Poll panel to discuss statute change to discuss EC removal

Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla, against whom his predecessor N Gopalaswami made a recommendation for his removal last year, says that the CEC does not have such a power and the Constitution should reflect that position.

As the Commission celebrates the Diamond Jubilee on Monday, he feels that a multi-member Commission is "ideal" on several grounds.

"I don't believe that I have the power. I have the power only of consensus. We are a three-member Commission. Only for administrative reasons, there is a CEC. Otherwise our powers are completely equal," he said.

Asked what has been the government's reaction to his view on the issue, Chawla, who will demit office in July after more than a year as CEC, said he has still not written to the government.

"I propose to consider that (writing to the government) after the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. I have not written yet. We have to discuss it in the Commission," he said.
Chawla assumed the office after the first phase of Lok Sabha polls last year after government rejected his predecessor's recommendation for his removal on the alleged ground of "partisanship".

Article 324 of the Constitution provides that while the CEC shall be removed only by an impeachment procedure, the other ECs shall not be removed except on the recommendation of the CEC.

The BJP relied on this provision to seek the removal of Chawla and Gopalaswami had also insisted that he had such a power.The CEC had earlier said he will write to the government making his recommendation for the Constitutional amendment.

To a question whether he was going to consult the other Commissioners on the issue since the Constitution vested such a power only in the CEC, Chawla said "I never do anything without consultation with others. That is why I say we are a three member Commission. The Full Commission takes a view on everything."

Asked if he was ready to sacrifice the power of the CEC to recommend removal of an EC, Chawla said "you have to read the Constitution with the letter and spirit of the Seshan order of the Supreme Court. I must abide by that. I do not think myself of 'I'."
Replying to questions on whether the Commission should be single member or multi-member, he said "I think a three-member Commission is ideal. The reason is by definition if any institution is a single member then that person takes with him or her their experinces when they retire." 

With three members, Chawla said, even if one person retire, two others remain. That would lead to moving the lessons of  the past and good practices of the present and future from one Commission to another, he said adding "so there is continuity. There is great strength in my view."

He ruled out the possibility of differences among the members coming in the way of effective or efficient functioning."I think it devolves on a good Chairman to carry foward the work in complete harmony. We work in complete harmony. It is already 15-16 years since Seshan's time, it has been a multi-member Commission. It has worked well," he said.

He said when three individuals were there, there were bound to be different perceptions.
"We would expect that. How can all three... otherwise why have three if everybody has to have necessarily the same view. But we must harmonise," the CEC said.

Chawla said that two Commissioners could overrule the CEC though it has not happened at the moment "because we feel with three, you get better inputs".

"After all before a decision is taken, there is an extensive discussion and if then we don't get divergent views, then why have three, we can as well have one.  I think the strength lies in multi member Commission and it has been proved," he said.

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