CJI dropped from CEC selection panel; Centre defends Bill, says Supreme Court ruling is followed


The Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023, which aims to regulate the appointment and service terms of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners, was passed in the Lok Sabha on Thursday, December 21. The Bill dropped the Chief Justice of India from the selection panel which also comprises the prime minister and the Leader of Opposition, triggering uproar among the Opposition members and drawing attention to the March 2023 Supreme Court ruling.

The Supreme Court order had ruled that the appointment of CEC and ECs shall be made by the President on the basis of advice tendered by a committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha or leader of the largest Opposition party in the House, and the Chief Justice of India (CJI).

Dropping the CJI from the selection committee, the new Bill proposes that the “Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation of a Selection Committee consisting of—(a) the Prime Minister—Chairperson; (b) the Leader of Opposition in the House of the People—Member; (c) a Union Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the Prime Minister—Member.”

WHAT DOES THE GOVT SAY?

The Bill, however, wasn’t passed without a little resistance. The Opposition has alleged that the Centre has defied the Supreme Court order by dropping the CJI from the selection panel. The Central government has, however, defended the Bill, saying it is in consonance with the Supreme Court ruling and not against it.

Opposition members had earlier expressed their concern over the provisions of the Bill, saying it is “one of the biggest blows to democracy” by the Modi government in the last nine years. Congress leaders said there was a time when EC meant electoral credibility’ but today it means ‘elections compromised’.

WHAT DID SUPREME COURT SAY IN ITS ORDER?

In March 2023, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and the Chief Justice of India must pick the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (ECs).

“The appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commissioners shall be made by the President on the advice of a Committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition of the Lok Sabha, and in case no leader of Opposition is available, the leader of the largest opposition Party in the Lok Sabha in terms of numerical strength, and the Chief Justice of India,” the Supreme Court verdict stated.

The verdict mentioned that the process will be followed until Parliament passes a law on the matter. “We make it clear that this will be subject to any law to be made by Parliament,” it said.

Referring to the verdict, Union Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal said, “We are bringing the law for this purpose.” Union Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal said an amendment in the Bill is that the search committee will be headed by the Law Minister instead of the cabinet secretary.

The Bill has been passed in both Houses of Parliament.

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Published: 21 Dec 2023, 09:33 PM IST



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