What's the article about?
- It talks about the recent government bill on the Selection Panel for Appointment of Election Commission Members
- GS2: Appointment to various Constitutional Posts, Powers, Functions and Responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies;
- Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled that 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 the Chief Justice of India (CJI).
- However, a new bill has been introduced in Parliament to give effect to this judgment, but the provisions of the bill are different from the above judgment.
- The bill is called “The Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023”.
- Independence of the Election Commission:
- The Union government's proposal for the appointment of members of the Election Commission may compromise its independence.
- The proposed selection panel consists of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, and a Union Cabinet Minister, with a majority for the executive.
- This goes against a recent judgment of a Constitution Bench that called for an independent selection committee including the Chief Justice of India.
- The judgment aligns with the recommendations of the Dinesh Goswami Committee in 1990 and the Justice Tarkunde Committee in 1975.
- While the Court's order is valid until Parliament makes a law, the government's retention of an executive majority in the selection process disregards the spirit of the Court's recommendations.
- Importance of an Independent Election Commission:
- An independent and non-partisan Election Commission is crucial for the robustness of electoral democracy.
- The Election Commission of India has played a significant role in conducting periodic elections, ensuring free, fair, and convenient processes that have increased voter participation.
- However, there have been concerns about the Commission's autonomy and impartiality.
- In the lead-up to the 2019 general election, the announcement of elections was delayed, allowing the government to inaugurate projects, and the Model Code of Conduct was unevenly implemented.
- The independent V-Dem Institute in Sweden has downgraded India to an “electoral autocracy” due to the loss of autonomy of the Election Commission.
- Need for Insulation from Executive Preponderance:
- Considering the constitutional role of the Election Commission, a selection process that ensures insulation from executive preponderance is necessary.
- The Election Commission not only conducts elections but also has a quasi-judicial role.
While the presence of the Chief Justice of India in the selection process could provide legitimacy to appointments, it is important to balance this against the need for independence from the executive.
- It is now the responsibility of the Opposition to ensure that the Bill is discussed and modified to uphold the Constitution Bench's judgment and retain its recommendations.
- The Bill proposed by the government needs to be thoroughly debated and modified to safeguard the independence of the Election Commission.
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