On Poll Body Appointments, Ex-Chief Backs Supreme Court Comments

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New Delhi:

Former Union Justice Minister M Veerappa Moily and former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi on Wednesday backed a consultative mechanism to appoint the CEC and Election Commissioners, while another former head of the polling panel lobbied for a body to appoint judges to the Supreme Court and High Courts.

On Tuesday, a constitutional formation of the Supreme Court questioned the absence of a law to appoint the CEC and the CEs. The Supreme Court had called the exploitation of the “silence of the Constitution” and the absence of a law governing the appointments of ECs and CECs a “worrying trend”.

The bench of five judges, headed by Judge KM Joseph, said their aim was to put in place a system so that the “best man” would be selected as CEC.

He told Attorney General R Venkataramani, who appeared in the case on behalf of the Centre, “What’s important is that we put in place a fairly good procedure so that outside of the jurisdiction, someone one of strong character be named CEC.”

Mr Moily said he fully supports her.

“It has to be done. If you want both the judiciary and the electoral commission to be independent, then it should be for six years (the term of the CEC) and it should be done (the appointment of the CEC and of the EC) by a college that was recommended by me in the second administrative commission (report),” Mr. Moily told PTI.

Former CEC Quraishi said it has been “our demand” for 20 years.

“The CECs in service made this request. We know the college system. Various appointments are made by college. It is politically the most sensitive. CVC and CIC are not so politically sensitive… for the director, CBI there is a college. He is the head of a department… it’s an old request and I hope there will be a conclusion because the matter is before the court. I hope he (the higher court) wins it,” he said.

Another CEC, who did not wish to be named, said “there should be a body with the Minister of Justice and the Leader of the Opposition for the appointment of judges as well”.

The court had pointed to Article 324 of the Constitution, which talks about the appointment of election commissioners, and said it did not provide the procedure for such appointments. Moreover, the article provided for the enactment of a law by Parliament in this regard, which has not been done for the past 72 years, leading to exploitation by the Center, he said. .

Seeking to overturn the current collegiate system, Parliament passed the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, which was later struck down by the Supreme Court.

The law sought to create a body to appoint judges to the Supreme Court and high courts.

The 20th Laws Commission headed by Justice AP Shah (Retired) in its 255th Report on Electoral Reforms submitted to the government in March 2015 recommended a three-member college to appoint the CEC and ECs. “Given the importance of maintaining the neutrality of the ECI and protecting the CEC and the electoral commissioners from interference by the executive, it is imperative that the appointment of electoral commissioners becomes a consultative process”, had– he declares.

“To this end, the Commission (law) adapts the proposal of the Goswami Committee with certain modifications. First, the appointment of all election commissioners (including the CEC) must be made by the president in consultation with a three-member selection panel or committee, consisting of the prime minister, the leader of the opposition Lok Sabha (or of the leader of the largest opposition Lok Sabha party in terms of numerical strength) and the Chief Justice of India,” the panel said.

The report says the Commission considers the inclusion of the prime minister important as a representative of the current government.

According to the EC’s website, the commission originally had only a chief election commissioner. It currently consists of a Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners.

For the first time, two additional commissioners were appointed on October 16, 1989, but they had a very short term until January 1, 1990. Later, on October 1, 1993, two additional election commissioners were appointed.

The concept of a multi-member Commission has been in force ever since, with decision-making power by majority vote.

The President appoints the Chief Electoral Commissioner and the Electoral Commissioners. They serve for six years, or until age 65, whichever comes first.

They enjoy the same status and receive the salary and benefits offered to judges of the Supreme Court of India.

The Chief Electoral Commissioner can only be removed from office by impeachment by Parliament.

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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