EC should be politically detatched, equi-distanced: BJP

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New Delhi, Feb 3 (UNI) The BJP today expressed serious concern over the Centre's decision to seek an amendment in the Constitution to ''ostensibly'' create parity between the three members of the Election Commission and also to make the petition regarding removal of Election Commissioner Navin Chawla ''infructuous''.

In a statement here, BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley said his party had sought the removal of Mr Chawla from the Election Commission in accordance with the provisions of Article 324(5) of the Constitution.

He said the removal has been sought on the ground of the partisan conduct of Mr Chawla before his acquiring the membership of the Election Commission and also during his functioning as a Member of the poll body.

''It is this close proximity of Mr Chawla to the Congress and its political functionaries that creates an apprehension in the minds of the right thinking people that he cannot function independently and in a detached manner as a member of the Election Commission.'' Mr Jaitley said the petition extensively mentions the role of Mr Chawla during Emergency, the observations made by the Justice Shah Commission, his acquisitions of prime postings, grant of MPLAD funds by Congress MPs to private trusts controlled by him and his partisan role as a member of the Election Commission.

The Election Commission should be politically detached and equi-distanced, he added.

''If the practice of appointing partisan persons as member of the Election Commission gets established as a precedent, it will provide a temptation for future governments to pack the body with its own sympathisers. The threat is more acute because it is not an independent collegium that nominates the members of the Election Commission but the political government of the day which does so.'' The senior BJP leader said Union Law Minister's statement has confirmed his party's ''worst fears''.

''Here is government in power which, to save Mr Chawla, is willing to go to the extent of amending the Constitution. This statement is conclusive of how much value the Congress attaches to his continuation as a member of the Election Commission. When this statement is read in the context of the action of the Prime Minister's office in not even forwarding the petition seeking his removal to the Chief Election Commissioner for his recommendations, the vested interest of the Congress in the continuation of Mr Chawla gets confirmed.'' Mr Jaitley said the Constitution deliberately provided for a Chief Election Commissioner to make recommendations whether to continue or not a member of the Commission.

''What goes on within the four-walls of the Election Commission is known only to the Chief Election Commissioner and not to the political government. If there is an allegation of bias against a member of the Election Commission of favouring the government in power, it is only appropriate that it is the Chief Election Commissioner who adjudicates the allegation of bias and not the political establishment which is the beneficiary of that bias.'' Mr Jaitley said the central government seems to have conveniently forgotten that it is an amendment to the Constitution that it was perceiving.

The Congress does not command a two-third majority in either Houses of Parliament to amend the Constitution, the BJP leader said, adding even with its allies it was unlikely to reach that figure.

''Mr Chawla's episode will once again put the Left parties on trial. They will have to make a judgment whether to blindly support the constitutionally inappropriate action of the Congress or lean in favour of strengthening independent constitutional institutions,'' Mr Jaitley said.

UNI AG SK AS1403

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