New Delhi : Parliament passed a bill on Thursday to regulate the appointment and service terms of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and election commissioners, with Law Minister Arjun Meghwal stating that legislation has been brought following a judgement of the Supreme Court.
The Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023 was passed by Lok Sabha after a brief debate. It was passed by Rajya Sabha last week.
Major opposition political parties did take part in the debate on the bill, as 97 of their members have been suspended for “misconduct” for the remainder of the winter session.
The bill provides for the appointment, qualifications, Search Committee, Selection Committee, term of office, salary, resignation and removal, leave, pension of the Chief Election Commissioner and other election commissioners.
Meghwal said that the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991 does not contain provisions regarding the qualifications, search committee for preparing a panel of persons for consideration and recommendation by the Selection Committee for appointment as CEC and election commissioners.
The Supreme Court, in a writ petition, declared that the appointment of CEC and ECs shall be made by the President on the basis of advice tendered by a committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha or leader of the largest opposition party in the House and the Chief Justice of India. Meghwal said judgment had noted that the norm provided by the Supreme Court will continue to hold good till a law is made by the Parliament.
“We are bringing the law for this purpose,” he said.
He said an amendment in the bill is that the search committee will be headed by the Law Minister instead of the cabinet secretary.
The bill provides that CEC and ECs will be appointed by the President upon the recommendation of a Selection Committee. The Selection Committee will consist of the Prime Minister, a Union Cabinet Minister, and Leader of Opposition or the leader of the largest opposition party in Lok Sabha.
The Bill will replace the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991.
Opposition members have earlier expressed their serious concern over the provisions of the bill, saying it is “one of the biggest blows to democracy” by the Modi government in the last nine years.
Congress leaders said there was a time when EC meant electoral credibility’ but today it means ‘elections compromised’. (AGENCIES)