Directions: Continuing of article: Upholding the autonomy of the election Commission
Prelims: Current events of national importance(ECI, CEC, Article 324, PIL, constitution bench etc)
Mains GS Paper II: Appointments to various constitutional posts, powers functions and responsibilities of various constitutional bodies etc
- A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court heard a crucial case about the method by which the Election Commission of India (ECI) is constituted, and Election Commissioners
INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE
Election Commission of India(ECI):
- 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:
- Lok Sabha
- Rajya Sabha
- State Legislative Assemblies in India
- Offices of the President and Vice President in the country.
- Part XV of the constitution deals with elections, and establishes a commission for these matters.
- Article 324 to 329: deals with powers, function, tenure, eligibility, etc of the commission and the members.
- The commission: It consists of one Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners.
- The President appoints Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners.
- Tenure: They have a fixed tenure of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
- Status: They enjoy the same status and receive salary and perks as available to Judges of the Supreme Court of India.
- The Chief Election Commissioner can be removed from office only through a process of removal similar to that of a Supreme Court judge by Parliament.
- All three members have equal voting rights and all decisions in the commission are taken by the majority,
Constituent assembly on working of constitution:
- B.R. Ambedkar:
- However good a Constitution may be, it is sure to turn out bad because those who are called to work it, happen to be a bad lot.
- However bad a Constitution may be, it may turn out to be good if those who are called to work it, happen to be a good lot.
- The working of a Constitution does not depend wholly upon the nature of the Constitution.”
- Rajendra Prasad:
- “Whatever the Constitution may or may not provide, the welfare of the country will depend upon the way in which the country is administered.
- That will depend upon the men who administer it.
- If the people who are elected are capable and men of character and integrity, they would be able to make the best even of a defective Constitution.
- If they are lacking in these, the Constitution cannot help the country.
- A Constitution, like a machine, is a lifeless thing.
- It acquires life because of the men who control it and operate it, and India needs today nothing more than a set of honest men who will have the interest of the country before them.”
Issues related to elevation of EC to CEC:
- Bureaucratisation of the ECI: which is not even hinted at in the Constitution anywhere.
- Elevation of ECs to Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), and the tenures of ECs and CEC: The elevation is a clear violation of the principle of primus inter pares.
- Monopolisation of the positions of ECs and CEC by the administrative services.
What is the possible solution?
- An existing committee of Parliament or a new committee:
- It should propose the qualifications and requirements for persons to be appointed as ECs/CEC.
- Two-third majority: The proposals of the committee should be put to Parliament and should be considered approved only if they are approved by two-thirds majority of the members of Parliament present and voting.
- Selection of individuals: The committee should be entrusted with the task of searching for and selecting individuals proposed to be appointed as ECs/CEC.
- Recommendations: The committee should send its recommendations to Parliament for consideration.
- Recommendations of the committee should be considered approved by Parliament only if approved by two-thirds majority of the members of Parliament present and voting.
- Presidential approval:They should be sent to the President for approving the appointments.
- Age: Such persons should stay in their positions for six years or the age of 75 years, whichever is earlier.
- Persons above the age of 69 years should not be appointed.
- Removal: Persons so appointed should be removable only by a process of impeachment as applicable to the Supreme Court judges.
- If we want ECs to match the qualities stated by Dr. Ambedkar and Dr. Prasad: We need to go beyond how Article 324 of the Constitution and the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991, have been operationalised so far.
- Democracy preservation: If democracy in its real sense is to be preserved in the country, the importance of the ECI has to be recognised and accepted.
- The guiding principles must be functional and effective independence from the executive, from the moment of appointment to the retirement, and then beyond.
QUESTION FOR PRACTICE
Q. Discuss the role of the Election Commission of India in the light of the evolution of the Model Code of Conduct.(UPSC 2022) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)