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Only Supreme Court can resolve row: ex-CEC
Krishnakumar P in New Delhi | February 03, 2009 12:00 IST
Last Updated: February 03, 2009 12:37 IST
"The Constitutional provisions governing the appointment and removal of election commissioners were drafted at a time when only the Chief Election Commissioner was given a full-time appointment and the election commissioners were appointed on a short-term basis, only during election time," he said.
"When full-time election commissioners were appointed, the government was informed of the discrepancy and that it must be corrected with suitable amendments," Krishnamurthy, who served as CEC from February 2004 to May 2005, said.
Asked about the current situation in the commission where Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami [Images] has recommended Election Commissioner Navin Chawla's [Images] removal, Krishnamurthy said he was not in a position to comment on the facts of this particular case.
"All I can say is that there is a disparity between the removal procedures of the Chief Election Commissioner and other election commissioners as may be seen from the provisions of the Constitution. Everybody is free to interpret it on the basis of what is already there in the Constitution. But how it is to be interpreted is a matter which can be decided only by a court, perhaps," he said.
On whether the Chief Election Commissioner is within his rights to recommend the removal of an election commissioner, Krishnamurthy only said that while the Constitution says the CEC can only be removed by the impeachment process as is applicable to Supreme Court judges, as far election commissioners were concerned it says they can be removed on the basis of the Chief Election Commissioner's recommendation.
"Now, when the Constitutional provisions were drafted, election commissioners were appointed only on a short-term basis. That is the basis on which they had given this provision. When full-time election commissioners were appointed for the first time in 2004, the Government of India was informed that there is a discrepancy in the corresponding provision of the Constitution and that it must be corrected with suitable amendments," he said.
Asked about the many interpretations of the issue doing the rounds, Krishnamurthy said, "I have already told you that everybody is entitled to his or her own interpretation. The only person who can finally settle it is perhaps the Supreme Court."
Asked what the chances of the matter ending up in the Supreme Court were, he said it was a matter to be settled by the parties involved. "I have no idea. You have to ask the persons involved. It is a matter to be settled by the parties involved and if they have any differences, they have to go to the Supreme Court."
Regarding the end of the term of the Chief Election Commissioner, which in incumbent Gopalaswami's case is April 20, and what will happen if the issue is not resolved by then, he said the provisions were clear.
"The Constitution says the Chief Election Commissioner will have six years or till he is 65 years old, whichever is earlier. Thus so long as the Constitution is not amended there is no ambiguity about this. I will be able to speak about the provisions alone. As far as the interpretation is concerned, it depends on the parties involved or if the matter goes to court, the court will decide," he said.
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