A Bill to Redefine the Selection Process for the Election Commission

  • In the Rajya Sabha, a new Bill has been presented to reverse the impact of a Supreme Court judgement on the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (ECs).
  • The proposed legislation calls for a new selection process that includes a committee composed of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and a nominated Cabinet Minister.
  • This endeavour follows a Supreme Court decision requiring the participation of the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition, and the ‘CJI’ in the appointment of these critical electoral positions.

The Supreme Court’s Decision and the Legislative Vacuum

  • A unanimous ruling by a Supreme Court bench this year demanded the involvement of the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition, and the Chief Justice in the nomination of CEC and ECs.
  • Constitutional Vacuum: The Court interfered due to the absence of a parliamentary bill governing the nomination procedure, as required by Article 324 of the Constitution.

A New Legislative Strategy

  • The proposed Bill seeks to fill a constitutional void by establishing a structured legislative mechanism for the selection of members of the Election Commission of India (ECI).
  • The Bill creates a Search Committee, which will be directed by the Cabinet Secretary and comprised of two other government officials knowledgeable with election issues. The Committee is entrusted with preparing a panel of five potential appointment candidates.
  • The Selection Committee, comprised of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and a Cabinet Minister selected by the Prime Minister, is at the heart of the planned procedure. The appointment of the CEC and ECs would be finalised by this body.

Concerns of the Supreme Court

  • Parliament’s Authority: The Parliament has the authority to resolve the issues raised by the Supreme Court ruling and to nullify its influence through legislative action that is consistent with the intent of the judgement.
  • Maintaining Independence: The Supreme Court’s decision emphasised the importance of an independent body overseeing elections, which is consistent with the original objective of the Constitution.

Concerns expressed

  • Selection Committee Composition: Because of its composition, the new Bill raises concerns regarding the independence of the selection process.
  • Absence of the Leader of the Opposition: With the PM and a nominated Cabinet Minister holding the majority on the three-member panel, the voice of the Leader of the Opposition is marginalised even before the process begins.
  • CJI is not on the panel that will review the 2nd March judgement, which caused this legislation.
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