfounded'

Jaswant's assertions `bereft of details,' 'totally vague'`Views of CEC can be sought only if there is a proposal from Centre for removing EC'Attorney General `never consulted' on appointment or continuance of Mr. Chawla

NEW DELHI: The Centre on Monday filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court giving a clean chit to Election Commissioner Navin Chawla saying that the allegations made against him in a writ petition from Jaswant Singh, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, were unfounded and there was no ground for interference.

`No illegality'

It said: "The allegations do not make out any case of illegality and/or impropriety which would warrant the initiation of further steps by the Executive Government to seek the removal of Mr. Navin Chawla."

The Centre said that the averments in Mr. Jaswant Singh's petition on the conduct of Mr. Chawla as Election Commissioner were bereft of details and totally vague.

Justifying the decision of President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in forwarding the memorandum submitted by Mr. Singh to the Government, the Centre said that appointments to the post of Election Commissioner and Chief Election Commissioner were made by the President on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers.

"Likewise, in the matters relating to removal of an Election Commissioner or Chief Election Commissioner, the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers becomes relevant in the matter," it said.

On the petitioner's objection to the Centre seeking the opinion of the Attorney General, Milon K. Banerjee in the matter, the Centre said that at no point of time the AG was either consulted or asked to render opinion either to the appointment or continuance of Mr. Chawla as Election Commissioner.

On the petitioner's contention that the President ought to have referred the memorandum to the Chief Election Commissioner, the Centre said: "The views of the CEC can be sought only if there is a proposal from the Union Government for removal of the Election Commissioner and general recommendations upon `suitability' are completely outside the purview of the exercise contemplated under Article 324 (5) of the Constitution."

It said: "The CEC cannot be compelled to act in any manner unless and until the Executive Government has taken a view in this regard."

Further if the power under Article 324 (5) of the Constitution were to be exercised by the CEC as per his whims and caprice, the CEC would become an instrument of oppression and destroy the independence of the Election Commissioners and the Regional Commissioners if they were to function under the threat of the CEC recommending removal.

Not worthy of merit

The Centre said that it had examined the memoranda and the representations seeking the removal of Mr. Chawla and it did not find them worthy of any merit whatsoever.

"There is no question of forwarding these representations for any further action or recommendation from the CEC.

"The Government believes that the fourth respondent [Mr. Chawla] has not incurred any disqualification as contemplated in T.N. Seshan's case [in the Supreme Court] which would have any bearing upon his functioning as an Election Commissioner," it said and sought dismissal of the writ petition.

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