Apex court dismisses lawsuit for Navin Chawla’s removal

March 20th, 2009 - 9:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, March 20 (IANS) The Supreme Court Friday dismissed a lawsuit that sought removal of Navin Chawla from the Election Commission. Chawla is set to become the chief election commissioner after N. Gopalaswami’s retirement April 20.
A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan dismissed the lawsuit by advocate Sugreva Dubey, and questioned his intentions behind seeking Chawla’s ouster.

The bench, which also included Justice V.S. Sirpurkar, said the advocate had no locus standi to question Chawla’s continuation as member of the Election Commission.

Dubey had moved the court on behalf of a little-known political outfit, United Communist Party of India (UCPI), claiming he was its secretary general.

But the bench said Dubey was unable to satisfy the court whether his political party was registered or not.

Dubey’s lawsuit sought that the apex court direct the union government to accept the outgoing chief election commissioner’s recommendation to ease Chawla 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 the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), accusing Chawla of having close links with senior Congress leaders and a pro-Congress bias. President Pratibha Patil had rejected Gopalaswami’s recommendation.

Quoting from a 1995 ruling of the apex court on a dispute between erstwhile poll panel chief T.N. Seshan and the Union government, Dubey in his petition urged to the apex court that the chief election commissioner’s recommendation seeking ouster of an Election Commission member was binding on the government.

“In the case of election commissioners as well as the 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,” Dubey contended in his petition, quoting the apex court ruling.

He argued that the constitution empowers the poll panel chief alone to recommend the ouster of his co-members 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 the Election Commission as a body,” the apex court had said in 1995.

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

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