The government on Monday ticked off Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) N Gopalaswami for seeking removal of his colleague Navin Chawla, saying he is not the "political boss" and hinted at Chawla becoming the next CEC in April.
"Gopalaswami should do his work in EC and not become a
political boss," Law Minister H R Bhardwaj said on the sidelines of a
conference in New Delhi.
The CEC controversy continued to
generate political heat with the Government and Congress party
attacking the CEC for recommending to the President removal of Chawla.
Gopalaswami had sought Chawla's removal accusing him of being partisan.
CEC has no Constitutional authority to embarrass or comment upon his
own colleague because they are all equals. He is only the
administrative head of the Election Commission and he is not the boss,"
the minister later told reporters.
Bhardwaj said the policy of
having the senior-most in the Election Commission as the successor will
continue, indicating the likelihood of Chawla getting to the key slot
when Gopalaswami's tenure comes to an end on April 20.
the present controversy as "unfortunate", Bhardwaj said it should not
effect Chawla's career as appointments in the Election Commission are
based on merit.
"We will begin the process to put in place a new
CEC well in time" so that the name of Gopalaswami's successor is clear
before he retires,” he said.
Congress spokespersons Abhishek
Singhvi and Manish Tiwari said the CEC has no unilateral power to
recommend removal of an Election Commissioner. The CEC does not enjoy a
"status superior to that of the Election Commissioner," Tiwari said.
rift in the Election Commission also set off a war of words between the
Congress, which saw motives in the timing of Gopalaswami's move, and the
BJP supporting him.
Hitting out at Bhardwaj, BJP party spokesman
Ravi Shankar Prasad said "nothing better could be expected from the Law
Minister" since his ministry was already "advising" Chawla for the last
so many months.
When cogent reasons for bias has been given,
instead of addressing the issue, Government is attributing motive on
the part of the CEC which is "grossly unfair", Prasad said.
BJP's contention, Bhardwaj said the CEC's authority flows from the
President and if the President asks for his opinion, only then he can
"If he (president) does not ask, how can he (CEC) do so?" he asked.
is unfortunate that a person of such high rank and at the end of his
office has made such a recommendation and, thus, troubled the good name
of the Election Commission," Bhardwaj said.
Noting that the
country was moving towards the general election, he said the main work
of the EC was to prepare voters' list. "It is unfortunate that the
controversy has been started at such a time," he said.
Minister said the President is the appointing and the removing
authority for Election Commissioner members under the Constitution.
"The role of CEC is as a measure of protection, if the government wants
to remove an Election Commissioner, then CEC's opinion is sought," he
He also said the file relating to the CEC's recommendation
reached his office two days back and Law Secretary T K Viswanathan is
law ministry is the agency through which all transactions of the
Election Commission are carried out. If there is any letter by the CEC,
it is supposed to be routed through the ministry, Bhardwaj said holding
Gopalaswami's action as improper.
"Without the impeachment in
Parliament, the CEC cannot be removed...But if the government wants to
remove any election commissioner then the ministry can approach the
CEC," he said.
"It is a security of tenure enjoyed by election
commissioners that they are protected against the arbitrary acts of the
government and it is a protection to them and not an authority to the
CEC that he can get rid of his colleagues by this method," Bhardwaj
There have been instances of differences among Election
Commissioners. There are bound to be differences and what they do
within themselves, I am not bothered, Bhardwaj said.
Bhardwaj added that Gopalaswami has no primacy over his colleagues.
is the first among equals and they are all equals like the Chief
Justice of India. Do you think he (CJI) is the boss of other judges.
When they sit in the court they are three and CJI can be over-ruled by
a majority of two.
"Similarly, in this EC also if his colleagues
overrule him then the CEC will be in a minority, he has no overwhelming
Veto," he said.
Asked about the next course of action in the
matter, Bhardwaj said Navin Chawla is the senior most member of the
EC... I will not hesitate in performing my duty to process the
appointment of the next CEC on the precedents as are prevalent today,
that is, the senior most EC gets it unless he is otherwise deprived of
We have to complete the three-member strength of the EC and
one more proposal will be sent to add the third one, Bhardwaj said
elaborating on the future configuration of the Election Commission
after the CEC retires on April 20.
Bhardwaj Hints at Chawla Becoming Next CEC
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