Just when the Supreme Court is hearing petitions on the need for reforms in the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (ECs), a private member’s Bill has been introduced in Rajya Sabha which seeks formation of a committee headed by the Chief Justice of India to select the ECs.
The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2022, was introduced by CPI(M) member from Kerala, John Brittas, on Friday to “amend the Constitution of India to ensure transparency, neutrality and fairness in appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners” as well as to set up a permanent independent secretariat of the Election Commission of India.
On Saturday, Brittas shared that he submitted the Bill to the Rajya Sabha Secretariat about two months ago, before the Supreme Court’s hearing in the Election Commissioners’ case in November. During the hearing on November 22, Justice K M Joseph had observed that a committee including the CJI may be the least intrusive way of appointing ECs.
Brittas said it was a coincidence that his Bill proposed setting up a committee headed by the CJI and including the Lok Sabha Speaker and Leader of Opposition for the appointment of ECs. “It is the most viable proposition,” he said. “The Election Commission takes quasi-judicial decisions. It is one body that is vital for the survival of democracy.”
Brittas said the Bill proposed setting up of an independent secretariat of the ECI, as opposed to the current system where civil servants who are a part of the executive are posted to the poll panel. For example, the way Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha Secretariats have a different way of recruiting officers, the ECI Secretariat could also have its own system. Officers who have worked at the district level, retired judges and others from the legal field could be considered for the ECI Secretariat, he said.
The Bill proposed amending Clause 2 of Article 324 of the Constitution that deals with appointment of the CEC and ECs. Instead of the appointments being made by the President, the Bill proposed adding to the Clause concerned the line “as per the recommendations of a committee” consisting of the CJI as chairperson, the Lok Sabha Speaker as co-chairperson and the Leader of the largest opposition party in Lok Sabha as member. The Bill also proposed adding that when a CEC demits office, the senior-most EC shall be appointed CEC, unless the committee finds him or her unfit for reasons recorded in writing.
As of now, there is a convention that the senior-most EC gets elevated to CEC, but it is not a Constitutional clause.
Also Read: Guj Businessman Wrongfully Held, Tortured; Cops Booked