New Delhi: The Centre on Thursday tabled a contentious bill in Rajya Sabha that seeks to replace the Chief Justice of India with a cabinet minister in the panel for selection of the chief election commissioner and election commissioners, in a move that will allow the government to have more control in the appointments of members of the poll panel.
The bill comes months after the Supreme Court in March ruled that a three-member panel, headed by the Prime Minister and comprising the leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India, will select the CEC and ECs till a law is framed by Parliament on the appointment of these commissioners.
This is in contrast to a Supreme Court judgment of March which said the panel should comprise the prime minister, the leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India.
Opposition leaders, including from Congress, immediately seized the opportunity and accused the government of diluting a Constitution bench order.
A vacancy will arise in the Election Commission (EC) early next year when Election Commissioner Anup Chandra Pandey demits office on February 14 on attaining the age of 65 years.
His retirement will come just days before the likely announcement of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls’ schedule by the EC. On the past two occasions, the commission had announced parliamentary polls in March.
The apex court in its March verdict had aimed at insulating the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and election commissioners from the Executive’s interference.
It had ruled that their appointments will be done by the President on the advice of a committee comprising the prime minister, leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India.
A five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice KM Joseph, in a unanimous verdict, held that this norm will continue to hold good till a law on the issue is made by Parliament.
Before the Supreme Court ruling, the Chief Election Commissioner and election commissioners were appointed by the President on the recommendation of the government.