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Democracy has been strengthened: CEC Gopalaswami

Sheela Bhatt | February 03, 2009 17:53 IST

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"I have no regrets. One should not have any regrets in speaking the truth. My evidence is legally strong and morally stronger," said Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami [Images] while talking exclusively to about the "evidential value" of his recommendation to President Pratibha Patil [Images] to remove his colleague and Election Commissioner Navin Chawla [Images] from his post.

The unprecedented step by Gopalaswami just a few weeks before retirement has raked up a huge political controversy and can lead to a crisis of confidence in the Election Commission especially if Chawla is appointed by the government to the top Constitutional post without addressing the issues raised by the CEC.

Gopalaswami's letter to the President is 93 pages long, its annexures number some 500 pages and includes a 150-page response from Chawla to the charges raised by members of Parliament against him.

Gopalaswami, who is retiring on April 20, told that he has no regrets for what he has done. Asked about his critics' charge that his action has weakened the institution of Election Commission, he said, "Not at all, not at all! On the contrary, the office of EC has been strengthened and Indian democracy is strengthened. I am not keen to comment on what others say. I have done my duty. I did whatever I was bound to do."

Gopalaswami has been criticised by legal experts like Fali S Nariman and Soli Sorabjee for making his recommendation just a few weeks before the Lok Sabha elections are due  which is a mammoth exercise in itself.

Asked about the timing of his move against Chwala, CEC Gopalaswami said, "This argument regarding timing is unfair. I was dictated by circumstances. It was not a deliberate decision. I had to wait till the Karnataka elections get over. He (Chawla) took five months to reply to me. For one month he went on leave. I have taken only one and a half months to prepare my opinion once I got his (Chawla's) response (to the charges made against him)."

Gopalaswami claimed that not just legally speaking, but even morally he is on a stronger wicket over his action against Chawla.

His letter to the President quotes many instances when Chawla used the same language, facts and figures on issues as the Congress leaders who spoke to Gopalaswami. While there is no legally tenable evidence attached to prove that Chawla talked to the Congress leaders and leaked the EC's decisions, there are numerous cases of circumstantial evidence to prove that Chawla was all the time in touch with Congress leaders.

The Election Commission was envisaged by the Founding Fathers as an independent body and hence cannot and should not be seen to serve any political party.

Gopalaswami says he will not be surprised if Chawla is nominated by the government to the post of CEC. Rather, he is all set to leave behind an illustrious and spotless career to settle down in the T Nagar area of Chennai post-retirement. He said, "I am going to spend my energy and time in popularising Sanskrit education and Vedic knowledge."

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