Opposition welcomes Supreme Court verdict on appointment of Election Commissioners

Congress wants current panel to be disbanded and re-constituted abiding by the ruling

March 02, 2023 09:34 pm | Updated 09:34 pm IST - New Delhi

Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the SC’s judgment was a powerful indictment of the functioning of the Election Commission.

Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the SC’s judgment was a powerful indictment of the functioning of the Election Commission. | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Welcoming the Supreme Court judgment on the appointment of Election Commissioners, the Congress on Thursday demanded that the present panel should be reconstituted as per the procedure laid down by the top court.

Congress spokesperson and senior Supreme Court lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the court’s judgment and observations were a powerful indictment of the functioning of the Election Commission over the past eight years. “The judgement reaffirms and reiterates the importance of divesting the control of the executive over a body that is crucial to the conduct of free and fair elections,” Mr. Singhvi said.

Since the ruling party enjoys absolute power to nominate officers for this post, it can nominate individuals who are likely be more inclined to give them a wide berth when it comes to electoral violations, he added.

The government, Mr. Singhvi said, opposed tooth and nail the idea of an independent Election Commission by filing counter affidavits and arguing through senior law officers that the mechanism of appointment by the government was so robust that no one can go rogue except for stray incidents.

However, there have been more than “stray incidents” he said, adding, “There are incidents, which are easily forgotten because the institutional memory in our country is short. In 2019 elections 25 major complaints were filed with the Election Commission. In more than 15 complaints some kind of action was taken. But the Election Commission did not decide on all the four or five complaints involving the Prime Minister or the Home Minister, for most part of the election season.”

The Congress went to the Supreme Court which ruled that the Election Commission should come up with a ruling soon, but by then, he said, it was too late. The dissent note filed by one of the Election Commissioners was suppressed and the said officer was hounded out, Mr. Singhvi alleged.

“And I ask the question, in how many times has the ECI in the last eight years taken serious action for electoral violations against the ruling regime?” he said.

Calling it a “seminal verdict”, the CPI(M) Polit Bureau, in a statement, said it was a “step forward in the direction of strengthening the independent authority and functioning of the Election Commission which alone is mandated to conduct a free and fair election under Article 324 of the Constitution”.

Senior RJD leader Manoj K. Jha said the judgment fulfilled a long-pending demand of the Opposition parties who have been flagging the utter lack of transparency in the appointment of Election Commissioner in the past eight years. “The Election Commission is the moving spirit behind our electoral democracy. If it loses credibility then the very idea of electoral democracy is under risk,” he said.

Former Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla, who was at the helm from April 2009 to July 2010, congratulated the Supreme Court Bench for the judgment. He said this was a reform that the commission had sought for many years. “Primarily, it will automatically protect the Election Commissioners and the CEC from removal midway through their term and is therefore vital in protecting the Election Commission’s independence,” Mr. Chawla said. 

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