Supreme Court verdict will ensure a more independent Election Commission

Source: The post is based on the following articles

“Supreme Court verdict will ensure a more independent Election Commission” published in the Indian Express on 3rd March 2023.

“SC Corrects Error Of Commission, With One Omission” and “Poll Body Building” published in The Times of India on 2nd March 2023.

Syllabus: GS – 2 – Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.

Relevance: About neutral selection committee for the selection of Election Commissioners.

News: The Supreme Court, in Anoop Baranwal v. Union of India case, has recently formed a neutral selection committee for Election Commissioners.

About the case

Numerous petitions have been filed seeking a neutral selection committee for Election Commission. A five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court has recently formed such a selection committee.

While forming the neutral committee the court observed that “a vulnerable Election Commission would result in an insidious situation and detract from its efficient functioning

The committee is composed of the PM, the leader of the opposition or the largest opposition party, and CJI. The committee should be entrusted with the task till such time Parliament frames a suitable law.

Note: Article 324 of the Constitution, which deals with EC, left it to Parliament to legislate on the selection process.

The judgment also asked to ensure that the two election commissioners enjoy the same security of tenure that the CEC and apex court judges enjoy.

What are the previous attempts regarding the selection of Election Commissioners?

Constituent assembly: It suggested that the selection of ECs should be ratified by a two-third majority of a joint session of Parliament.

Constitution amendment bill: Later in 1990, a bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha to form a committee to select the chief election commissioner. However, the bill did not progress and was withdrawn four years later.

Law commission: It recommended a selection committee similar to the one SC approved recently.

Read more: Private member Bill seeks PM-led panel for selecting Chief Election Commissioner

What are the advantages of the SC’s neutral selection committee?

The neutral selection committee a) Addresses the conflict of interest inherent in the current selection process for election commissioners, b) Enforces the EC’s credibility and insulates the EC from political attacks, c) Can act as a constitutional lesson in India’s troubled times, and d) Recognises the fine distinction between conventional democracy and constitutional democracy.

Read more: Supreme Court calls out Centre over short tenures of Chief Election Commissioners

What is the opinion of experts regarding the formation of a neutral selection committee?

Some are of the opinion that the judgment reflects the era of judicial activism. On the other hand, few of them are of the opinion that the judgement represents evolution rather than an arbitrary encroachment into the executive domain.

What needs to be done to ensure true functional independence of various bodies?

Constitutional functionaries have to be not just appointed fairly, but also held to account thereafter. Hence, the EC and other regulatory bodies should be made autonomous of the executive and held answerable to designated committees of Parliament or committees of legislators.

The SC’s attention to the functioning of EC is timely. But the judgement also raises questions about the selection process for the judiciary. The selection process for the judiciary too needs reform.

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