Central government introduced a new bill to change the selection panel of Election Commission

bill to change the selection panel of the Election Commission

New Delhi: The central government on Thursday introduced a bill to remove the Chief Justice of India from the panel that selects the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners. In this, instead of the CJI, it is proposed to include the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Prime Minister in the panel of three members, besides a cabinet minister, who will head the selection committee. The Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service, and Term of Office) Bill-2023 was introduced by Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal in the Rajya Sabha amid protests over Manipur.

The opposition was quick to point out that this would put a question mark on the impartiality of the Election Commission as the selection panel would effectively have two members from the BJP – the prime minister and a cabinet minister. There will be a vacancy in the Election Commission in February next year when Election Commissioner Anoop Chandra Pandey will retire, possibly a few days before the dates for the 2024 general elections are announced. Significantly, in March this year, the Supreme Court ruled that the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha (LoP), and the CJI should be included in the election panel. The court had said that this order will remain in effect until a new law is made in this regard by the Parliament.

The Constitution Bench of Justices KM Joseph, Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy, and CT Ravikumar had also asked the central government to consider setting up a permanent secretariat for the ECI. The Supreme Court had also said that its expenses should be recovered from the Consolidated Fund of India so that the institution that conducts elections in the country can be truly independent. The Supreme Court had emphasized that ‘an election commission that does not ensure free and fair elections guarantees a breakdown of the foundations of the rule of law’.

bill to change the selection panel of the Election Commission

However, in the new bill, there is a provision to remove the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from the panel that elects the Election Commissioners and the Chief Election Commissioner. According to the bill, if there is no Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, then only the leader of the largest opposition party will be considered as the Leader of the Opposition. According to the Bill, first, a panel of five persons will be prepared for consideration of the Selection Committee for appointment as CEC and Election Commissioners. However, the opposition has accused the government of undermining the order of the constitution bench of the Supreme Court.