Says he is first among the equals in the Election Commission
NEW DELHI: Senior Election Commissioner Navin B. Chawla on Tuesday took over as the 16th Chief Election Commissioner. Union Power Secretary V.S. Sampath assumed office as the new Election Commissioner in the vacancy caused by the retirement of N. Gopalaswami as CEC on Monday.
This is the first time in the country that a CEC is assuming office in the midst of the general elections.
Mr. Chawla, who held the first meeting with the Commissioners, S.Y. Quraishi and Mr. Sampath, at Nirvachan Sadan here to discuss the preparedness for the next four phases of elections, told journalists, quoting the Supreme Court verdict in the (former CEC) T.N. Seshan case, that he was only “primus inter pares — first among the equals.” He and the other Commissioners were equal and that was why “we are here before you as one, not as one individual but all three together. All our decisions will be taken jointly.”
Mr. Sampath told The Hindu that he was accepting the constitutional post with humility though it was a daunting task. “I will try my best to live up to the highest tradition of my office and do my duty sincerely,” he added.
Mr. Chawla said he felt “humble” in accepting the new assignment and reaffirmed his pledge, taken when he assumed office as Election Commissioner in May, 2005, to uphold the Constitution in letter and in spirit. He was confident that the Commission would be able to deliver flawless elections as it had been doing in the last four years.
Though he had a running battle with Mr. Gopalaswami on various issues, including the latter’s suo motu recommendation to remove him from the post,
Mr. Chawla appeared to put the past behind him as he appreciated Mr. Gopalaswami’s efforts in intensifying the Elector’s Photo Identity Card (EPIC) coverage in the country to 82 per cent. He appealed to youth and urban voters to participate in the poll process and make the democracy a truly functioning one.
Reiterating that the Commission was always impartial, Mr. Chawla pointed out that both the winning and losing parties came to the EC to thank it for the conduct of the elections. “That reflects the fair, free and transparent elections.”