The government on Sunday rejected Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami's recommendation for removal of Election Commissioner Navin Chawla from the poll panel that is likely to decide the general election schedule in a couple of days.
President Pratibha Patil has accepted
the government recommendation for rejection of the CEC's report against
Chawla and arrived at a "considered opinion", a Rashtrapati Bhawan
The government's decision also clears
the way for Chawla, the senior-most EC after Gopalaswami, to be
appointed as CEC when the incumbent demits office on April 20.
The battle in the Nirvachan Sadan,
housing the three-member poll panel, took a new turn in late January
when Gopalaswami recommended the removal of Chawla on a petition by
opposition BJP which had accused him of "partisan" functioning,
sparking a furore.
Terming the government's move as
"unfortunate", the BJP on Sunday said the government had taken "a
political decision on a strictly constitutional matter." The
development comes ahead of the general elections and assumes
significance as the full Election Commission is likely to meet on
Monday and may announce the poll schedule. Chawla, an IAS officer of
1969 batch, was appointed as Election Commission in May, 2005 and will
serve in the poll panel till 2010.
The President "after careful
consideration of the report of the CEC, the government's
recommendation, constitutional provisions and the Supreme Court
judgement, arrived at a considered opinion and has accepted the
recommendation of the government," Rashtrapati Bhawan spokesperson
Archana Dutta said.
Within days of Gopalaswami's
recommendation, Law Minister H R Bhardwaj had said that the
controversy should not affect Chawla's career. Hinting that Chawla will
be the next CEC, Bhardwaj had said the government had a policy to have
the senior most Election Commissioner as the CEC and "our policy
continues to be the same."
The government will begin the process
well in time to put in place a new CEC, Bhardwaj had said and made it
clear that the name of Gopalaswami's successor will be cleared before
If the election schedule is announced
in the next couple of days, then Chawla may also preside over most of
the phases of the general election if not all.
The BJP had alleged that Chawla was
close to the Congress. In 2006, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha L
K Advani and 204 MPs had submitted a petition to then President A P J
Abdul Kalam seeking the removal of Chawla as Election Commissioner.
The main Opposition party also took the
matter to the Supreme Court. Gopalaswami in his affidavit to the apex
court had claimed that the CEC had suo motu power to recommend the
removal of an Election Commissioner following which the BJP withdrew
its petition in the apex court and again took up the issue with the
The government had maintained in the Supreme Court that the CEC had no suo motu power power to remove an Election Commissioner.
Also See: Election Commission
Govt Rejects CEC's Plea to Sack Navin Chawla
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