CEC urges govt to amend Constitution to protect ECs

CEC urges govt to amend Constitution to protect ECs

Navin Chawla

Chawla, in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has said Article 324(5) of the Constitution, which deals with the protection to the CEC, should be amended to also include the two election commissioners so that the Election Commission could avoid facing the possibility of any “serious disrepute.”

Chawla has referred to two “unwarranted episodes” in the past, during the tenures of T N Seshan and N Gopalaswami, to stress the need for amending the Constitution.
In the first instance, the then CEC Seshan had challenged in the Supreme Court the appointment of M S Gill and G V G Krishnamurthy as ECs in 1993 and had refused to give them any work till the court dismissed his petition a year-and-a-half later.

Seshan had contented that Article 324(5) put the CEC on a higher pedestal than the ECs and that the latter could be removed from office on the former’s recommendation.
In the second instance, Gopalaswami, citing Article 324(5), had recommended to the President that Chawla be removed as EC.

In his letter, made public following an RTI application by Subhash Chandra Agrawal, Chawla has said: “The Commission strongly feels that so long as the provisions of Article 324(5) stands as they are, recurrence of episodes of the nature described above cannot be ruled out in future, against bringing into serious disrepute and shaking the confidence of the millions of citizens in the integrity and neutrality of the commission.”

“It goes to the credit of the government under your sagacious leadership that the government refused to accept Gopalaswami’s recommendation and the Honourable President was advised, and she chose, not to accept his said recommendation.” The “limited protection” given to the ECs are inadequate, he has argued. The Article 324 (5) says that the CEC would not be removed from his office except in “like manner and on like grounds as judges of the Supreme Court.

“However, similar protection was not extended to other election commissioners and it was merely provided in the said Article that they cannot be removed from office except on the recommendation of the chief election commissioner,” the letter says.

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