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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

  • 14 April, 2021

  • 5 Min Read

Sushil Chandra -24th CEC

Sushil Chandra -24th CEC

Context

Sushil Chandra assumed charge as the 24th Chief Election Commissioner of India, succeeding Sunil Arora.

About:

Shri Sushil Chandra has been serving in the Commission as Election Commissioner since 15 February 2019. He is also Member of the Delimitation Commission since 18th February 2020 looking after the Delimitation of Jammu Kashmir UT. Having held several posts in the Income-Tax Department for nearly 39 years, Sh Sushil Chandra had also been CBDT Chairman from 1stNovember 2016 – 14th February 2019.

Emphasized the concept of “Inducement-Free” elections and it has become an important aspect of monitoring the electoral process in all ongoing and forthcoming elections.

Various initiatives are taken up by the Commission during the tenure of Sh. Arora:-

  • Providing optional postal ballot facility to senior citizens and PwD electors,
  • Setting up of India A-WEB Centre, and
  • Voluntary Code of Ethics.
  • Special emphasis on ensuring inclusive and accessible elections during the term.

Election Commission of India

  • The Election Commission of India (ECI) is an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering Union and State election processes in India.
  • The body administers elections to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, State Legislative Assemblies, and the offices of the President and Vice President in the country.

Structure of the Commission

  • Originally the commission had only one election commissioner but after the Election Commissioner Amendment Act 1989, it has been made a multi-member body.
  • The commission presently consists of one Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and two Election Commissioners (ECs).
  • The secretariat of the commission is located in New Delhi.
  • The chief election commissioner is provided with the security of tenure. He cannot be removed from his office except in the same manner and on the same grounds as a judge of the Supreme Court. In other words, he can be removed by the president on the basis of a resolution passed to that effect by both the Houses of Parliament with the special majority, Either on the ground of proven misbehaviour or incapacity. Thus, he does not hold his office till the pleasure of the president, though he is appointed by him.

Why in news?

Recently, the Supreme Court had agreed to hear a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking the appointment of Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners be done by a three-member collegium. The collegium will comprise of the Prime Minister, the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India. The PIL also seeks to ensure more autonomy for the office of Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners and an independent secretariat for the Election Commission of India.

Historical Demand for Appointment

  • This demand was first raised in 1990 when the Dinesh Goswami Committee suggested the need for a selection committee or a panel to appoint the CEC (at that time ECI was a single-member body).
  • Based on this recommendation, 70th Constitutional Amendment Bill, 1990 was introduced in the Parliament which demanded for the selection committee comprising of the Presiding Officers of both Houses and Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha.
  • However, due to lack of political will, it was not passed and was withdrawn in 1993. Till date, no such bill was formed.
  • Global Practise: In the USA, South Africa, Canada, etc. there is a mechanism for outside consultation with expert body for making suitable appointments.

Law Commission 255th Report on Electoral Reforms: Strengthening the office of the Election Commission of India, suggested:-

  • Giving equal constitutional protection to all members of the Commission in matters of removability;
  • Making the appointment process of the Election Commissioners and the CEC consultative; and
  • Creating a permanent, independent Secretariat for the ECI.
  • Article 324(5) of the Constitution must be amended to equate the removal procedures of the two Election Commissioners with that of the Chief Election Commissioner. Thus, equal constitutional protection should be given to all members of the ECI in matters of removability from office.
  • The appointment of all the Election Commissioners, including the CEC, must be made by the President in consultation with a three-member collegium or selection committee, consisting of the Prime Minister; the Leader of the Opposition of the Lok Sabha (or the leader of the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha in terms of numerical strength); and the Chief Justice of India.
  • Elevation of an Election Commissioner must be on the basis of seniority unless the three-member collegium/committee finds such Commissioner unfit.
  • Amendments must be made in the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991 to reflect this.
  • It also recommended, to add a new sub-clause as (2A) to Article 324 of the Constitution to provide for a separate independent and permanent Secretariat for the ECI along the lines of the Lok Sabha/Rajya Sabha Secretariats under Article 98 of the Constitution. This will further improve the independence of the ECI.

Way Forward

Deficiencies in the present system of appointment process needs to be removed. And adequate safeguards must be put into place to ensure that ethical and capable people head the concerned positions.

There must be similar election and removal procedures for CEC and ECs, and they must exercise the same powers unless specifically prescribed by law. Also, the expenses of ECI must be charged expenditure on the Consolidated Fund of India.

Appointments through collegium or any other system as discussed in constitutional debate can bring more transparency in the appointment process.

Even, the Law Commission in its 255th report on electoral reforms (2015) for ensuring greater autonomy to the ECI, recommended for the constitution of a selection committee.

There is a need for debate and discussions in the Parliament on the issue of independence of ECI and consequently passing of required legislation.

Source: PIB


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