Bill proposes Cabinet minister, excluding CJI in selection panel to appoint CEC, ECs | Mint
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Business News/ Politics / News/  Bill proposes Cabinet minister, excluding CJI in selection panel to appoint CEC, ECs
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Bill proposes Cabinet minister, excluding CJI in selection panel to appoint CEC, ECs

Bill proposes a PM-led committee to appoint future chief election commissioners and election commissioners, diverging from the Supreme Court ruling. Opposition alleges the government undermining the Constitution bench directive. Vacancy in Election Commission expected as commissioner set to retire.

Parliament building, New Delhi Premium
Parliament building, New Delhi

A bill scheduled for introduction in the Rajya Sabha proposes that a three-member committee led by the prime minister will be responsible for appointing future chief election commissioners and election commissioners.

As reported by PTI, this panel will also include the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha and a Cabinet minister.

This diverges from a Supreme Court ruling in March, which stated that the committee's composition should consist of the prime minister, the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, and the Chief Justice of India.

Opposition leaders, including those from the Congress, quickly capitalized on the situation and alleged that the government was undermining a directive from a Constitution bench.

A vacancy is set to occur in the Election Commission (EC) in the coming year as Election Commissioner Anup Chandra Pandey is due to retire on February 14 upon reaching the age of 65.

His retirement will coincide with the anticipated announcement of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections' timetable by the EC. In the previous two instances, the commission had declared parliamentary elections in March.

The Supreme Court, in its March ruling, intended to safeguard the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and election commissioners from any interference by the Executive branch.

The court had determined that the appointments would be carried out by the President based on the recommendations of a committee consisting of the prime minister, the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, and the Chief Justice of India.

A constitution bench composed of five judges, led by Justice KM Joseph, reached a unanimous decision affirming that this principle would remain effective until Parliament enacts a law addressing this matter.

Before the Supreme Court ruling, the Chief Election Commissioner and election commissioners were appointed by the President on the recommendation of the government.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said he has always maintained that the government will overturn any Supreme Court order which it doesn't like and this is a dangerous situation that can impact fairness of elections.

The proposed panel will have two BJP members and one from the Congress, and therefore, whoever is selected to the poll panel will be loyal to the ruling party, Kejriwal, who is the Aam Aadmi Party's national convener, alleged on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Congress MP and the party's whip in Lok Sabha, Manickam Tagore, alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah want to control the EC by bringing the bill.

"Modi and Shah want to control the EC as they are doing now," Tagore wrote on X.

According to the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Appointment Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, the Chief Election Commissioner other election commissioners shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation of a Selection Committee consisting of the prime minister, who will be the chairperson; the leader of opposition (LoP) in the Lok Sabha and a Union Cabinet minister to be nominated by the prime minister.

According to the bill, the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners "shall not be invalid" merely by reason of any vacancy in or any defect in the constitution of the selection committee.

In case there is no LoP in the Lower House of Parliament, the leader of the single largest party in opposition in the Lok Sabha will be deemed to be the the LoP.

The Chief Election Commissioner and additional Election Commissioners will be selected from individuals who currently hold or have held a position comparable to the level of secretary. They should possess integrity, as well as expertise and familiarity with the organization and execution of elections.

A 'search committee,' led by the cabinet secretary and including two other members of no lower rank than secretary, possessing expertise in electoral affairs, will compile a list of five candidates.

This list will then be presented to the selection committee for deliberation regarding the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and other election commissioners.

(With insights from PTI)

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Published: 10 Aug 2023, 01:18 PM IST
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