March 1, 2024

Lukmaan IAS

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CHIEF ELECTION COMMISSIONER AND OTHER ELECTION COMMISSIONERS BILL, 2023

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TAG: GS 2: POLITY

THE CONTEXT: The Lok Sabha recently passed the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023.

EXPLANATION:

  • This legislation aims to regulate the appointment process and define various aspects related to the chief election commissioner (CEC) and other election commissioners’ roles and responsibilities.

Key Provisions of the Bill

  • Appointment Mechanism:
    • The bill establishes a structured mechanism for appointing the CEC and other election commissioners.
    • The president of India appoints these officials based on the recommendation of a selection committee.
  • Composition of the Selection Committee:
    • The selection committee comprises three members: the Prime Minister, a Union Cabinet Minister, and the Leader of the Opposition.
  • Revisions and Amendments:
    • The legislation aims to address the gaps left by the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991.
    • It covers areas such as qualifications, search committee, term of office, salary, resignation, removal, leave, and pension of the CEC and other commissioners.
  • Changes in the Appointment Process:
    • The amendment introduces alterations in the appointment process, such as replacing the cabinet secretary with the law minister to head the search committee.

Controversy and Opposition Stance

  • Opposition’s Objections:
    • Members of the opposition raised concerns during the bill’s discussion, primarily regarding the revised appointment process.
    • They opposed the composition of the selection committee, citing the possibility of it leading to the appointment of a ‘Yes Man’ as CEC.
  • Suspension of Members:
    • Notably, 97 opposition members remained suspended for “misconduct” during the debate on the bill.
    • This further intensified the political debate surrounding the bill.
  • Concerns about Democracy:
    • Opposition members criticized the amendment, labeling it as detrimental to democracy.
    • They highlighted that two out of the three selection committee members—the Prime Minister and a cabinet minister—could influence the CEC’s appointment, potentially undermining the neutrality and independence of the position.

Government’s Perspective and Defense

  • Legal Background:
    • The government’s stance is anchored in a Supreme Court judgment, emphasizing that the appointment of the CEC and ECs should be conducted by a committee, as advised by the President.
  • Filling Legal Void:
    • Union Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal defended the bill by stating that it aims to address the inadequacies present in prior legislations and comply with the Supreme Court’s directives.
  • Amendment Rationale:
    • The amendment to change the head of the search committee from the cabinet secretary to the law minister is purportedly to streamline and enhance the efficiency of the appointment process.

Conclusion

  • The passage of the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners Bill, 2023, amid debates and opposition outcry, reflects the ongoing tug-of-war between the ruling government and opposition factions regarding the appointment mechanism of crucial constitutional positions.
  • The concerns raised by the opposition about the potential impact of the amended bill on democracy and the independence of the CEC’s office will likely continue to be a subject of contention and scrutiny in the political landscape.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, KINDLY REFER TO THE DNA ARTICLE OF 13TH DECEMBER 2023.

SOURCE: https://www.livemint.com/news/india/lok-sabha-passes-bill-on-appointment-of-chief-election-commissioner-election-commissioners-parliament-winter-session-11703148084130.html

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