“If the Election Commissioner is asked to take the PM?” Supreme Court Center

“If the Election Commissioner is asked to take the PM?”  Supreme Court Center
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–>New Delhi:

On the independence of India’s highest electoral body, the Supreme Court today pointed to a ‘hypothesis’ for the central government: ‘Do you think the Elections Commissioner…if he is asked to face anything less than the Prime Minister – that’s just an example – and he doesn’t come to that: won’t this be a case of complete system failure?”

The Electoral Commissioner is ‘supposed to be completely isolated’, the court added, and referred to how the government had talked about appointing a ‘man of character’.

“Character is made up of various elements…one particular characteristic required is independence,” he noted, then quoted how “one of the election commissioners, in fact, resigned.” The court did not take names, instead arguing from its central point that the appointments system requires “a broader body” than the union’s cabinet to decide on names. “There is an urgent need for change.”

The five-judge bench of the Constitution headed by Justice KM Joseph heard petitions calling for reforms in the system for appointing election commissioners. He declared that “every government appoints a yes” as head of the electoral body, “regardless of the party [in power]”.

The government lawyer said, “Wandering cases cannot justify court intervention. Saving the position is our effort.

“First, a list is prepared of all senior officials. And then the list is sent to the Ministry of Justice which is then forwarded to the Prime Minister,” the lawyer explained, and said, “We have to see in how far the court can get in The existing system works well and there is no trigger point for the court to get involved in this case.

The court emphasized that it was not saying the system was wrong. “There should be a transparent mechanism,” he added. The court also disagreed with the Center’s argument that appointments are “always based on seniority” and that term length is “mainly 5 years”.

When the court asked why the pool of candidates is “limited to civil servants only”, the government replied: “It’s the convention. How not to follow it? Can we organize a national ballot of candidates? It’s impossible .”

The government lawyer added: “The court can’t interfere in the system just because we can’t show every case how the appointment was made. You have to show the cases where a wrong has happened. Simply on likelihood, apprehension or anxiety, court interference is not necessary.”

Also citing the sheer scale of the system, the government argued: “The whole mechanism does not allow someone to go rogue.”

The court, which yesterday said there should be a chief election commissioner like TN Seshan – known for his aggressive electoral reforms from 1990 to 1996 – insisted on a ‘mechanism’ for electoral body appointments. The government cited a 1991 law and old nominating conventions recommended by the cabinet headed by the prime minister to the president, who then chooses an officer.

The Center strongly opposed the batch of pleas calling for a collegiate-type system – such as the appointment of judges by the most experienced judges – for the selection of electoral commissioners. Such an attempt would amount to changing the Constitution, the government argued.

The court, however, pointed out that since 2004, no CEC has completed a six-year term. During the UPA’s 10-year rule, there were six CECs; and in the eight years of the NDA, there have been eight. “The government gives such a truncated mandate to the ECs and CECs that they do whatever it wants,” the court said.


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