Context

Expressing concerns over absence of law on the appointment to the Election Commission of India and the Chief Election Commissioner, the apex court has asked the Centre government to have people neutral to all political parties.

Recently, the Supreme Court said that election commissioner(ECs) appointed have been “outstanding people, very fair and politically neutral,” there is still a legitimate expectation that they should be selected on the basis of more transparent and fair process formalized in a law enacted by Parliament.

Brief highlight of the issue

  • The Bench of Chief Justice of India  J. S. Khehar and D.Y. Chandrachud pointed out that there is a “gap” caused by the lack of a parliamentary law which transparently spells out the process of appointment of an election commissioner.
  • The CJI said that the Election Commissioners supervise and hold elections and play a greater role in strengthening democracy so their selection has to be made in the most transparent and fair manner.
  • The court was hearing a public interest litigation by one Anoop Paranwal through lawyer Prashant Bhushan asking for a fair and transparent procedure for EC appointments.
  • Presently, the government appoints election commissioners without consulting other political parties.
  • The Supreme Court said the Union government that the EC should have people neutral to all political parties.
  • The apex court said that the Article 324 mandates that the appointments to the EC are done as per the enabling law. But presently there is no law in place to govern the appointment to the EC.

Learn about Election Commission of India

Appointment & Tenure of Election Commissioners in India

  • The President appoints Chief Election Commission and other Election Commissioners.
  • They have tenure of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
  • They enjoy the same status and receive the same salary and emoluments as available to judges of the Supreme Court of India.
  • The Chief Election Commissioner can be removed from the office only through the process of impeachment by Parliament.

Loopholes

  • Currently government appoints election commissioners without consulting other political parties.
  • It leads to the arbitrary appointments of the commissioners of election commission.
  • Arbitrary appointment leads to the favouritism.

Solutions

  • The ruling parties have key responsibilities to strengthen Election Commission by enabling suitable laws such as enabling laws and creating healthy political environment.
  • The CEC and Election Commissioners shall be made accountable to the common people for their activities which incur wastage of public as well as donar money.
  • Necessary laws need to be made in this regard this can be done through Parliament.
  • All complaints, limitations, and inconsistencies of election laws, rules, orders, and ordinances must be identified and resolve with the group of law experts.
  • A prosecution wing of the EC should be set up for dealing with all kinds of irregularities election.
  • The EC should be given enough authority to cancel the candidature of any person if proven guilty of violating electoral laws and code of conduct.
  • The EC should increase its own capacity in term of empowering staff and developing infrastructural and logistical strength.
  • Election Commission should have power s against contempt which is very much available in other countries. This can be done by amending Contempt of Courts Act 1971.

Steps taken by Election Commission to curb black money

  • The Election Commission recently has urged the government to ban anonymous contributions of 2,000 and above made to political parties to curb the use of unaccounted or ‘black’ money during polls.
  • The Commission has also proposed that exemption of Income Tax should only be extended to political parties that contest elections and win seats in Lok Sabha or assembly polls
  • Parties often accused of manufacturing lists of donors to avoid scrutiny
  • Further, the parties don’t pay tax on donations under 20,000
Key facts

  • ·In the constitutional Assembly debate in 1949, prof. Shibbal Lal Saksena stressed that Election Commissions appointment should be made by two-third majority in both the houses.
  • ·Due to this demand constituent assembly included Article 324(2) of the Constitution, which says that Election Commissions appointment “shall be made subject to the laws made by the Parliament.”
  •  In 1974, the V.M. Tarkunde panel recommended that Election Commission  be appointed by the President of India on the advice of the panel consisting Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and Chief Justice of India.
  • The role of Election Commission in a democratic society like India is immeasurable. The key function of holding free and fair elections is vested in the Election Commission. Its independent functioning is very much essential in this regard. Its appointment should be based on transparency. The Election Commission should be more vigilant in overcoming its loopholes and limitations
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