Of Navin Chawla's Loo Breaks and Phone Calls

Of Navin Chawla's Loo Breaks and Phone Calls
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The Congress had charged that there is a "remarkable congruence of views between that of the BJP and what it wants and some actions of the Election Commission". 

But the CEC, on his part, has cited as many as 12 instances in his letter to President Pratibha Patil to conclude that Chawla was not impartial in his role as Election Commissioner.

In his letter to President Pratibha Patil sent on January 16 in which he recommended the removal of Election Commissioner Navin Chawla, the CEC has also sought amendment in the Election Commission Act and argued: 

"It does not appear appropriate to have retired CECs and ECs accepting offices under the government and worse still, joining political parties. Both hit at the very root of the principle of neutrality of the CEC and ECs as the general perception would be one of lack of it, in either circumstances. One way to articulate a strong sense of neutrality expected of officers, in my view, is to mandate against any post-retirement employment".

His letter also quotes the Supreme Court in the T N Seshan judgment of 1995: 

"The agency which is entrusted the task of holding elections to the legislatures should be fully insulated so that it can function as an independent agency free from external pressures from the party in power or executive of the day."

The CEC's report goes on to note that whenever the full EC bench meeting was seized of an issue, Navin Chawla used to make an excuse of going to the washroom. And soon thereafter, the report goes on to say, invariably the CEC would get phone calls from top Congress functionaries even as the meeting was in progress.

The CEC's critics, however, claim that this is a mere insinuation that can not be backed up. But the CEC does provide specific instances too. His report goes on to talk about how the prime minister's Principal Secretary TKA Nair visited the Nirvachan Sadan to enquire about the 'notice' being sent to Congress president Sonia Gandhi on her receiving an award from Belgium. 

The report suggests Nair tried to scuttle the notice against the Congress president, by conveying that the prime minister had already examined the matter and found that there was no case against Sonia Gandhi. 

Election Commissioner Navin Chwla is again blamed for dragging his feet in submitting his comments on the case when Sonia Gandhi replied to the notice that itself was delayed by five months. 

CEC's report mentions the issue of Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, Bhagalpur by-election, and the controversial BJP CD case during the Uttar Pradesh elections.

Sources say that each of CEC's charge is meticulously documented.

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