THE Indian government on Thursday (10) introduced a bill to regulate the appointment, conditions of service and term of office of the chief election commissioner and other election commissioners, with opposition parties strongly opposing the move.
Law minister Arjun Ram Meghwal introduced the bill in Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the parliament. It also deals with procedure for transaction of business by the election commission.
The bill proposes that election commissioners will be appointed by the president on the recommendation of a panel comprising the prime minister, leader of opposition in Lok Sabha and a cabinet minister nominated by the prime minister. The prime minister will chair the panel.
A supreme court judgment on March 2, 2023, identified a legal vacuum concerning the appointment of election commissioners. The Court directed that until a suitable law is enacted by the government, appointments should be made based on the advice of a committee consisting of the prime minister, the chief justice of India, and the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha.
A key aspect of the top court’s judgment was its emphasis on the autonomy of the election commission.
The court also recommended the establishment of a permanent secretariat for the election commission and the allocation of its expenses from the Consolidated Fund of India to ensure its independence.
The court further stressed that a robust and impartial election commission is vital for upholding the rule of law and ensuring free and fair elections.
Congress leader K C Venugopal said the bill aims to make election commission a ‘puppet in hands of prime minister’.
“A blatant attempt to make the election commission a total puppet in the hands of the prime minister,” he said in a tweet.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said in a tweet that the bill shows that “the prime minister will change any decision of the supreme court that he does not like by introducing a bill in the parliament”.
BJP leader Amit Malviya said that the government is within it rights to bring the bill.
“The supreme court judgement had suggested a transient method for appointment of the chief election commissioner, in absence of a statutory mechanism. The govt is well within it right to bring in bill for the same,” he said in a tweet.