Private Member Bill seeks PM-Led Panel for selecting Chief Election Commissioner
13, Dec 2022
Why in News?
- Recently, a private member’s Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha seeking to make Election Commission (EC) of India responsible for regulating and monitoring the internal operations of political parties in the country.
- The bill comes at a time when the Supreme Court is hearing petitions on the need for reforms in the appointment of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and the Election Commissioners (ECs).
- It was argued that the internal functioning and structures of a large number of political parties have become very “opaque and ossified” and there is a need to make their functioning transparent, accountable and rule based.
What are the Highlights of the Bill?
- On Appointment of CEC:
- It also seeks the members of the EC, including the Chief Election Commissioners, to be appointed by a panel consisting of the Prime Minister, Union Home Minister, Leader of Opposition or floor leader in Lok Sabha, Leader of Opposition or floor leader in Rajya Sabha, the Chief Justice of India and two senior most judges of the Supreme Court.
- Tenure for CEC:
- The Bill envisages a fixed tenure of six years for the CEC and EC and three years from the date of appointment for the Regional Commissioners.
- Removal Procedure for CEC:
- They should not be removed from office except in accordance with the procedure laid down for the removal of a SC Judge.
- Also, after retirement, they should not be eligible for any reappointment to any office under the Government of India, State Governments and the Constitution.
- Procedure in Case of Non-Compliance:
- If any registered political party fails to comply with the advisories, duration and instructions issued by the ECI with regard to their internal functions, the recognition of such political party as a State or National may be withdrawn including any other action as the Election Commission deems fit under section 16A of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order 1968.
About the Election Commission of India (ECI):
- It is a permanent constitutional body established in 1950 to conduct and regulate elections in the country.
- Part XV (Article 324-329) of the Indian Constitution: It deals with elections and establishes a commission for these matters.
- Article 324 of the Constitution provides that the power of superintendence, direction and control of elections to Parliament, state legislatures, the office of the President of India, and the office of Vice-President of India shall be vested in the election commission.
- Thus, the Election Commission is an all-India body in the sense that it is common to both the Central government and the state governments.
- Being a constitutional authority, Election Commission is amongst the few institutions which function with both autonomy and freedom, along with the country’s higher judiciary, UPSC and CAG.
- It is a multi-member body (1 CEC + 2 ECs) and the tenure of election commissioners is not prescribed by the Indian Constitution.
- The CEC of India can be removed from their office in a manner similar to the removal of a judge of the SC of India, while other ECs can be removed by the President of India on the recommendation of the CEC.
- A CEC has never been impeached in India.
What has the SC said about the Election Commissioners?
- The Constitution of India has vested vast powers on the shoulders of the CEC and the 2 Election Commissioners.
- Apart from competence, the character is crucial, so that those appointed as Election Commissioners will not allow themselves to be bulldozed.
- In the absence of a law to oversee such appointments, the silence of the Indian Constitution is being exploited by all.
- The government assures that the person nominated does not serve the full six years by picking someone close to 65, thus undermining independence.
What was the government’s reply?
- There is no vacuum in the Constitution on the issue.
- If the Constitution takes a position despite multiple ideas put forward by the original Constituent Assembly, that position cannot be contested.
- The separation of powers cannot be challenged, as it is the basic feature of the Constitution.
- This matter is for Parliament to debate and not the court.
What was the suggestion given by the SC?
- An appointment committee including the Chief Justice of India to appoint the Election Commissioners to ensure neutrality.