Rajya Sabha passes Bill to appoint Chief Election Commissioner, Election Commissioners

At present, the CEC and fellow ECs enjoy the status of a judge of the Supreme Court. By bringing the amendment, the government has retained that status.

December 12, 2023 09:39 pm | Updated December 13, 2023 11:52 am IST - New Delhi

Union Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal speaks in the Rajya Sabha during the Winter session of Parliament, in New Delhi, on December 12, 2023.

Union Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal speaks in the Rajya Sabha during the Winter session of Parliament, in New Delhi, on December 12, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Rajya Sabha on December 12 passed the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, the legislation that will guide the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and the Election Commissioners (EC) in future.

Denying the Opposition’s charges that the Supreme Court was being kept away from the process of selecting the CEC and ECs, Union Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal said in the Rajya Saba that the Bill had been prepared following a direction from the Supreme Court. Mr. Meghwal said that, so far, the appointments had not been guided by any laws, and the Bill made the process transparent.

Also read: Parliament Winter Session Day 8 LIVE updates

The Law Minister said the 1991 Act did not have a clause related to the appointment of the CEC and other ECs. He said the names of the Commissioners had so far been decided by the government, and from now on, a search and selection committee would overlook the process. “A clause related to protection from initiation of legal proceedings against the CEC and ECs for actions taken while carrying out their duties has also been introduced through the Bill,” he said.

Apparently accepting suggestions from former CECs, the Centre brought two official amendments, bringing the protocol of the CEC and ECs on par with Supreme Court judges, with similar salaries and emoluments.

The Opposition wanted to send the Bill to a select committee but this was rejected by the House.

The Opposition questioned the intention of the Centre. Congress general secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala, who initiated the debate, said the Bill violated the Constitution of India.

“It completely negates and subjugates the Election Commission to the authority of the Executive and it does away willingly, maliciously the judgment of the Supreme Court, and that is why this law is per se like a stillborn child,” he said. “An independent appointment mechanism would guarantee eschewing of even the prospect of bias .... this is what this government is afraid of. I’m saying it with a sense of responsibility, for they don’t want an independent Election Commission, CEC and EC. They want a pocket borough,” Mr. Surjewala said, adding that the process was arbitrary, the intent was malicious, and the result was disastrous. “That is what is going to happen,” he said.

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