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Navin Chawla is new CEC
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 4
In an expected development, the government today appointed Navin Chawla as the Chief Election Commissioner with effect from April 20, 2009, the day present incumbent N Gopalaswami ends his tenure.

Chawla, an Indian Administrative Service officer of the 1969 batch, will hold charge till July 29, 2010. He was appointed election commissioner on May 13, 2005. He and SY Quraishi are, at present, the two EC’s.

President Pratibha Patil approved the appointment of Chawla. Chawla will head the Election Commission for the four out of five phases of the polls. The first phase is on April 16 and the remaining four are scheduled after April 20, when Chawla takes over.

The elevation of Chawla comes after a controversy triggered by Gopalaswami’s recommendation to the President for Chawla’s removal from office for alleged “biased” functioning. On Sunday the President had rejected Gopalaswami’s advice for Chawla’s removal.

The BJP had termed Chawla’s appointment as the one that would “benefit the ruling UPA”. BJP leader Arun Jaitley today rued that the appointment of the next CEC was not made by a “neutral authority”.

While terming the appointment as “unfortunate”, Jaitley said his party would “explore options at an appropriate time”.

The BJP’s opinion about Chawla is also stemmed from a historical fact. The CEC-designate was once close to Sanjay Gandhi and wielded power as Secretary to the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi during the emergency period (1975-77).

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SC to hear PIL on CEC appointment
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, March 4
The Supreme Court will hear on March 20 a PIL seeking a direction to the government to implement the Administrative Reform Commission’s (ARC) recommendation for the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and ECs through a collegium system as in the case of judges.

The PIL, filed by the United Communist Party of India, also wants the government to be directed to implement the recommendation of CEC N Gopalaswami for the removal of EC Navin Chawla.

Barely two hours after a Bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan said the PIL would be heard later this month, the government announced the elevation of Chawla as the new CEC, who would assume office upon Gopalaswami completing his tenure on April 20. The incumbent CEC will demit office in the midst of the 15th Lok Sabha elections to be held in five phases from April 16 to May 13.

The ARC, headed by Veerappa Moily, has suggested the selection of the CEC and the ECs by a five-member collegium, including the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the CJI and two Judges from different High Courts.

According to Sugriva Dubey, who appeared for the PIL petitioner in the court, no authority “has any power under the Constitution to refuse the recommendation of the CEC” for the removal of an EC.

“Since the CEC being the chairman has to ensure smooth functioning of the commission and if any EC is found influenced by any political party then it is only the CEC who can recommend for removal,” the PIL contended.

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