Posts Tagged ‘N. Ram’

An Open Letter to N. Ram of The Hindu

February 11, 2009

The two articles on the Gopalaswami and Navin Chawla issue is deeply disturbing as you seem to have gone all out to rip apart Mr. Gopalaswami without for once getting into the merits of the case.


Right from the heading being so strongly anti Gopalaswami (Documentary record shows he hounded Navin Chawla and made light of constitutional considerations) to being ultra nice on Navin Chawla (he courteously acknowledged the letter).


Both articles do not have much of a substance but pure subjectivity that it left me wondering if these actually were published in the Hindu and that too by you! How else can we explain:

  • Being so personal on Mr. Gopalaswami. Has any work been done to check the record of the CEC?
  • Not once getting into the merits of the case I.e. the complaint against Mr. Chawla.
  • Giving opinions from a set of legal counsel while not giving a counterpoint by equally distinguished experts
  • such biased opinions which tarnish the very ethic of journalistic reporting


 Let us analyse both the articles Gopalaswami claims on timing of missive are  seriously misleading   and How Chief Election Commissioner pursued BJP allegations. I have put the articles in TOTO below lest it be described as taking a few sentences out of context.


Gopalaswami claims on timing of missive are  seriously misleading   “Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami has been widely criticised, among others by top constitutional lawyers Fali Nariman, Shanti Bhushan, and K.K. Venugopal, for the timing of his missive to the President just three months ahead of the 15th general election and three months ahead of his own retirement as CEC. In response, Mr. Gopalaswami has gone on record essentially blaming Election Commissioner Navin Chawla for the timing, claiming that he sent his ‘final reply’ to the allegations made in the BJP’s petition only on December 10. “

A careful, item-by-item verification by HinduThe of the CEC’s claims on what happened within the Election Commission between January 30, 2008 and January 12, 2009 reveals that they are seriously misleading.

On January 30, 2008, Mr. Gopalaswami received in his chambers a Bharatiya Janata Party delegation led by Arun Jaitley. It submitted a petition making various allegations against Navin Chawla and demanding his removal as Election Commissioner. On January 12, 2009, the CEC sent his report to the President ‘recommending’ that Mr. Chawla be removed from office under Article 324(5) of the Constitution.

First of all, more than half the delay is explained by Mr. Gopalaswami’s keeping the BJP’s petition to himself between January 30 and July 20, 2008. He is now quoted in the press as attributing the delay on his part to a highly subjective factor, the differences he had developed with Mr. Chawla over the timing of the Karnataka election. (“I put the petition on hold till the Karnataka election was over, lest it be misunderstood.”)”

I am surprised at the beginning of the article Mr. Ram as you seem to have conveniently forgotten that the CEC  mentioned that Mr. Chawla took 6 months to respond and never attributed about the whole delay  to Mr. Chawla. Considering Mr. Gopalaswami sat on the file for over 6 months does it absolve Navin Chawla for the delay? Making a statement as seriously misleading by N Ram could be understood had there not been a delay from navin Chawla but only from Gopalaswami. More perplexing is the argument on differences between the two regarding Karnataka elections and you conveniently call it highly subjective: why for a moment could you not  believe the CEC on his reasons as there definitely were differences? If there was even one logical argument put forth by you it would have been interesting but such highly immature statements coming from such a senior journalist is sad.


“Secondly, the timing is to be explained by the CEC’s overbearing insistence, in tandem with the BJP’s strident stance, that he had the power under Article 324 (5) of the Constitution to conduct an inquiry against an Election Commissioner, and make a suo motu recommendation on his removal. This usurpation of authority flew in the face of the Supreme Court’s judgment in T.N. Seshan, Chief Election Commissioner v. Union of India (1995). It was a complete reversal of the stand taken in June 2006 by Mr. Gopalaswami’s predecessor, B. B. Tandon, and by the Election Commission itself in the Supreme Court. It also went against the legal opinion given to the Election Commission, on April 16, 2006, by Ashok H. Desai, senior advocate and former Attorney-General for India. What constitutional or legal sanction other than the BJP’s averments Mr. Gopalaswami had for his dogmatic claim of suo motu authority over a fellow member of the Election Commission remains to be inquired into and explained. “

Now what has the belief of the CEC that what he was doing was correct have any relation to the timing? Would your belief have changed had the CEC sent his opinion to the president sometime last year? If so then the above point of yours does not hold any ground that the CEC has no right to recommend about sacking of the EC. Also, not sure how BJP is related to the timing? On the contrary the BJP was pushing their case for a couple of years now and they did approach the Supreme Court as well!

It has to be noted that the same Fali Nariman quoted by you has also mentioned that the recommendation by the CEC falls into the grey area of the constitution and hence such one sided speak by you is not correct.


“The documentary record shows that he relentlessly hounded an Election Commissioner, who was supposed to be his equal, after demanding his “comments on the issues raised” in the BJP’s petition so that he could “consider the matter for further appropriate action.” He peremptorily ruled out challenges to his locus standi and jurisdiction. He insisted, in his written communication with Mr. Chawla, that the matter was solely “between the Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commissioner” and had “nothing to do with the Central Government,” the appointing authority for the CEC as well as ECs.”

From when is a follow-up called hounding?  If the Hindu pursues a news item it believes is correct and follows up logically will it be tantamount to hounding Mr. Ram? Can you give us readers some instances of the “hounding”. I do not understand what peremptorily rejecting means as the CEC  did act based on interpretations which cannot be called wrong.  What you suggest is that if Navin Chawla questioned the authority of Mr. Gopalaswami then the latter ought to have agreed with him and not moved on the accusations even if they could have been true. Sorry Mr. Ram to take this logic  further we should free all criminals in the country if they claim to be innocent!


“The CEC rejected the constitutional contentions in Mr. Chawla’s elaborate reply of September 12 and demanded a response on “the merits of the petition” as early as possible. Even Law Secretary T.K. Viswanathan’s vitally important letter of clarification, dated November 7, 2008, which Mr. Chawla forwarded to Mr. Gopalaswami, was dismissed as irrelevant in the cat and mouse game the CEC seemed to be playing.

Mr. Chawla’s ‘final reply’ of December 10 was only a reiteration of the important constitutional points he made in his reply of September 12 plus a rejection of the BJP’s allegations as “motivated and entirely baseless.” “

Mr. Ram the same points as above the CEC interpreted the constitution in a certain manner – and there are legal experts apart from the ones mentioned in your article  who agreed with the CEC –  and for  this it is unfair on your part to put Mr. Gopalaswami in such a bad light while not for a moment getting into the accusations attributed to Mr. Chawla. Also, have you gone into the detailed and meticulous (I am deliberately putting in the nice adjectives) work of the CEC?  Are we saying that the accusations against Navin Chawla need not be probed?? Can we expect the Hindu to bring the truth to light for us please.


How Chief Election Commissioner pursued BJP allegations

 “The factual record shows that on July 21, 2008 — six months after he received a petition from a BJP delegation in his chambers — Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami forwarded the allegations to Election Commissioner Navin Chawla in an officious letter. He asked him to offer his comments on “the issues raised in the said petition at your earlier convenience to enable me to consider the matter for further appropriate action.” Ten days later, Mr. Chawla courteously acknowledged the CEC’s July 21, 2008 missive, saying that he would revert to him. “

Now this is interesting is it not, the CEC’s letter is officious and hence he is the villain but inspite of the villain’s letter the victim still responded in such a courteous manner.  Now I am to believe that you do not know that all Government letters are formal and they are responded to in a certain courteous manner. Can you Mr. Ram show us if this communication is divergent from the usual governmental communication?


“The CEC did not have to wait for long because on September 12, 2008 the EC sent his detailed and constitutionally substantive reply. In this, he questioned the locus standi of the CEC in this matter and called attention to “the variance in the extant constitutional position qua Article 324(5) and your interpretation of the same.” He said that by way of abundant caution he had written to the Union Law Secretary, T.K. Viswanathan, to seek information on whether the President or the government had been apprised of the representation in the first place and also to ascertain the stand of the Central government. Pointing out that he had set out his response to the allegations in a detailed June 2006 affidavit in the Supreme Court, the Election Commissioner backed up his stand by enclosing along with his affidavit the affidavits of former CEC B.B. Tandon and the Election Commission’s Secretary, K.F. Wilfred, and also Ashok Desai’s legal opinion. Mr. Chawla added that his response was without prejudice and should not be considered to be his reply on “the merits” of the petition signed by Mr. Advani and others.”

So a month plus is not long and you actually know what is long and short  in Governmental communication.


“In a letter dated September 17, the CEC peremptorily rejected the constitutional contentions in Mr. Chawla’s elaborate reply and demanded a response on “the merits of the petition” as early as possible. “

Finally we are down to that nebulous article in our constitution and as Mr. Gopalaswami believed he was in his limits to probe the accusations against Mr. Chawla we should have got a reply against the same is it not Mr. Ram?


“Even Law Secretary T.K. Viswanathan’s letter of clarification, dated November 7, 2008, which Mr. Chawla forwarded to Mr. Gopalaswami was given short shrift. In his letter to Mr. Chawla, the Law Secretary confirmed that a copy of the petition signed by Mr. Advani and other MPs had not been forwarded either by the petitioners or by the CEC to the President or the Ministry of Law and Justice. Neither had the Central government been consulted by the CEC before seeking Mr. Chawla’s reply to the allegations. Most importantly, the letter put on record the government’s considered view that “the removal of an Election Commissioner under the second proviso to Article 324(5) of the Constitution cannot be initiated by the Chief Election Commissioner except upon a reference or with the concurrence of the Central Government.”


Treating all this as irrelevant, the CEC sent two more reminders to Mr. Chawla asking for a reply on “the merits of the petition” and even prescribing deadlines. Finally, on December 10, Mr. Chawla gave his reply, questioning the CEC’s locus standi in detail and rejecting the allegations as baseless, devoid of evidence or “any material to even warrant a suggestion of impropriety on my part as an Election Commissioner,” and made for “extraneous considerations.”

Mr. Ram why have you not questioned the evasive replies of Navin Chawla? Why could not Mr. Chawla come clean on the allegations, if he were clean that is, rather than questioning the authority of the CEC? Are the allegations made by BJP not serious enough or is it that anything the BJP asks is worth rubbishing.


“The wonder is that as this unseemly drama was progressing and the internal blood-letting getting worse, the three-member Election Commission managed to conduct Assembly elections in six States. For five States, election announcements were made on October 14 and the poll completed on December 5. For Jammu & Kashmir, the announcement was made on October 19 and the poll completed on December 28.

Soon after this, Mr. Gopalaswami, who will retire on April 20, fired what he thought was his Brahmastra. It seems to have backfired. “

Sad is it not Mr. Ram that an officer like Mr. Gopalaswami whose career  has an unblemished record has been castigated by you without giving much of proper reasoning and at the same time totally ignoring the allegations as well as the chequered career Mr. Chawla has had (Mr. Raghavan’s article on how Navin Chawla was indicted for his role  during the emergency is something that cannot be ignored).


We leave it to you if you would want to continue with such opinionated reporting while at the same time making speeches for journalists to maintain objectivity.  It reminds me of Mr. Ramalinga Raju accepting corporate governance awards while doing the exact opposite all along.