CEC gone wild

In the light of the Chief Election Commissioner’s recommendation for the removal of Election Commissioner Navin Chawla...

Written by Manoj C G | Published: February 11, 2009 3:12 am

In the light of the Chief Election Commissioner’s recommendation for the removal of Election Commissioner Navin Chawla,the lead editorial in the latest issue of CPM organ People’s Democracy says the developments underline the need for effective reform of the poll body.“The Constitution empowers the president to appoint the CEC (of course,on the recommendation of the government),who cannot be removed except by impeachment by the parliament as is the case with Supreme Court judges. The election commissioners are also appointed by the president and cannot be removed except on the recommendation of the CEC.

“Conventional wisdom has so far interpreted this to mean that since the election commissioners are also appointed by the president,the CEC’s recommendations come into play only when the proposal for the removal comes from the president itself. This was meant to protect the independence and integrity of the Election Commission against the whims of the political executive who may seek the removal of a particular commissioner on political grounds….By invoking such a claim,this check on the executive’s power and maintaining the independence of the Election Commission is being violated by the CEC himself.”

Noting that the Supreme Court had on an earlier occasion cautioned the EC against the CEC exercising his power as per his whim,it says “in this particular instance,the CEC who has to function as the protector of the election commissioners against the whims of the political executive has himself turned into the persecutor.”

Robber barons

In an article titled “control funds”,economist Jayati Ghosh quotes William R. Black’s recently published book The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One: How Corporate Executives and Politicians Looted the S&L Industry,on the savings and loan scandal in the US in the early 1980s to argue that financial crime is pervasive under capitalism.

“In his book,Black developed the concept of “control fraud” — frauds in which the CEO of a firm uses the firm itself,and his/her ability to control it,as an instrument for private aggrandisement. According to Black,control frauds cause greater financial losses than all other forms of property crime combined and effectively kill and maim thousands,” the article says.

“Such control fraud is greatly abetted by the incentives thrown up by modern executive compensation systems,which allow corporate managers to suborn internal controls. As a result,the organisation becomes the vehicle for perpetrating crime against itself…This was the underlying reality in the Savings and Loan scandal of the early 1980s that Black used to illustrate his arguments . But it has been equally true of subsequent financial scams that have rocked the US and Europe,from the scandal around the Bank of Commerce and Credit International (BCCI) in the UK in 1991,to the Enron,Adelphia,Tyco International,Global Crossing and other scandals in the early part of this decade,to the Parmalat Spa financial mess in Europe,to the recent revelations around accounting practices of banks and mortgage providers in the US in the current financial crisis.”

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