President of India Assents to New Election Commissioners Bill Amid Controversy

Author : Nimisha Nayak

Updated On : February 14, 2024

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Overview: The President of India gave assent on Thursday to a significant piece of legislation that promises to reshape the framework for appointing the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and other Election Commissioners (ECs). This development follows a Supreme Court ruling that pointed out a legislative gap in the process of appointing Election Commissioners.

Introduced by Minister of State for Law & Justice, Arjun Ram Meghwal, the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023, was first presented in the Rajya Sabha on August 10. Following a series of debates and revisions, the bill received approval from the Rajya Sabha on December 12 and subsequently from the Lok Sabha on December 21.

This new law aims to replace the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991. It outlines the procedures for the appointment, remuneration, and removal of the CEC and ECs. One of the bill's notable features is the formation of a selection committee, headed by the Prime Minister and comprising the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and a Union Cabinet Minister, to appoint the CEC and ECs. This committee's recommendations will hold, even if not fully constituted.

The bill stipulates that candidates for these positions must have experience equivalent to a central government secretary. A search committee, led by the Law Minister, is tasked with proposing a list of suitable candidates. Additionally, the legislation revises the compensation and terms of service for the CEC and ECs, aligning them with those of the cabinet secretary, a shift from their previous alignment with the salary of an Apex Court judge.

However, the bill has stirred controversy, with critics like Justice Rohinton Nariman, a former Supreme Court judge, raising concerns about its potential impact on the independence of the Election Commission of India (ECI). Justice Nariman warned that the bill, by giving the executive branch significant influence over the appointment of CECs and ECs, might jeopardize the integrity of free and fair elections in India.

"If you are going to get the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners appointed in this fashion, free and fair elections are going to become a chimera," Justice Nariman cautioned, highlighting the risks involved in this legislative change. As the bill turns into law, its long-term effects on the electoral process and democratic institutions in India remain to be seen.

President of India Assents to New Election Commissioners Bill Amid Controversy

Author : Nimisha Nayak

February 14, 2024

SHARE

Overview: The President of India gave assent on Thursday to a significant piece of legislation that promises to reshape the framework for appointing the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and other Election Commissioners (ECs). This development follows a Supreme Court ruling that pointed out a legislative gap in the process of appointing Election Commissioners.

Introduced by Minister of State for Law & Justice, Arjun Ram Meghwal, the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023, was first presented in the Rajya Sabha on August 10. Following a series of debates and revisions, the bill received approval from the Rajya Sabha on December 12 and subsequently from the Lok Sabha on December 21.

This new law aims to replace the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991. It outlines the procedures for the appointment, remuneration, and removal of the CEC and ECs. One of the bill's notable features is the formation of a selection committee, headed by the Prime Minister and comprising the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and a Union Cabinet Minister, to appoint the CEC and ECs. This committee's recommendations will hold, even if not fully constituted.

The bill stipulates that candidates for these positions must have experience equivalent to a central government secretary. A search committee, led by the Law Minister, is tasked with proposing a list of suitable candidates. Additionally, the legislation revises the compensation and terms of service for the CEC and ECs, aligning them with those of the cabinet secretary, a shift from their previous alignment with the salary of an Apex Court judge.

However, the bill has stirred controversy, with critics like Justice Rohinton Nariman, a former Supreme Court judge, raising concerns about its potential impact on the independence of the Election Commission of India (ECI). Justice Nariman warned that the bill, by giving the executive branch significant influence over the appointment of CECs and ECs, might jeopardize the integrity of free and fair elections in India.

"If you are going to get the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners appointed in this fashion, free and fair elections are going to become a chimera," Justice Nariman cautioned, highlighting the risks involved in this legislative change. As the bill turns into law, its long-term effects on the electoral process and democratic institutions in India remain to be seen.

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