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).
This significant decision, which intends to change the selection processes for India’s top election officials, might have a significant impact on many different areas. Currently, the federal government is primarily in charge of choosing these officers.
Justice K M Joseph’s bench issued a decision regarding a set of petitions calling for a selection process similar to that employed in the case of the Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)
What defence did the Supreme Court make?
After receiving a first PIL on the subject in 2015, social activist Ashwini Upadhyaya filed a second PIL on the subject in 2018, and the Supreme Court agreed to take it into consideration.
The complaints were then sent to a Constitution Bench by the court.
What criteria are now used to select the CEC and ECs?
Only five provisions make up Part XV of the Constitution, which is devoted to elections (324–329). According to Article 324 of the Constitution, the Election Commission is responsible for the “superintendence, direction, and control of elections” and is made up of “the Chief Election Commissioner and such number of additional Election Commissioners, if any” as the President may from time to time fix.
The Constitution doesn’t outline a specific legislative process for the appointment of the CEC and ECs. The Union Council of Ministers recommends the nomination to the President based on the Prime Minister’s recommendation.
What kind of power possesses the Election Commission?
The Indian Constitution gives the Election Commission extensive jurisdiction, but without getting into specifics.
Babasaheb Ambedkar stated that “the full electoral infrastructure should be in the hands of a Central Election Commission, which alone would be empowered to give orders to returning officers, polling officials, and others” when he presented this idea to the Constituent Assembly on June 15, 1949.
In order to clarify and increase the Commission’s authority, Parliament subsequently passed the Representation of the People Act, 1950, and The Representation of the People Act, 1951.
The Court noted that Article 324 “is a plenary provision vesting the complete responsibility for national and State elections” in the ECI “and, consequently, the essential authority to accomplish that job”.
The Election Commission has always been a three-person entity:
Since 1989, the Election Commission has only had one member, the Chief Election Commissioner, making it a one-person body. (CEC).
The Election Commission was expanded just before the ninth Lok Sabha elections, during a time of tense relations between the Rajiv Gandhi administration and CEC R V S Peri Sastri.
As a result, President R. Venkataraman issued a notification on October 7, 1989, adding two positions to the Election Commission in addition to the Chief Election Commissioner. This was accomplished by the use of his power under Article 324. (2). On October 16, 1989, the government appointed S S Dhanoa and V S Seigell to these seats.
The Act of 1991, which fixed the CEC’s retirement age at 65 and gave him the status of a Supreme Court judge, was later passed by the V P Singh administration.
The age at which the ECs may retire was established at 62, and they were given the rank of High Court judges. The EC Act’s passage effectively mandated that, should the Election Commission ever again become a multi-member body, the CEC would preside as its chairman and the ECs would report to him.
The government’s submission of an Ordinance to amend the EC Act gave all three the standing of a Supreme Court judge and the option to retire at age 65, making the CEC and the ECs equal.
Now, each of the three Commissioners had an equal say in decisions. The amendment also added clauses saying that the CEC and the ECs would act unanimously and that, in the event of a disagreement, the majority opinion would prevail.
Relevance of the most recent decision:
Their functional independence is directly impacted by the approach utilised to select the CEC and the EC.
The Court stated that a weak Election Commission “would result in an unacceptable situation and impede from its effective functioning.”
The SC’s ruling can serve as a constitutional lesson during these hard times in India in addition to ensuring procedural fairness.
The election process in India is being “relentlessly exploited,” it was found. The judgement recognises the minute distinction between traditional democracy and constitutional democracy. Only the majority counts in the former. In the latter, the Constitution is significant.
The verdict marks the nation’s long-awaited discovery of an activist judiciary. This resurgence of judicial involvement has a solid legal foundation thanks to enforceable precedents and legal reasons.
The publication of it coincides with a problematic phase of majoritarianism and an arrogant boss. This raises the judgment’s intrinsic worth.
A fair and free election is the foundation of a strong democracy, and the election commission is crucial to ensuring that the process is transparent.
It is crucial to uphold the independence and autonomy of the Election Commission and its commissioners in accordance with the court’s mandate in order to dispel any suspicions of prejudice that the Election Commission favours the ruling party.