Overturning the verdict of the Supreme Court, the Union government on Thursday introduced a bill in the Rajya Sabha that removes the Chief Justice of India from the panel for the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (EC).
The newly introduced bill seeks to establish a committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha, and a cabinet minister nominated by the Prime Minister for selecting members of the Election Commission of India.
In March, the five-judge bench of the Supreme Court ruled that a high power committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, and the Chief Justice of India would appoint the CEC and ECs.
According to article 324(2) of the Indian Constitution, “The Election Commission shall consist of the Chief Election Commissioner and such number of other Election Commissioners, if any, as the President may from time-to-time fix and the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners shall, subject to the provisions of any law made in that behalf by Parliament, be made by the President.”
However, as per the new bill, the law minister will suggest suitable members be appointed as CEC or ECs to the Prime Minister, and the President will appoint one on the suggestion of the PM.
Moreover, a search Committee, with the Cabinet Secretary as head and consisting of two other members, each holding a position no lower than that of a government Secretary, possessing expertise and experience in matters concerning elections, will be eligible for the potential selection.
Then, finally, as per the Bill, a Selection Committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and a Union Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the Prime Minister will appoint the CEC and other ECs.
It is noteworthy that the Parliament holds the power to nullify or cancel out the ruling of the Court by addressing the issues highlighted in the judgment.
However, the law cannot directly oppose the ruling. In this situation, the Supreme Court suggested a certain plan because they observed a “legislative vacuum” in the laws. It’s the Parliament’s job to fill that gap, and they have the authority to do so.
However, the bill contradicts the idea of having an independent and free body that conducts elections.
The move is vastly viewed in the favour of the executive, as this will formalize executive control over appointments to the election commission, where the executive holds more power in the selection committee with the PM and a Cabinet Minister nominated by the PM in the three-member panel.