1 Feb : "I am right", Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami said, unfazed by the sharp criticism to his recommendation for the removal of Election Commissioner Navin Chawla for "partisan" functioning.
Gopalaswami’s 16th January recommendation to President Pratibha Patil that Chawla should be removed for being allegedly biased in favour of Congress has been strongly criticized by noted jurist like Fali Nariman and major political parties except BJP which supported it.
The CEC, whose term ends on 20th April, told a news agency "in my mind, I am right".
Gopalaswami pointed out that while the move had been criticized by some jurists, for other leading lawyers like Harish Salve, he was within his Constitutional right to make such a recommendation.
"It is bound to happen. Each person looks at the information he has. For some people, timing is wrong and for others it is not," the CEC said.
Nariman had said "it is most uncalled for and ill-timed. If he (CEC) wanted to give such an opinion, he should have done so earlier".
Former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan echoeing a similar view said, "The CEC has no right to give a view on his own. Appointments and removals are in the government’s domain and a view by the CEC is to be given only if his advice is asked for".
Asked about criticism on the timing of his recommendation, barely a few months before his own retirement and the Lok Sabha polls, Gopalaswami defended it and explained that the petition came to him towards the end of January 2008.
In February, the Commission was busy with preparations for the Karnataka assembly polls, he said, adding that Chawla, who was on leave for some time, was given the petition copy in July last and he took six months to respond.
Referring to Chawla’s assertion that the dignity of the Commission was paramount, the CEC said "yes, I also hold the same dignity."
"The EC has delivered flawless elections for several years. We will continue to do so. The dignity of the EC is paramount," Chawla had said on Saturday when reporters sought his reaction on the CEC’s recommendation.
"I share the same dignity and credibility of the institution. What is credibility, it is only its neutrality", Gopalaswami said.
"If 179 MPs give a petition, I just can’t throw it in the dustbin," Gopalaswami said dismissing the suggestion that it was a suo motu action.
"I have to consider and apply my mind."