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President rejects Gopalaswami’s report against Navin Chawla

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In this February 3, 2009 file picture, Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami is seen with Election Commissioner Navin Chawla during a meeting with leaders of parties in New Delhi.
In this February 3, 2009 file picture, Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami is seen with Election Commissioner Navin Chawla during a meeting with leaders of parties in New Delhi.

J. Venkatesan

Pratibha Patil accepts government’s advice; decks cleared for Chawla as CEC

Government’s decision no surprise: BJP

BJP allegations in bad taste: Congress

New Delhi: Accepting the Centre’s advice, President Pratibha Patil on Sunday rejected Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami’s recommendation that Navin Chawla be removed as Election Commissioner.

Mr. Gopalaswami is due to retire on April 20 and by rejecting his recommendation, the decks have been cleared for Mr. Chawla’s appointment as the next CEC.

Acting on the BJP’s complaint, the CEC made a suo motu recommendation to the President in the middle of January. He claimed suo motu powers under Article 324(5) of the Constitution but the government as well as many constitutional experts disagreed.

Mr. Gopalaswami’s report was forwarded to the government. The Centre sent a detailed response to the President, making it clear that Mr. Gopalaswami had no independent authority or power to recommend the removal of Mr. Chawla and that it was rejecting the CEC’s report.

A Rashtrapati Bhavan communique said President Pratibha Patil has accepted the government’s recommendation that “the CEC’s report and the recommendation to remove Mr. Navin Chawla from the post of Election Commissioner may be rejected.”

“The President, after careful consideration of the report of the CEC, the government’s recommendation, constitutional provisions and the Supreme Court judgment, arrived at a considered opinion and has accepted the recommendation of the government,” Rashtrapati Bhavan spokesperson Archana Dutta said.

Meanwhile, with the Election Commission completing the process of consultation, the stage is set for the announcement of the schedule for the 15th general election to the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, and Sikkim. The announcement is expected in a day or two.

EC tainted: BJP

Anita Joshua reports:

The BJP said on Sunday the Election Commission had been “tainted” because of one Election Commissioner and the “dogged persistence” of the government to stand by him.

BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government’s decision to reject Mr. Gopalaswami’s recommendation for Mr. Chawla’s removal came as no surprise.

“After all, the President has only stated what the government has been saying from day one. She has acted on the advice of the Council of Ministers. The Law Minister had already made it clear that the government did not agree with the observations made by the CEC,” Mr. Prasad told The Hindu.

He said the crucial question of impartiality and neutrality of an Election Commissioner had been glossed over by the government; it was a sad day for Indian democracy. “Election Commissioners come and go but since the days of T.N. Seshan, the Election Commission has developed into a trustworthy institution of Indian democracy. This extraordinary image stands tainted at least as far as one EC is concerned.”

“Charges baseless”

PTI reports from Bhopal:

Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh on Sunday accused the BJP of levelling baseless allegations against Mr. Chawla.

“It seemed that the BJP has perfected the art of hurling very low allegations at the functionaries of constitutional bodies in very poor taste... We also did not agree with the Election Commission on many occasions, but the party never said anything to lower its dignity,” Mr. Singh told reporters in Bhopal.

The Congress leader said that in his view Mr. Chawla had not committed any mistake, and hurling allegations against him was out of the question.

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