Friday, March 1, 2024

Rajya Sabha passes new CEC bill amid Opposition walkout

The Rajya Sabha Tuesday passed the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023, amid Opposition walkout.

The Bill will regulate the appointment, conditions of service and term of office of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and other Election Commissioners (ECs), and the procedure for transaction of business by the Election Commission.

The Bill further seeks to establish a committee of the Prime Minister, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and a Cabinet Minister nominated by the PM to select members of the Election Commission.

The Bill aims to overturn the Supreme Court verdict (March 2) which said that a high-power committee consisting of the PM, LoP in Lok Sabha, and the Chief Justice of India must pick the CEC and ECs.

Congress alleged that the proposed legislation “subjugates” the poll authority to the executive and violates the Constitution.

Senior Congress MP Randeep Singh Surjewala said the proposed legislation completely negates and violates the very spirit of the Constitution that is enshrined in Article 14.

“It completely negates and subjugates the Election Commission to the authority of the Executive and it does away willingly, maliciously the judgement of the Supreme Court and that is why this law is per se like a stillborn child,” Congress MP said.

He also claimed that the appointment committee has been reduced to an “empty formality” as it comprises the Prime Minister and members nominated by him.

The Congress member said the poll body is the sole authority for conducting free and fair elections in the country and thus needs to remain independent.

Alleging that the Union government does not want an “independent” election commission, he said the proposed law was “an ill-conceived attempt” at consolidating undue executive control, total executive control over the electoral body that is the Election Commission.

“An independent appointment mechanism would guarantee eschewing of even the prospect of bias …. this is what this government is afraid of. I’m saying it with a sense of responsibility, for they don’t want an independent Election Commission, CEC and EC. They want a pocket borough,” Surjewala said.

“The process is arbitrary, the intent is malicious and the result is disastrous. That is what is going to happen,” Surjewala said.

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