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Selection and Appointment of Election Commissioners

Context:

  • Recently, Rajya Sabha passed The Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Office and Terms of Office) Bill, 2023.
  • It provides for the procedure for appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and the other two Election Commissioners (ECs).

Constitutional Provisions:

  • Article 324 provides for the composition of the Election Commission of India (ECI).It conists of the CEC and two other ECs.
  • The Constitution provides that the appointment of the CEC and EC shall, subject to the provisions of any law made by Parliament.
  • While the existing parliamentary law provides for their conditions of service, it is silent with respect to appointments.
  • The appointments till date are made by the President, that is the Central Government and there is no mechanism for ensuring independence during the appointment process.

Supreme Court ruling on the same:

  • A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Anoop Baranwal in 2015 pleaded for the Supreme Court to issue directions to set up an independent, collegium­like system for the appointment of the CEC and ECs.
  • The Supreme Court in this case, in March 2023, held that there has been a legislative vacuum due to the absence of any law by Parliament in the last 73 years with respect to the appointment of the CEC and EC.
  • In the past, the Dinesh Goswami Committee on Electoral Reforms (1990) and the Law Commission in its 255th report on Electoral Reforms (2015), had suggested regarding the same.
  • They recommended that the CEC and ECs should be appointed by a committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of India (CJI) and the Leader of the Opposition or the largest Opposition party in the Lok Sabha.
  • Considering these recommendations, the Supreme Court, exercising its powers under Article 142 (to issue directions for doing ‘complete justice’ in any matter), laid down that the CEC and ECs shall be appointed by a committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the CJI and the Leader of the Opposition or the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha.
  • It said that this mechanism shall be in place till Parliament enacts a law on this matter.

What does the proposed law provide?

  • The CEC and other ECs shall be appointed from persons who are holding or have held a post equivalent to the rank of Secretary to the Government of India.
  • There shall be a search committee headed by the Minister of Law and Justice, who shall prepare a panel of five persons for consideration to the selection committee.
  • The CEC and EC shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation of this selection committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and a Union Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the Prime Minister.
  • It is for the first time that the Parliament is proposing a structured mechanism for identification of suitable persons for the post of CEC and EC.
  • However, this bill removes the CJI from the selection process that was laid down in the Anoop Baranwal case.

What are the best practices globally?

  • The international practices for selection and appointment of members to the electoral body varies between different democracies.
  • In South Africa, the President of the Constitutional Court, representatives of the Human rights Court and gender equality are involved.
  • In the U.K., the House of Commons approves the candidates, whereas in the U.S., the appointment is by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

The post Selection and Appointment of Election Commissioners appeared first on Vajirao IAS.

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