Chawla biased, CEC’s word enough to remove him: BJP (Second Lead)

January 31st, 2009 - 6:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Pratibha PatilNew Delhi, Jan 31 (IANS) Calling Election Commissioner Navin Chawla biased, the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) Saturday said Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) N. Gopalswami’s recommendation seeking his removal is binding on the government.BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley Saturday asserted that the constitution has vested the powers in the CEC to recommend the removal of the election commissioner.

“The BJP’s stand is that this recommendation (by the CEC) is binding on the central government. It has no discretion in the matter and is bound by the recommendation,” Jaitley told reporters here.

“The allegation is that Navin Chawla suffers from political bias. He has bias in favour of the ruling party (Congress). Political detachment was never a strength or virtue of Chawla. The beneficiary of the bias cannot adjudicate the case of the bias,” said Jaitley.

“This is to be adjudicated by an independent constitutional authority and that authority is provided in the constitution as the CEC.”

Gopalaswami has reportedly recommended removal of Chawla on the grounds that he was partisan.

His reported letter to President Pratibha Patil has sparked a storm in legal and political circles, with opinion divided on whether the head of the election panel acted wisely or not - particularly with his own retirement due April 20 and the next Lok Sabha polls due in April-May.

Chawla is tipped to succeed Gopalaswami as CEC, since he is the senior of the two other election commissioners.

Jaitley also discarded the argument that the recommendation for the removal of the election commissioner has to come from the Election Commission and not the CEC.

“Article 324 (5) of the Constitution provides that any election commissioner and regional commissioner shall not be removed from the office, except for the recommendation of the CEC. This power does not even vest in the Election Commission because the commission also comprises of the delinquent member.

“So he cannot be privy to the recommendation for or against his removal…. Hence the argument that the Election Commission should recommend and not the CEC is baseless,” said Jaitley, who is a lawyer by training.

The BJP had submitted a petition to then president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in 2006 seeking the removal of Chawla. It had also approached the apex court on the issue, but to no avail. The petition was withdrawn in 2007.

Jaitley further alleged that Chawla has political leaning.

“Political detachment is essential for the members (of election commission) and political detachment has never been a strength or virtue of Navin Chawla - whether during the commencing of his civil career during emergency or during his membership of the election commission.”

The party also called for making public the CEC recommendation. “The government must make public as to what on grounds the CEC held Chawla to be suffering from political bias. Media leaks are not a substitute to trasnparency,” Jaitley said.

The BJP demanded Chawla be “immediately disassociated from any activity with regard to holding of the forthcoming general elections”.

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