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इंडियन आवाज़     23 May 2024 07:53:43      انڈین آواز

Centre defends dropping CJI from selection panel for election commissioners

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On the exclusion of the Chief Justice of India from the selection committee the Centre has said, “… the independence of the Election Commission, or any other organisation or authority, does not arise from and is not attributable to the presence of a judicial member in the Selection Committee.”

AMN / WEB DESK

While defending the appointment of two new election commissioners under a 2023 law that excluded the Chief Justice of India from the selection panel, the Centre on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that independence of the Election Commission did not arise from a judicial member’s presence on the panel.

Stating that a political controversy is being created on the basis of “unsupported and pernicious statements”, the Centre sought to dispel any notion of bias or ulterior motives behind the appointment of Election Commissioners. It said that there are no allegations against the Election Commissioners.

“… A political controversy is sought to be created only on the basis of bare, unsupported and pernicious statements about certain vague and unspecified motives behind the appointment,” the Centre said in an affidavit filed in response to batch of petitions seeking the presence of the Chief Justice of India in the selection panel to select the ECs and stay on the

Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Act 2023.

On the exclusion of the Chief Justice of India from the selection committee the Centre has said, “… the independence of the Election Commission, or any other organisation or authority, does not arise from and is not attributable to the presence of a judicial member in the Selection Committee.”

A five-judge constitution bench by a unanimous judgment on March 2, 2023 had directed that the Chief Election Commission and the Election Commissioners would be appointed on the recommendation of a selection committee comprising the Prime Minister, Leader of opposition or leader of the largest party in opposition and the Chief Justice of India.

However, the Centre brought as law – The Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Act 2023 that excluded the Chief Justice of India from the selection panel. The Chief Justice of India was replaced by a Central Minister to be nominated by the Prime Minister thereby giving the government a clear edge in the selection of the Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners.

The Central government has denied the petitioner’s allegation that the two Election Commissioners were hastily appointed on March 14 to pre-empt any orders being passed by the top court on the next day – March 15, when the matters were listed for hearing for interim relief.

Initially the meeting of the selection committee was scheduled for March 15 – when the top court was to hear pleas for interim relief seeking the restoration of the Chief Justice of India in the selection committee but it was advanced to March 14, 2023.

The Central government in its affidavit has said “Keeping in mind the ensuing national general election of such wide magnitude, geographical width and amplitude, and simultaneous elections of four states, it would have been humanly not possible for one chief election commissioner to discharge his functions alone. Therefore, two election commissioners were appointed on March 14, who have assumed significant functional, administrative and policy responsibilities in the commission. The schedule for the national general elections was also announced on March 16 and the process has started.”

The government had last week notified the appointment of ex-bureaucrats Gyanesh Kumar and Sukhbir Singh Sandhu as Election Commissioners, after a three-member selection committee met to select and recommend names for two vacancies in the Election Commission of India.

The applications seeking stay on the operation of the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Act 2023 Act were moved by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), Jaya Thakur -General Secretary of the Madhya Pradesh Mahila Congress Committee, Sanjay Narayanrao Meshram, Dharmendra Singh Kushwaha, advocate Gopal Singh.

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