Govt Rejects CEC's Plea to Sack Navin Chawla

New Delhi
Govt Rejects CEC's Plea to Sack Navin Chawla
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 communique said.

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 his retirement.

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 CEC.

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

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