Gyanesh Kumar, Sukhbir Singh Sandhu named new Election Commissioners

They were chosen by a high-powered panel chaired by PM Modi; Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury submits dissent note, says shortlisted names were shared with him just 10 minutes before meeting

March 14, 2024 02:31 pm | Updated 10:39 pm IST - New Delhi

Former bureaucrats Sukhbir Singh Sandhu (right) and Gyanesh Kumar, who have been appointed Election Commissioners on March 14, 2024. File

Former bureaucrats Sukhbir Singh Sandhu (right) and Gyanesh Kumar, who have been appointed Election Commissioners on March 14, 2024. File | Photo Credit: ANI

Retired bureaucrats Gyanesh Kumar and Sukhbir Singh Sandhu were on Thursday appointed as Election Commissioners by a high-powered panel chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“The President is pleased to appoint Shri Gyanesh Kumar, IAS (Retd.) and Dr. Sukhbir Singh Sandhu, IAS (Retd.) as Election Commissioners in Election Commission of India [EC] with effect from the date of assumption of charge of their office,” a Rashtrapati Bhavan communique said.

This is the first time that Election Commissioners have been appointed in accordance with the new Chief Election Commissioner and other Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Act, 2023 brought in by the government in December last year.

According to the Act, a selection committee headed by the Prime Minister and comprising a Union Minister nominated by the Prime Minister and the Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the Lok Sabha will select members of the EC. In the current committee, Union Home Minister Amit Shah is the Cabinet Minister and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury represents the Opposition, being the Congress leader of the House in Lok Sabha.

Editorial | Choosing the watchdog: On Election Commissioners appointment 

After the meeting, Mr. Chowdhury told the media that a total of six shortlisted names had been shared with him barely 10 minutes before the meeting. The other four names in reckoning were Utpal Kumar Singh, Pradeep Kumar Tripathi, Indeevar Pandey, and Sudhir Kumar Gangadhar Rahat.

The Congress leader said that late on Wednesday night, a list of 212 names had been shared with him. He also said that he had submitted a dissent note. “If the Chief Justice of India [CJI] had been there, it would have been a different matter,” he said.

The Congress leader was referring to the Supreme Court ruling in March 2023, which said that the selection panel should comprise the Prime Minister, the Leader of Opposition (LoP) in Lok Sabha and the CJI. The court had said the order would hold good until a law was made by Parliament.

Till the SC ruling, Election Commissioners and Chief Election Commissioners (CECs) had been appointed by the President after recommendations of the government.

The poll panel is currently led by CEC Rajiv Kumar. The two Election Commissioners were appointed following vacancies in the EC owing to the sudden resignation of Arun Goel on March 9 and retirement of Anup Chandra Pandey on February 15.

On Friday, the Supreme Court has listed for urgent hearing petitions challenging the appointment procedure of Election Commissioners and CECs under the new law.

Among the two new Election Commissioners, Kerala cadre IAS officer Kumar superannuated as the Cooperation Secretary. He has a postgraduate degree in Economics from Harvard University and a B.Tech from Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur, according to his Executive Record Sheet.

During his tenure in the Union Home Ministry, Mr. Kumar oversaw the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.

He also played a key role in setting up the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra Trust and had also been the Parliamentary Affairs Secretary.

S.S. Sandhu served as Uttarakhand Chief Secretary during the tenure of Pushkar Singh Dhami as the Chief Minister. Earlier, he had served as the Chairman of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and also as Additional Secretary, Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development.

He did his MBBS from the Government Medical College, Amritsar and also holds a postgraduate degree in History from Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar.

On February 3, he was appointed the Secretary to the Lokpal on a one-year contract.

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