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Chawla must go

Chawla must go

Author: Editorial
Publication: News Today
Date: February 2, 2009
URL: http://newstodaynet.com/newsindex.php?id=14508%20&%20section=13

The face-off between CEC Gopalaswami and the Election Commissioner Navin Chawla has resulted in a conundrum at a critical time when the nation is about to go for polls. The government is in a piquant situation and it has to handle it deftly and decide in the interest of the nation.

Any sensible government, which gives priority to national interests, will take all aspects in to consideration, consult Constitutional and legal experts and arrive at a conclusion, which would help in upholding the sanctity of democracy.

The man in question, Election Commissioner Navin Chawla, has been in the thick of controversies through out his career. The 1969-batch IAS officer, with only six years of experience in Administrative Service, had played a notorious role during the emergency in 1975-77 acting on behalf of Indhra Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi.

Justice Shah Commission of Enquiries, which probed the excesses committed by the Executive during the emergency period, had severely indicted him for his approach, attitude and activities and ultimately concluded that he is a total misfit to hold any public office and needed to be summarily dismissed from service.

Saved by the fall of the Janatha government, Navin Chawla has remained as a loyalist to Congress party in general and Nehru family in particular. Right from the time of his appointment as the Election Commissioner after the retirement of B B Tandon in May 2005, he has been seen as a 'favourable' person to the ruling UPA dispensation.

It must be noted that just two months before his appointment, he was awarded the Mazzini Award by the government of 'Italy' in March 2005. This Italian connection added weight to the argument that he would be loyal to the Congress party.

Later, the media exposed the undue favours he got from Ashok Gehlot's Congress government in Rajastan and the huge MPLAD funds granted by the Congress MPs for the Educational Trust owned by him and his wife.

In the immediate aftermath of the exposure, more than two hundred Memebers of Parliament belonging to the NDA submitted a memorandum to the then President Dr Kalam demanding his immediate removal from the EC.

And when the BJP approached the Supreme Court with a petition, he didn't bother to challenge it and remained without any repentance even when the CEC filed an affidavit at the Supreme Court saying that he had the authority to recommend the removal of an election commissioner. Presumably, he must have been under the confidence that the central government would take care of his survival.

Meanwhile, when the issue over the Order of the Leopold Award given by the Belgium Monarchy to Sonia Gandhi landed at the Election Commission along with the opposition's demand for her disqualification, he attempted to involve the Extrnal Affaitrs Ministry to bail her out and finally succeeded too.

His isolated stand on Karnataka elections also point to the fact that he wanted to favour the Congress Party. So, the entire career record of Chwala, not only as a bureaucrat but also as an Election Commissioner, seems to be absolutely blemished.

Finally when the CEC served him a show cause notice, on the petition against him filed by the BJP, seeking his explanation, he has been dodging it without responding. He had also sought the opinion of the Law Ministry, which
emboldened him with its view that the CEC doesn't have the authority to take suo motu action on such petitions.

Despite the CEC's repeated reminders demanding his explanation, he continued to delay his response and finally sent it as late as December 2008 claiming that he has been unbiased. The CEC, after analysing the issue threadbare by consulting legal experts and former judges, duly sent his recommendations for Chawla's removal to the President in January 2009.

The most important point, which needs to be considered is that, the CEC is not going to be personally benefited by the exit of Navin Chawla, as his term is anyway going to expire in April. Moreover, the CEC's career record has been clean and impeccable and hence attributing 'motives' for his action will not cut much ice. So, the question before the nation is that whether Chawla has the credibility to conduct the general elections.

The denunciation by a judicial commission, the exposure by the media about his allegiance to a particular party, the partisan functioning as Election commissioner and earning the displeasure of more than 200 MPs (almost 50% of the nation), all underline the fact that he has lost his integrity completely.

Any decent personality who holds a public office, would have quit by this time. So, Navin Chawla must resign and pave the way for the conduction of a free and fair general election and help upholding the integrity of Election commission and sanctity of democracy.


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