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Source: The post is based on the article “Supreme Court calls out Centre over short tenures of Chief Election Commissioners” published in The Hindu on 23rd November 2022.
What is the News?
The Supreme Court has raised questions on the present system of the Central government appointing serving bureaucrats of its choice as Chief Election Commissioners (CECs) and Election Commissioners(ECs).
What is the case about?
The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court is hearing a series of petitions seeking functional independence for Election Commissioners.
Challenging the constitutionality of the present appointment process, the petitioner contended that appointments were being done as per the whims and fancies of the executive.
The petitioners pleaded for the creation of an independent collegium or selection committee for the future appointment of CEC and ECs.
What were the observations made by the Supreme Court?
The Supreme Court said the Central government pays mere “lip-service” to the independence of the Election Commissioners.
This is evident from the way the tenures of Chief Election Commissioners (CECs) have “slid” down from over eight years in the 1950s to just about a few hundred days after 2004.
Moreover, successive governments particularly after 2004, have picked people whom they knew would never ever get close to the full term of six years prescribed under the Election Commission Act, 1991.
Note: Section 4 of the 1991 Act says the term of a CEC and Election Commissioners is six years or till the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
Further, the protections under Article 324, like removal through impeachment, available under the Constitution to the CECs would only be of any use if he or she had a full term.
What is the suggestion given by the Supreme Court in the appointment of CEC and Election Commissioners?
The Supreme Court observed that involving the Chief Justice of India (CJI) in the selection process of CEC/ECs would go a long way to ensure transparency.
The presence of the CJI would send a message that the government cannot play games in the selection and the best person of character would be picked.