Apex court declines to hasten hearing on plea to remove Chawla

March 4th, 2009 - 8:34 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, March 4 (IANS) The Supreme Court Wednesday said it would hear March 20 a lawsuit seeking the removal of Navin Chawla, who is set to become the chief election commissioner following N. Gopalaswami’s retirement April 20.
A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan decided to hear the lawsuit March 20, refusing to accord it an urgent hearing.

As advocate Sugreeva Dubey, appearing for petitioner United Communist Party of India (UCPI), a registered political party, apprised the bench of the lawsuit submitted to the apex court registry, the bench said it will hear the matter on the day already fixed - March 20.

The lawsuit seeks that the apex court directs the union government to accept the outgoing chief election commissioner’s recommendation to ease Chawala out of office for his alleged manifest bias and prejudices in favour of the Congress party.

Gopalaswami had recommended Chawla’s removal, while acting on a plea by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), accusing Chawla of having close links with senior Congress leaders and a pro-Congress bias. President Pratibha Patil had March 1 rejected Gopalaswami’s recommendation.

Quoting from a 1995 apex court ruling on a dispute between erstwhile poll panel chief T.N. Seshan and the Union government, the UCPI in its petition argued that the chief election commissioner’s recommendation seeking his fellow member’s ouster was binding on the government.

“In the case of election commissioners as well as regional commissioners (of various states), Article 324 of the constitution provides that they shall not be removed from office except on the recommendation of the chief election commissioner,” the UCPI said, quoting the apex court ruling.

The UCPI lawsuit argued that the constitution empowers the poll panel chief alone to recommend the ouster of his co-member in the panel and regional elections commissioners in the state to ensure the autonomy and independence of the election commission.

“It is necessary to realise that his check on the executive power to remove is built into the constitution to safeguard the independence of not only these functionaries (election commissioners and regional commissioners) but election commission as the body,” the apex court said in 1995.

“This observation of the apex court negates the claim that it is within the domain of the government to decide about the removal of election commissioners contrary to the recommendation of the chief election commissioner because in that case the manifest purpose of the constitution will be defeated,” the petition said.

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