APPOINTMENT OF CEC & EC
The government is planning to table a bill for appointments of Chief Election Commissioner & Election Commissioner.
The bill is tabled in order to give effect to the SC Ruling in March 2023 wrt the appointments.
THE SC JUDGEMENT (MARCH 2023)
The SC, in a landmark judgement, stated that the CEC & EC shall be appointed by a committee consisting of:
- The PM
- Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha
- Chief Justice of India
Ruling on petitions seeking an independent mechanism to appoint the CEC and ECs, a five-judge Constitution Bench presided by Justice K M Joseph said where no Leader of Opposition is available, the committee will include the leader of the largest Opposition party in Lok Sabha in terms of numerical strength.
HOW WAS THE APPOINTMENT DONE TILL NOW?
- View of Constitution:
- The power to appoint the CEC and the ECs lies with the President of India under Article 324(2) of the Constitution, which states that “the President shall fix the number of ECs in a manner he sees fit, subject to the provisions of any law made by Parliament”.
- Thus, Article 324(2) left it open for the Parliament to legislate on the issue.
- But, in the absence of any Parliamentary law governing the appointment issue, the ECs are appointed by the government of the day, without pursuing any consultation process.
- There is no concept of collegium and no involvement of the opposition.
TENURE & QUALIFICATION
- Tenure: The Commissioners are appointed for a 6-year period, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
- Qualification: There are no prescribed qualifications for their appointment, although convention dictates that only senior (serving or retired) civil servants, of the rank of the Cabinet Secretary or Secretary to the GoI or an equivalent rank, will be appointed.
THE CEC & EC
- The Election Commission has been functioning as a multi-member body consisting of three election commissioners.
- The Chief Election Commissioner and the two other Election Commissioners have equal powers and receive equal salary, allowances and other perquisites, which are similar to those of a judge of the Supreme Court.
- In case of difference of opinion amongst the Chief Election Commissioner and/or two other Election Commissioners, the matter is decided by the Commission by majority.
- They hold office for a term of six years or until they attain the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier and can resign at any time or can also be removed before the expiry of their term.
THE PROVISIONS OF THE TABLED BILL
The bill proposes a selection committee to appoint the CEC & EC :
- Prime Minister
- Leader of Opposition &
- Any Cabinet Minister (chosen by the PM)
A Search Committee headed by Cabinet Secretary with two other members not below the rank of Secretary to the GoI to prepare a panel of 5 members for the consideration of the Selection Committee.
QUALIFICATION: CEC & EC will be selected from amongst those members who are holding or have held the position of Secretary to the GoI, should be persons of integrity & having experience in electoral processes.