Act now, recast the selection process of ECs 

News: Recently, several instances have cast some doubt on the independence and the impartiality of the Election Commission of India (ECI).

For instance: The meeting of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and his Election Commissioner attending an informal meeting with the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister

Why these instances have called the impartiality and Independence of EC into question? 

ECI is a constitutionally mandated body that should maintain its distance from the Executive, in perception and reality.  

What have been the other such recent instances? 

Read here. 

What is the current practice of appointment of EC and CEC? 

Appointment of Election Commissioners falls within the purview of Article 324(2) of the Constitution.  

Although the Constitution provided the ‘subject to’ clause in which Parliament has power to decide the appointment procedure for ECs, but Parliament has so far not enacted any changes to the appointment process.   

Why the current practice of appointment has been called in question? 

Various committees like Justice Tarkunde Committee(1975), Dinesh Goswami committee (1990), Law Commission(2015) have recommended that Election Commissioners be appointed on the advice of a committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Lok Sabha Opposition Leader and the Chief Justice of India. 

2nd Administrative Reforms Commission additionally recommended that the Law Minister and the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha should also be included in such a Collegium. 

Several petitions in SC have called the current practice into question: They argue that the current practice of appointment violates Articles 14, 324(2), and democracy as a basic feature of the Constitution.  

The Election Commission is not only responsible for conducting free and fair elections, but it also has quasi-judicial functions, so the Executive cannot be a sole participant in the appointment process. This also gives the ruling party unlimited power to choose someone whose loyalty to it is ensured. 

The current process also lacks transparency. This issue was also highlighted by a Supreme Court bench comprising the then CJI. It observed that “The Election Commissioners supervise and hold elections across the Country, and this is the significance of their office, and their selection has to be made in the most transparent manner.”   

What can be a better alternative method of appointment? 

A multi-institutional, bipartisan committee for the selection of Election Commissioners can enhance the perceived and actual independence of the ECI.  

Such a procedure is already followed with regard to other constitutional and statutory authorities such as the Chief Information Commissioner, the Lokpal, the Central Vigilance Commissioner, and the Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation. 

Changes in the appointment process for Election Commissioners can strengthen the ECI’s independence, neutrality and transparency. Parliament can enact the law for the same.   

Source: This post is based on the article “Act now, recast the selection process of ECs” published in The Hindu on 13th Jan 2022 

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