Chief Justice of India (CJI) Replacement, Cabinet Minister, Selection Committee, Leader of Opposition, Selection Committee-Composition, Article 324(2) of the Constitution, Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991
Constitutional Amendment, Balance of Power, Transparent Selection Process, Role of Selection Committee, Ensuring Impartiality
Table of Contents
Why in the News?
The recent introduction of a bill in the Rajya Sabha to alter the selection process for Chief Election Commissioners and Election Commissioners has generated significant interest. The proposed changes involve replacing the Chief Justice of India with a Cabinet Minister in the selection committee and expanding the committee’s composition.
The ongoing discourse on reforming the selection process for Election Commissioners sheds light on the constitutional dynamics associated with ensuring an impartial and transparent election process in India.
What’s the Ongoing Story?
- The government’s Bill proposes replacing the Chief Justice of India (CJI) with a Cabinet Minister nominated by the Prime Minister in the selection committee.
- The Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha is also set to become a member of the selection committee.
- This move follows a Supreme Court order that formed a panel with the Prime Minister, CJI, and Leader of Opposition to select CEC and ECs until a parliamentary law is enacted.
The Proposed Bill
- The Bill, titled “The Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Appointment Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023,” envisions a selection committee with a more diversified composition.
- The Election Commission (EC) will consist of a Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners from individuals who hold or have held posts equivalent to Secretary to the Government of India.
- A Search Committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary will prepare a panel of five candidates. This panel will then be presented to the Selection Committee chaired by the Prime Minister.
- The Bill emphasizes integrity and expertise in election management and conduct as key qualifications for CEC and EC positions.
- The Selection Committee’s procedures are expected to be transparent, and the committee has the discretion to consider candidates beyond the Search Committee’s panel.
- The Bill clarifies that vacancies or defects in the Selection Committee’s composition won’t invalidate appointments.
Implications and Criticisms
- The proposed changes raise questions about the balance of power and the extent of the Executive’s influence in the selection process.
- Critics express concerns over the potential for a lack of independence due to the presence of the Prime Minister and a Cabinet Minister nominated by the Prime Minister in the committee.
Conclusion: Upholding Democratic Integrity
While the proposed Bill aims to reform the selection process for Election Commissioners, striking a balance between government involvement and the Election Commission’s impartiality remains paramount. The evolving discourse reflects the nation’s commitment to ensuring the integrity of its democratic processes.
Chief Election Commissioner (CEC)
- Role: The CEC is the head of the Election Commission of India (ECI) and is responsible for overseeing the conduct of elections, maintaining the fairness of the electoral process, and upholding democratic principles.
- Appointment: The CEC is appointed by the President of India as per Article 324(2) of the Constitution, subject to the provisions of any law made by Parliament.
- Tenure: The CEC’s term is six years or until the age of 65, whichever is earlier. This tenure ensures continuity and stability in the functioning of the Election Commission.
Election Commissioners (ECs)
- Role: The Election Commissioners assist the CEC in discharging the responsibilities of the Election Commission. They contribute to the decision-making process and ensure the impartiality of elections.
- Appointment: Like the CEC, the ECs are appointed by the President based on the recommendations of the Selection Committee.
- Tenure: The ECs also have a term of six years or until the age of 65, ensuring a synchronized tenure with the CEC for consistent functioning.