Benchmarks for ECs’ appointments

Source: The post is based on the article Benchmarks for ECs’ appointmentspublished in The Hindu on 22nd December 2022. 

Syllabus: GS2- Appointment to various constitutional post 

Relevance: About the appointment of Election Commissioners

News: The article explains the issues of the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners. 

What is the true constitutional spirit that guides important offices like ECI?

Article 324 of the Constitution provides for the creation of the ECI. This brings to mind the larger issue of the working of the Constitution. 

According to B.R. Ambedkar “However good a Constitution may be, it is sure to turn out bad because those who are called to work it, happen to be a bad lot. However bad a Constitution may be, it may turn out to be good if those who are called to work it, happen to be a good lot. The working of a Constitution does not depend wholly upon the nature of the Constitution.” 

According to Rajendra Prasad “Whatever the Constitution may or may not provide, the welfare of the country will depend upon the way in which the country is administered. The Constitution, like a machine, is a lifeless thing. It acquires life because of the men who control it. India needs today nothing more than a set of honest men who will have the interest of the country before them. 

The above views reflect the true constitutional spirit. Constitutional makers are expected to follow this spirit while assigning duties for important constitutional posts. 

What are the weaknesses in the system of appointment of ECs? 

One major weakness in the system of appointments of the ECs proposed is that it perpetuates the bureaucratisation of the ECI. It is not even mentioned in the Constitution anywhere. Two visible manifestations of this are the elevation of ECs to Chief Election Commissioner and the tenures of ECs and CEC.  

The elevation is a clear violation of the principle of primus inter pares (first among equals). Monopolisation of the positions of ECs and CEC by administrative services should be taken into consideration.  

What is the way forward for the appointment of ECs? 

The government need to go outside the existing frameworks as marginal improvements are not enough and bold actions are needed. 

An existing committee of Parliament or a new committee formed for this purpose should a) Propose the qualifications and requirements for persons to be appointed as ECs/CEC. These proposals and the selected candidates should be put to Parliament and should be approved by two-thirds majority of the members of Parliament present and voting, b) Entrusted with the task of searching for and selecting individuals proposed to be appointed as ECs/CEC, c) invite nominations and applications of individuals appropriate for or interested in being appointed as ECs/CEC, and d) Once Parliament approves the committee recommendations, they should be sent to the President for approving the appointments. Once appointed, such persons should stay in their positions for six years or the age of 75 years, whichever is earlier. Persons above the age of 69 years should not be appointed. 

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