The government’s bill to regulate the appointment process of the Election Commission has come in for sharp criticism, with the opposition in the Rajya Sabha saying it would give the executive the power to select Chief Election Commissioners and Election Commissioners who would, in turn, back the ruling party.
Several MPs questioned the government’s motive to replace the Chief Justice of India with a Cabinet Minister in the panel, especially since the Supreme Court in its March 2 judgement had ordered a panel of the PM, LoP and CJI to select the ECI till Parliament enacted a law, reported The Indian Express.
TMC MP Jawhar Sircar called the Bill a “charade”, saying it was against the “foundations of democracy”. DMK MP Tiruchi Siva said the bill would lead to more “yes-men” appointments.
Aam Aadmi Party MP Raghav Chadha joined the discerning voices, saying the Bill would destroy the institution of the EC. “This Bill is against the basic structure of the Constitution. The basic structure of the Constitution is free and fair elections,” Chadha was quoted as saying.
Congress MP Randeep Singh Surjewala, using strong words, has said that the Bill bulldozes the independence of the EC and that the selection committee was only a “formality”.
“It militates against the very spirit of the Constitution that is enshrined in Article 14. It completely negates and subjugates the Election Commission to the executive’s authority, and it does away with, willingly and maliciously, the judgment of the Supreme Court in toto,” he was quoted as saying by the daily.
Even as Surjewala pointed out the Supreme Court’s judgment, Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar said that Parliament was the sole repository of lawmaking.
“This House, this Parliament, to the exclusion of any other entity, be it executive, be it the judiciary, is supreme when it comes to lawmaking,” Dhankhar said.
Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal, not to be undone, also questioned the Congress, saying, “Why did you keep a shortcoming in the law in 1991?” Taking a dig at detractors, Meghwal said those who should have introspected themselves are sermonising.
Responding to Surjewala’s criticism, BJP MP Ghanshyam Tiwari said scathingly: “I remember clearly that once, Navin Chawla, who was Indira Gandhi’s secretary, was made an Election Commissioner. And today, they are saying the government will be making the appointments. The party that imposed Emergency is talking of democracy.”
BJP MP K Laxman reminded that the Supreme Court’s order stated that the committee it named would be provisional until Parliament enacted a law.