The Centre on Wednesday stoutly defended its right to appoint the CEC and ECs and told the court that Constitutional silence cannot be filled up by the judiciary. It was countering the Supreme Court’s observation that “silence of the Constitution” on the procedure and qualification for appointment of the chief election commissioner and election commissioners was exploited by successive governments.
Responding to the apprehension expressed by the Constitution bench that under the present system the government would pick and appoint ‘yes men’ who may not go against it, attorney general R Venkataramani said there is no “pick and choose procedure” adopted by the government and appointments are done on the basis of the seniority of bureaucrats.
Facing volleys of questions from the bench of Justices KM Joseph, Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy and CT Ravikumar on the need to have a “fair and transparent” mechanism for selection of members of the Election Commission and also on why no law has been framed to regulate their appointment as mandated under the Constitution, the trio of Venkataramani, solicitor general Tushar Mehta and additional solicitor general Balbir Singh tried to convince the court that there was no need for the judiciary to interfere.
“It is submitted that the presumption that inclusion of a judicial member, in a process of appointment wholly vested in the office of President by the Constitution makers, would bring fairness in action towards the process, is wholly flawed. It is submitted that the appointment of the Election Commissioners was vested in the President after detailed deliberations in the Constituent Assembly and the only other form suggested for the future, in case the Parliament thought it fit, was legislative intervention of the Parliament,” the SG submitted.
At the end of the hearing, it was the turn of the Election Commission to put forward its views on a batch of petitions seeking to insulate it from political and executive interference but the poll panel confined its submission to financial independence, having an independent secretariat and protection to the election commission as given to the CEC. Advocate Amit Sharma, in a brief submission, said the commission had sent various proposals to the Centre for reforms on those aspects which must be examined seriously.