RSTV: THE BIG PICTURE – ELECTION COMMISSION: COLLEGIUM SYSTEM & APPOINTMENTS
The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear after four weeks a public interest litigation seeking that the chief election commissioner and election commissioners be appointed by a three-member collegium. The collegium will comprise the Prime Minister, the leader of opposition in Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India. A bench comprising Chief Justice S. A. Bobde and Justices B.R. Gavai and Surya Kant took note of submissions that the plea needed an urgent hearing. Advocate Ashwini Upadhyay filed the PIL seeking to ensure more autonomy for the chief election commissioner’s office and election commissioners. The plea has also sought an independent secretariat for the Election Commission of India and that it should also be given the power to make rules.
- The Election Commission of India is an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering Union and State election processes in India.
- The body administers elections to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, and State Legislative Assemblies in India, and the offices of the President and Vice President in the country.
Superintendence, direction and control of elections to be vested in an Election Commission
(1) The superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of the electoral rolls for, and the conduct of, all elections to Parliament and to the Legislature of every State and of elections to the offices of President and Vice President held under this Constitution shall be vested in a Commission (referred to in this Constitution as the Election Commission)
(2) The Election Commission shall consist of the Chief Election Commissioner and such number of other Election Commissioners, if any, as the President may from time to time fix and the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners shall, subject to the provisions of any law made in that behalf by Parliament, be made by the President
(3) When any other Election Commissioner is so appointed the Chief Election Commissioner shall act as the Chairman of the Election Commission
(4) Before each general election to the House of the People and to the Legislative Assembly of each State, and before the first general election and thereafter before each biennial election to the Legislative Council of each State having such Council, the President may also appoint after consultation with the Election Commission such Regional Commissioners as he may consider necessary to assist the Election Commission in the performance of the functions conferred on the Commission by clause ( 1 )
(5) Subject to the provisions of any law made by Parliament, the conditions of service and tenure of office of the Election Commissioners and the Regional Commissioners shall be such as the President may by rule determine; Provided that the Chief Election Commissioner shall not be removed from his office except in like manner and on the like grounds as a Judge of the Supreme Court and the conditions of service of the Chief Election Commissioner shall not be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment: Provided further that any other Election Commissioner or a Regional Commissioner shall not be removed from office except on the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner
(6) The President, or the Governor of a State, shall, when so requested by th Election Commission, make available to the Election Commission or to a Regional Commissioner such staff as may be necessary for the discharge of the functions conferred on the Election Commission by clause ( 1 )
Other articles related to ECI:
- Article 325: No person to be ineligible for inclusion in, or to claim to be included in a special, electoral roll on grounds of religion, race, caste or sex.
- Article 326: Elections to the House of the People and to the Legislative Assemblies of States to be on the basis of adult suffrage.
- Article 327: Power of Parliament to make provision with respect to elections to Legislatures.
- Article 328: Power of Legislature of a State to make provision with respect to elections to such Legislature.
- Article 329: Bar to interference by courts in electoral matters.
Demand since long time:
- It has been a very old demand since the ECI is into existence.
- Dinesh Goswami Committee had suggested it too.
- Based on it, 70th Constitutional Amendment Bill, 1990 was introduced in the Parliament.
- But till date no law has been in place.
- Constitution has not prescribed any method.
- It is the executive power of the President.
- The parliament has the power to make law regulating the terms and conditions.
Appointment needs overhaul:
- Even in the constituent assembly debates this issue was taken up.
- Article 324(2) as stated above states that the President shall, with aid and advice of Council of Ministers, appoint CEC and ECs, till Parliament enacts a law fixing the criteria for selection, conditions of service and tenure.
- But a law has not been enacted for the purpose so far.
- Hence a PIL was filed in the Supreme Court seeking a fair and transparent procedure for appointment of CEC and ECs.
- The constituent assemble debates in which one of the suggestion said that President will appoint them with the consult of the Prime Minister with two third majority of the joint sitting.
- The fact remains that it is the executive power of the government and should that executive power be regulated.
- SC interprets any law on the basis of provisions of constitution and cannot with something extra.
- Similar demand for other bodies and posts like CAG, Attorney general, etc
- There is distinction between the position of a CEC & EC and the appointments to both the position may differ according to the task they perform.
- 2nd ARC report recommended that collegium headed by the Prime Minister with the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Law Minister and the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha as members should make recommendations for the consideration of the President for appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commissioners
- Law Commission 255th Report on Electoral Reforms: Strengthening the office of the Election Commission of India recommended Making the appointment process of the Election Commissioners and the CEC consultative
- Similar election and removal procedure for CEC and Ecs.
- Expenses of ECI must be charged expenditure on Consolidated Fund of India.