Space, not time – Enhancing the ECI’s Independence by Extending the Tenure Security to the ECs | 24th November 2022 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about strengthening the independence of the Election Commission of India (ECI) by reforming the selection process of Election Commissioners (ECs).

Relevance:

  • GS2: Appointment to various Constitutional Posts, Powers, Functions and Responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies;
  • Prelims.

What's the crux of the article?

  • The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court of India hearing a case regarding the need to have a neutral mechanism for appointment of Election Commissioners (ECs).
  • As per the Article 324(2) a parliament should frame a law for the appointment of ECs. But no law has been enacted so far.
  • Thus the SC is pushing for an independent mechanism, possibly a selection committee that includes the Chief Justice of India.
  • Now two issues are mentioned in this article:
    • Brief (short) tenure of ECI.
    • Removal Procedure of ECs.

Articles related to Elections:

  • 324 – Superintendence, direction and control of elections to be vested in an Election Commission.
  • 325 – No person to be ineligible for inclusion in, or to claim to be included in a special, electoral roll on grounds of religion, race, caste or sex.
  • 326 – Elections to the House of the People and to the Legislative Assemblies of States to be on the basis of adult suffrage.
  • 327 – Power of Parliament to make provision with respect to elections to Legislatures.
  • 328 – Power of Legislature of a State to make provision with respect to elections to such Legislature.
  • 329 – Bar to interference by courts in electoral matters.

Analysis:

  • At present the ECI is a multi-member body. It consists of a Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and two other Election Commissioners (ECs).
  • They have a fixed tenure of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
  • The current convention is to appoint ECs, and elevate them as CEC on the basis of seniority.
  • Based on what age an EC becomes ECI he/she can either have long tenure or a brief tenure.
  • However, it may be argued that even Chief Justices have brief tenures, but that does not undermine their independence.
  • They both enjoy the same status and receive salary and perks as available to Judges of the SC.
  • The difference lies in the removal procedure:
    • While the CEC can be removed from office only through a process of removal similar to that of a SC judge. (impeachment by Parliament)
    • To remove Election Commissioners (ECs), only the recommendation of the CEC is needed. This affects the operational freedom and space of ECs.

Conclusion:

  • Thus, the writer argues for extending the same tenure security to the ECs too, regardless of what kind of appointment process is in place.



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