Discover the Indian government’s proposed committee for selecting Election Commission members. Understand the shift from previous practices and the concerns regarding impartiality and transparency. Learn about the Supreme Court’s involvement and past recommendations for unbiased appointments.
Shift in Approach
The recent proposal from the Modi government takes a different stance compared to earlier viewpoints. In the past, on June 2, 2012, L K Advani, who was then the BJP Parliamentary Party chairman, suggested a different method for selecting Election Commission members. He recommended the establishment of a collegium, led by the Prime Minister and including the Chief Justice of India, the Law Minister, and the Leaders of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha as members.
Advani expressed concerns about the current system, wherein the President appoints Election Commission members solely based on the advice of the Prime Minister. He believed that this process lacked transparency and could be influenced by the ruling party. Advani emphasized the importance of a bipartisan approach to ensure that only individuals with competence, integrity, and a strong record of service are appointed to crucial positions within Constitutional bodies like the Election Commission.
Government Introduces Bill for Election Commission Member Selection
The government has put forth a new proposal in Parliament regarding the creation of a committee responsible for choosing members of the Election Commission of India (ECI). This committee would consist of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and a Cabinet minister nominated by the Prime Minister. However, notably absent from this committee is the Chief Justice of India (CJI).
Current Process and Legal Framework
At present, the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (ECs) is carried out by the government in accordance with Article 324(2) of the Constitution. This article states that the Election Commission will be composed of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners as determined by the President. The appointment process is subject to any laws established by Parliament.
Supreme Court’s Previous Ruling
In March, the Supreme Court (SC) made a significant decision regarding the selection of the ECI members. The SC ruled that a committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, and the Chief Justice of India should be responsible for selecting the three-member ECI panel. This arrangement was to be in place until Parliament established a proper law governing the appointment of CEC and ECs. This decision was based on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed in 2015, which challenged the practice of the government appointing Election Commission members.
Concerns About Independence and Bias
Over time, concerns have arisen about the independence of the Election Commission from the government’s influence. This is due to the fact that individuals appointed to these positions have often been retired senior bureaucrats. Many have questioned the impartiality and fairness of such appointments.