CEC seeks statute protection for ECs

New Delhi: After the episode involving the demand over his predecessor`s removal, Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi feels there is need for a constitutional amendment to give protection to the Election Commissioners so that they are not under any pressure. He also favours automatic elevation of the senior-most EC to the post of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC).

"Theoretically, it is a very dangerous situation. The two Election Commissioners can over-rule me ten times a day and make me totally helpless. They can do it under pressure of the government. The government threatening to get them removed…or in order to promote them," he told PTI in an interview.

Quraishi said he would be writing to the government on the issue. "Yes, very much… We have been saying it very vocally and loudly. It is a proposal pending for a long time," he said when asked whether he would put this on record.

The issue assumes significance against the backdrop of a demand made by the then Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswamy for removal of Navin Chawla as Election Commissioner. The demand was, however, rejected by the government.

Quraishi felt that the two ECs, who do not enjoy constitutional protection now under the law, be given the status as they should not feel they are on probation. "Otherwise he (EC) will feel there is a sword on his head all the time. Whether the government will make him (CEC) or not," he said.

Quraishi said the Election Commissioners should not only be given protection, they should get the top job by seniority. "I am demanding that not only should they be given protection, but the CEC should be elevated by seniority. Once the CEC retires, the senior-most EC becomes CEC automatically. He should not consider himself on probation," he said.

Quraishi said though conventionally no senior-most EC has ever been superceded there is no law to this effect. "It is only a convention. Some adventurous Government can try to break this convention," he feared.

He said this was "a very logical thing to do" as the protection given to the CEC is not to an individual but to an institution. "The protection given to the CEC was to the institution. The institution was one person then, it is three persons now," he said. He added that when the Election Commission was formed in 1950, "they visualised there will be elections once in five years. And they even debated whether a full-time single CEC is required or not. Whether to have a part time. Later the final decision was to have a full-time CEC, even if he is unemployed for some time."

"So after this multi-member Commission was formed in 1993, the next logical step was to immediately give same protection to the three. But that required a Constitutional Amendment. And that should have been done and would have happened very easily at that point in time. For whatever reasons if it didn`t happen. It should be done now. It is very unfair."