The Supreme Court in a landmark verdict aimed at “maintaining the purity of elections” on Thursday said Election Commissioners will be appointed by a panel including the Prime Minister, the Leader of Opposition and the Chief Justice of India.
The Chief Election Commissioners and two election commissioners, who oversee polls across the country, will be appointed on the advice of a committee that will give the opposition and the judiciary a say.
News agency PTI reported, “The Constitution Bench of Supreme Court in a very historical judgement has directed that in future appointments of all election commissioners shall be done not by just the govt alone, but by a committee consisting of PM, LoP and CJI”, says senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan.
VIDEO | "The Constitution Bench of Supreme Court in a very historical judgement has directed that in future appointments of all election commissioners shall be done not by just the govt alone, but by a committee consisting of PM, LoP and CJI", says senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan. pic.twitter.com/vnEC6oyBK2
— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) March 2, 2023
“In democracy, the purity of elections must be maintained or else it would lead to disastrous consequences,” said the unanimous verdict.
The verdict also means that the Election Commission will have equal protection from impeachment, an independent secretariat, and rule-making authority.
The Election Commission can now draw funds directly from the consolidated fund of India. The Prime Minister’s Officer and the Law Ministry are no longer required to provide funding.
Presently, on the Prime Minister’s proposal, the President chooses the chief election commissioner and two commissioners for terms of six years each. These individuals are typically former bureaucrats.
Petitions had requested a collegium-like structure for the selection of election commissioners to ensure fair elections in the country, alleging that the previous process was driven by “whims and fancies of the government”.
According to the petitions, the Centre unilaterally appointed members of the Election Commission, unlike the appointments of the CBI director or the corruption watchdog Lokpal, where the leader of the Opposition and judiciary have a say.
The Supreme Court has questioned the Centre on the appointment of former IAS officer Arun Goel as the new Election Commissioner at “lightning speed”, within 24 hours, and had asked to see the original files related to the appointment.
IAS official Arun Goel, class of 1985, retired voluntarily from his prior position on November 18 and was named election commissioner on November 19. He assumed office on November 21.
After reviewing the case, the Supreme Court questioned how the Ministry of Law and Justice selected the final four candidates for the position of Election Commissioner. The Center had chosen individuals from among those names who would not serve as Election Commissioners for even six years.