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First, a neutral body for selection. Second, is transparency!

Posted in Featured, View Point

Published on December 01, 2022 with No Comments

Supreme Court of India has asked the Centre to produce before it the file related to the appointment of Election Commissioner Arun Goel, who was appointed on November 19. This conveys a lot about the appointments of the Election Commissioner in India. The assertion of the five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice K M Joseph that it wants to know whether there was any “hanky panky” in Goel’s appointment has conveyed what even the opposition could not ask the Narendra Modi government. Arun Goel was only recently given voluntary retirement from service.

No wonder the Attorney General R Venkataramani, defended the move. And countered any attempt to read between the lines. The court very rightly said “It may not be a case of overreach, but over reading the mind of the court.”  While the court has been hearing the matter on the process of election commissioners, that Goel was working as a secretary –level officer in the government till last Thursday. Suddenly he was given Voluntary retirement on Friday and appointed as an election commissioner. The Court is hearing a challenge to the current system of appointing members of the ECI on the ground that the executive enjoys the power to make appointments in violation of Article 324(2) of the Constitution of India.

Off late, a number of cases have surface, where the impartially of the Election Commission has been questioned. The Election Commission has not been able to put an end to the hate speeches during the election campaign.  Its bias towards the ruling BJP has been visible –especially when it delayed declaring the elections in the state of Gujarat.

Undoubtedly, there lies an enormous responsibility the shoulders of the Chief Election Commissioner, and the person should not be arm twisted or bulldozed. TN Seshan (who was CEC for six years between 1990 and 1996) who had introduced electoral reforms and made the Election Commission a robust institution.  After his retirement the slide began when no commissioner was given a full term.  The Supreme Court took a note of the fact that the various governments have not given a full term to the Chief Election Commissioner . What the government has been doing is that because it knows the date of birth, it ensures that anyone who is appointed as the CEC does not get his full six years. The same was followed by the previous government UPA, and the present BJP.

In any election process, the main stakeholders are the political parties. It would be apt that there is a natural body to select the Election Commissioner. There are certain options that could be considered. In addition to the Prime Minister, the option to include the leader of the opposition, and the Chief Justice of India. However, in order to remove any political involvement, there can be a committee of three senior judges that includes the Chief Election Commissioner.   It is outweighed by the overwhelming advantage that the selection will be neutral. Judges are politically neutral. They are not stakeholders in elections. Neutrality will outweigh.They can consult the government and Leader of Opposition and seek proposals from them. The names of appointees could be made available to the public. Considering the role of the Election Commissioner is immense in ensuring the polls are free and fair. It would be apposite to have a neutral body for selection and ensure transparency.
First, a neutral body for selection. Second, is transparency.”

 

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