Poll panel had wanted stricter procedure to remove Election Commissioner

January 31st, 2009 - 7:18 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 31 (IANS) Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami’s reported recommendation to the president to remove Election Commissioner Navin Chawla goes against the Election Commission’s July 2004 proposal, favouring a stringent procedure for removal of election commissioners.In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Election Commission had sought a constitutional amendment to provide for the same procedure for removal of an election commissioner as the one for removal of the chief election commissioner or the judges of the Supreme Court.

The proposal was aimed at enhancing the independence and autonomy of the poll panel to the same level as judicial independence.

“In order to ensure the independence of the Election Commission and to keep it insulated from external pulls and pressures, Clause 5 of Article 324 of the Constitution provides that the Chief Election Commissioner shall not be removed from his office except in like manner and on like grounds as a Judge of the Supreme Court,” said the poll panel in the letter to the prime minister.

“However, that Clause 5 of Article 324 does not provide similar protection to the Election Commissioners and it merely says that they cannot be removed from office except on the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner.

“The provision, in the opinion of the Election Commission, is inadequate and requires an amendment to provide the very same protection and safeguard in the matter of removing Election Commissioners from office as is available to the Chief Election Commissioner,” the letter added.

Ironically, Chief Election Commissioner Gopalaswami was a signatory, as then election commissioner, to the letter.

The letter, forming part of a set of proposals on electoral reforms, was sent to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on July 5, 2004. The PMO referred the matter to the law ministry.

To ensure and enhance the independence of the poll panel, the commission’s letter had also sought an independent secretariat for itself with statutory provisions that the government does not have any role in appointing or removing even its officials.

“The independence of the Election Commission would be further strengthened if its secretariat and its officers are also insulated from the interference of the Executive in the matter of their appointments, promotions, etc. on the lines of the secretariats of the Lok Sabha, and Rajya Sabha, Registries of the Supreme Court and High Courts etc,” the commission letter read.

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