Chief Election Commissioner Bill 2023: Following the introduction of the Delhi Ordinance bill, the government proposed an additional bill aimed at overturning a landmark judgment by the Supreme Court’s Constitution Bench regarding the appointment of Election Commissioners.
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New bill raises eyebrows
The Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Appointment Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023 contradicts a Supreme Court ruling issued in March of this year. The ruling mandated that the appointment of election commissioners should be carried out through a high-powered committee comprising the Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India, and Leader of the Opposition (LoP) in the Lok Sabha.
The Supreme Court explicitly emphasised the need for the appointment of election commissioners to be independent of government influence. However, with the introduction of the new bill by the central government, the impact of this ruling has been weakened. The bill reintroduces government control over the appointment of election commissioners, designating a selection committee composed of the prime minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and a cabinet minister to make these appointments.
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CJI’s role to be reduced?
The bill proposes to replace the Chief Justice of India with a cabinet minister in the committee for selection of the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners. The Supreme Court in its judgment had said that the high-powered committee of the PM, CJI and LoP would be an interim arrangement to fill the gap and that Parliament must come up with a law regarding the appointments to the Election Commission.
On the law brought by Parliament, Supreme Court stated, “could not be one to perpetuate what is already permitted, namely appointment at the absolute and sole discretion of the Executive. A law would have to be necessarily different.”
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