Navin Chawla

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Navin Chawla
Chief Election Commissioner of India
In office
21 April 2009 – 29 July 2010
Preceded by N. Gopalaswami
Succeeded by S. Y. Quraishi
Personal details
Born (1945-07-30) 30 July 1945 (age 69)
Nationality India
Alma mater The Lawrence School, Sanawar, London School of Economics
Occupation Civil servant
Religion Hinduism

Naveen Chawla is a former Chief Election Commissioner of India.[1] Four phases (out of five) of the Indian general election to Loksabha were executed under his supervision in April and May 2009.[2]

Chawla is best known for his pro-Indira Gandhi stance as secretary to the lieutenant governor of Delhi during the (1975–77) Indian Emergency[3][4][5][6] and for his biography of Mother Teresa.[7] The Shah Commission, an independent commission headed by former Chief Justice of India Jayantilal Chhotalal Shah which investigated atrocities during the Emergency, said in its final report that Chawla was "unfit to hold any public office which demands an attitude of fair play and consideration for others".[8][9][10][11][12] However, the report was suppressed after Gandhi returned to power in 1980;[13] as Prime Minister, she "recalled all reports of Shah Commission wherever possible".[14] Despite concerns about his leanings towards the Congress Party Chawla is considered to have conducted the 2009 general elections in an even-handed manner, with action taken against alleged malpractice by Congress governments in Rajasthan, Assam and Andhra Pradesh and the Congress Allied government in Tamil Nadu.[15][16][17] According to his family, Chawla was influenced by Mother Teresa and decided not to resign from the civil service in 1997 in accordance with her advice.[18]

Early life and education[edit]

Chawla was born on 30 July 1945 in New Delhi. He studied at the Lawrence School, Sanawar, Himachal Pradesh from 1953 to 1961[19] (when he received his Senior School Certificate), and received a Government of India scholarship for his first two years at the Lawrence School. Chawla received a B.A. (Hons.) in history from St. Stephen's College, Delhi in 1966 and a B.A. (Hons.) in history from London University in 1967. He received a diploma in social administration from the London School of Economics in 1968. Chawla was appointed a Fellow of Queen Elizabeth House at Oxford University in 1996.[citation needed]


Chawla is an Indian Administrative Service officer from the class of 1969. He was appointed election commissioner in 2005, succeeding B. B. Tandon (who was promoted to Chief Election Commissioner of India). Chawla was in office from 16 May 2005 to 30 July 2010. His association with Mother Teresa resulted in his writing her official biography, Mother Teresa.[20]

Earlier posts[edit]

Chawla has held posts in a number of branches of Union Government, the most controversial of which was early in his career as director of the Delhi Finance Corporation.[citation needed] He has been a finance secretary, labour secretary and chairman of an electricity board. Chawla was a delegate to the International Labour Organization from 1984–86.

As election commissioner[edit]

Chawla has undertaken reforms of the electoral process and the election commission. He advocated a constitutional process for the removal of election commissioners, bringing it in line with that for removal of the chief election commissioner.[21] Chawla was interested in ensuring that third gender individuals had the right to vote. They had been left out of the democratic process, since they could not register as male or female; they can register as “other”. The issue was broached by students at KIIT Law School, Bhubaneswar.[22][23][24][25] He supported regulating the participation in the electoral process of those on trial. People on trial are not allowed to vote; however, they may stand for election until convicted.[26]


Role in Emergency (1975–77)[edit]

Chawla is best known in India for his association with the Emergency. He attended school with Sanjay Gandhi, younger son of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.[27] Former Chief Justice of India Jayantilal Chhotalal Shah, chairman of the Shah Commission, asserted in the commission's report that Chawla was unfit for public office. The report was later rejected by the Congress government, headed by Gandhi, which returned to power in 1980. The government recalled all published reports and destroyed the copies; it is believed that no copies of the report remain in India.[28][29] A third, final report by the commission is held by the National Library of Australia.[30]

MPLADS scandal[edit]

Chawla and his wife Rupika ran the Jaipur-based Lala Chaman Lal Education Trust, which had obtained MPLADS funds from Congress MPs Akbar Ali Khan, R. P. Goenka, Ambika Soni, Karan Singh and A. R. Kidwai.[31] The trust was allotted 6 acres (24,000 m2) of land by the Congress government in Rajasthan when Ashok Gehlot was Chief Minister.[32][33]

Alleged links with Congress[edit]

In March 2006 the National Democratic Alliance presented the President of India, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, with a memorandum for his removal signed by over 200 MPs. The memorandum questioned his impartiality in light of alleged links with the Indian National Congress. After examination by the Congress government, no action was taken.[34]

In May 2006 Jaswant Singh, opposition leader in Rajya Sabha, appealed to the Supreme Court of India for Chawla's removal as election commissioner because of his lifelong association with Congress politicians and the MPLADS controversy.[35] The chief election commissioner (CEC) filed an affidavit with the Supreme Court that he had the power to remove an election commissioner (EC). The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) then withdrew its petition. The Supreme Court ruled, “We are allowing withdrawal of the petitions while keeping open all questions [raised in the petitions]. They can make representation to the CEC, who will decide such representation in accordance with law. We are not expressing any opinion on merits”.[36]

On 31 January 2009, Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami sent his recommendation about Chawla's removal as election commissioner to the President of India.[37] The CEC alleged that Chawla had discharged his duties as election commissioner in a partisan manner, seeking to further the interests of "one party". The CEC report contended that Chawla took breaks during important meetings, leaking confidential information about the election commission to Congress Party officials.[38] He is also reported to have opposed the election commission's notice to Sonia Gandhi for accepting honours from Belgium.[39]

The CEC recommendation against Chawla was controversial,[40] and it was rejected by the government. He became CEC of India on 20 April 2009, and concluded the 2009 Indian Parliamentary Election.[41]

Two BJP lawyers and office bearers petitioned a local Jaipur court for an FIR against Chawla and senior officials of the government of Rajasthan about the allotment of land to Chawla's trusts in Jaipur by the Jaipur Development Authority in 2000. The court declined to order the filing of an FIR; in an order dated 10 February 2009, it asked police to investigate the complaint (which was later dismissed by the court).[42][43]


  • 2005 Mazzini Award from the government of Italy "in recognition of his efforts to forge a new relationship with Italy and strengthening existing bonds""Italy honours Navin Chawla". The Hindu. 18 March 2005. 
  • 2004 award from the New Delhi Institution of Directors


  • 1988: “The Vocational Rehabilitation and Social Re-integration of the Leprosy Affected in India” (report released at the India International Centre in New Delhi by Mother Teresa on 18 October 1988)
  • 1992: authorised biography, Mother Teresa;[20] translated into 14 languages in India and abroad
  • 1996: Faith and Compassion – The Life and Work of Mother Teresa (with photographer Raghu Rai); Element Books (UK and US), translated into Dutch and Spanish

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ J Balaji (29 July 2010). "News / National : Chawla demits office; Quraishi to take over". The Hindu (India). Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  2. ^ "The wonder that is India's election – Times of India". The Times of India. 15 May 2009. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  3. ^ "Gopalaswami Demits, Navin Chawla to Take Over as CEC". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  4. ^ "Emergency Special". The Indian Express. India. 25 June 2000. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  5. ^ Swapan Dasgupta (3 June 2005). "The Telegraph – Calcutta : Opinion". The Telegraph. Kolkota, India. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  6. ^ "The Tribune – Magazine section – Saturday Extra". The Tribune. India. 9 July 2005. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  7. ^ "September 3, 1999 ~ Mother Teresa's Legacy | Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly". PBS. 3 September 1999. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Unfair to impute motives to CEC – India News". 2 February 2009. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  10. ^ [1][dead link]
  11. ^ "Transcending bounds of honesty | Pakistan | News | Newspaper | Daily | English | Online". 7 April 2009. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  12. ^ "House rocked over proposed ordinance – Times of India". The Times of India. 22 March 2006. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  13. ^ "Manorama Online | Home | TheWeek COVER STORY". 13 November 2009. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  14. ^ pg.165 Political mobilisation and democracy in India: states of emergency By Vernon Hewitt, Vernon Marston Hewitt
  15. ^
  16. ^ [2][dead link]
  17. ^ "EC code not letting me work, will move SC, says Assam CM". The Indian Express. India. 25 April 2009. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  18. ^ "Standing up to be counted". Hindustan Times. India. 6 March 2009. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  19. ^ Chief Election Commissioner of India at Retrieved 14 March 2012
  20. ^ a b Muggeridge, Malcolm. "Mother Teresa (9781852309114): Navin Chawla: Books". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  21. ^ "National : Impeachment for ECs too, says CEC". The Hindu (India). 18 November 2009. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  22. ^ "The Hindu : Opinion / Editorial : Legitimising the other". Chennai, India: 18 November 2009. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  23. ^ "The Hindu : Opinion / Letters : Legitimising the other". Chennai, India: 19 November 2009. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  24. ^ Our Special Correspondent (13 November 2009). "The Telegraph – Calcutta (Kolkata) | Nation | ‘Other’ gender enters poll rolls". The Telegraph. Kolkota, India. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  25. ^
  26. ^ "Undertrials must get right to vote: Election Commission – Times Of India". The Times of India. 23 November 2009. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  27. ^ "Navin Chawla: An authority by himself". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  28. ^ "Welcome to Frontline : Vol. 28 :: No. 21". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  29. ^ "How they buried Shah Commission report, even without an epitaph". The Indian Express. India. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  30. ^ "Shah Commission of Inquiry : third and final report | National Library of Australia". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  31. ^ Exclusive: Chawla accepted funds for private trusts[dead link]
  32. ^ "The Tribune, Chandigarh, India – Nation". The Tribune. India. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  33. ^ "The Hindu : National : Navin Chawla denies any conflict of interest, presents details of trust funding". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  34. ^ Express news service. "President rejects CEC advice, Navin Chawla stays". Express India. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  35. ^ [3][dead link]
  36. ^ "National : Navin Chawla case: BJP withdraws petition in Supreme Court". The Hindu (India). 8 August 2007. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  37. ^ [4][dead link]
  38. ^ "Chawla's loo breaks led to Cong phone calls: CEC". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  39. ^ "CEC accuses Chawla of siding with one party – Economic Times". 1 February 2009. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  40. ^
  41. ^ Balaji, J. (22 April 2009). "Navin Chawla takes over as CEC". The Hindu 132 (95) (Chennai, India). p. 1. Retrieved 23 April 2009. 
  42. ^ Rajasthan Patrika 28.01.10
  43. ^ Dainik Bhaskar 28.01.10

External links[edit]