The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners must be chosen by a high-power committee comprised of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and the Chief Justice of India, according to a recent unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court’s Constitution Bench of five judges (ECs).
For the election commission to remain impartial and independent during the process, it must be reorganised.
There has been a call for a fair selection process for Election Commission members for more than 50 years.
It has received consistent support from several committees over the years, including the Justice Tarkunde Committee in 1975, the Dinesh Goswami Committee in May 1990, the second administrative reforms commission in January 2007, and the Law Commission of India in its 255th report from March 2015.
The integrity of the commission is crucial to the legitimacy of the democratic process because elections are the basis of democracy. By severely restricting the hold and influence of the executive body over the organisation, the newly revised nominations procedure ensures that the independence, autonomy, and institutional integrity of the Commission stay intact and are well-protected.
In the majority of countries, the nominee is approved by both Parliament and the Opposition after consultation. The Supreme Court has taken into account the various systems in use around the world.
Objectivity of judgement:
The Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners are appointed by the President in accordance with Article 324(2) of the Constitution, subject to the provisions of any relevant laws established by Parliament. Seven decades have passed since this happened.
Despite having several political parties in power, the Bench noted that none of them had produced any law or a system for choosing Election Commission members. There is a “lacuna” in the law, according to the argument, and legislation must be passed in accordance with Article 324 of the Constitution.
The role of the Election Commission in the current electoral system allows for abuse, which includes, among other things, altering the election timetable.
Since the executive is the sole governmental branch involved in the appointment, the Commission is designed to become and remain a partisan entity. It suggests the need of commitment to the appointing authority and reciprocity.
The court stated that the appointment “must not be clouded by even a sense that a yes man would decide the fate of democracy and all that it promises. A person who feels obligated to the person who appointed him or who is in a position of obligation to them fails the country and has no business participating in elections, which are the cornerstone of democracy.
Democracy will be strengthened by the new CEC and EC election process:
This new approach will provide the institution greater credibility and neutrality.
Most importantly, this will ensure that the Election Commission’s neutrality is maintained.
The institutions must not only appear to be autonomous but also be so for the purpose of public perception and trust.
As institutions and statutory bodies are responsible for safeguarding democracy and institutional autonomy on their own, the judgement also lends some consistency to the appointment procedures they use.
Many judgements have received criticism:
The judgment’s critics have raised the concept of the separation of powers. The Constitution is supreme and must be upheld by all authorities, the Supreme Court ruled in Golak Nath and others versus State of Punjab and another in 1973.
Some have accused the court of engaging in judicial activism. Absolutely not. A PIL, an appeal, a postcard argument, or a suo motu plea have all gone unanswered by the Court. Four civil writ applications—not one, not two—have been decided. Although it has the right to do so, it has decided not to issue a writ of mandamus.
To further strengthen the election commission, other measures are required:
In regards to the relief relating to creating a permanent secretariat for the Election Commission of India and charging its expenses to the Consolidated Fund of India, the Court makes a “fervent appeal” that the Union of India/Parliament “may consider” passing the necessary amendments to make the Commission truly independent.
Several important questions, such whether Election Commissioners should have the same protection against removal as the Chief Election Commissioner under the Constitution, were not addressed in the ruling.
The protection from dismissal required for the election commissioners’ independence has not been provided, notwithstanding Judge Ajay Rastogi’s statement that it is “desirable” that the grounds for dismissing election commissioners be the same as those of the Chief Election Commissioner.
The Supreme Court’s ruling on the appointment will enhance the electoral process and raise the credibility and independence of the Election Commission.
But there is still need for improvement in a number of other areas, such as the criminalization of politics, the power of money, and the questionable function of the media, all of which, while important, were only incidental. The remaining issues are expected to be addressed by comprehensive legislation, which this decision may result in.