Supreme Court Verdict on ECI Appointments
- Recently, the Supreme Court of India passed a unanimous verdict that the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (ECs) should be made by the President on the advice of a Committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition of the Lok Sabha, and Chief Justice of India (CJI).
- In case the Leader of the Opposition is not available, the leader of the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha in terms of numerical strength will be a part of the committee.
What are the other important points of the verdict?
- The SC verdict further stated that the Constituent Assembly (CA) made it clear that elections must be conducted by an independent Commission.
- While the court cannot ordinarily encroach on purely legislative powers, the context of the Constitution and the vacuum created by the legislature made it necessary for the court to intervene.
- On the question of whether the process of removal should be the same for the CEC and ECs, the SC stated that it cannot be the same as the CEC holds a special position and article 324 becomes inoperable without the CEC.
- The question of funding the EC, Permanent Secretariat, and the need for expenditure to be charged on the Consolidated Fund of India was left for the government to decide.
What was the government’s argument?
- The government had argued that in the absence of such a law by parliament, the President has the constitutional power and asked the SC to exhibit judicial restraint.
What is the challenge?
- Poses a question of Separation of Power: The Constitution places the power to make any law on the appointment of ECI in the hands of Parliament, so the SC’s ruling on this issue poses a question of Separation of Power.
- However, the ruling is subject to any law made by parliament, which means parliament can bring a law to undo it.
- Constitutional Vacuum: Another view is that since there is no law made by parliament on this issue, the Court must step in to fill the “constitutional vacuum.”
What are the existing provisions for the appointment of the ECI?
- Constitutional Provisions: The Indian Constitution’s Part XV (Article 324-329) deals with elections and establishes a commission for these matters.
- Structure of ECI: The commission originally had only one EC but was made a multi-member body (1 CEC & 2 other ECs) after the Election Commissioner Amendment Act 1989.
- Appointment Procedure: According to Article 324, the Election Commission shall consist of the CEC and such a number of other election commissioners, if any, as the President may from time-to-time fix.The appointment of the CEC and other Election Commissioners shall be made by the President, subject to the provisions of any law made on his behalf by Parliament.
- Removal: They can resign anytime or can also be removed before the expiry of their term. The CEC can be removed from office only through a process of removal similar to that of a SC judge by Parliament. Any other EC cannot be removed except on the recommendation of CEC.
UPSC Civil Services Examination Previous Year Questions (PYQ)
Q.1 Consider the following statements: (2017)
- The Election Commission of India is a five-member body.
- The Union Ministry of Home Affairs decides the election schedule for the conduct of both general elections and bye-elections.
- Election Commission resolves the disputes relating to splits/mergers of recognised political parties.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 2 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 3 only
Q.1 In the light of recent controversy regarding the use of Electronic Voting Machines(EVM), what are the challenges before the Election Commission of India to ensure the trustworthiness of elections in India? (2018)
Q.2 To enhance the quality of democracy in India the Election Commission of India has proposed electoral reforms in 2016. What are the suggested reforms and how far are they significant to make democracy successful? (2017)