The government has put in cold storage a proposal of the Election Commission (ECI) to give equal constitutional protection to all members of the poll body with regard to their removal, saying it would require amending the Constitution.
The law ministry is learnt to have informed the ECI that a political consensus needed to be evolved before section 324(5) of the Constitution could be amended to provide equal protection to the election commissioners in the event of their removal.
A senior government functionary said that the Supreme Court had also upheld the present provision that the election commissioners and the regional commissioners once appointed cannot be removed from office before the expiry of their tenure “except on the recommendation of the CEC” which “ensures their independence”.
The President appoints chief election commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners after the law ministry initiates the file for their appointment.
The CEC can be removed from office only through impeachment by Parliament. The President can remove the ECs based on the recommendation of the CEC.
At a meeting between CEC Nasim Zaidi and top law ministry officials here on January 5, the poll body had said it wants the government to adopt the same removal procedures for the two Election Commissioners as in case of the CEC.
Besides other senior officials, the CEC was accompanied by Election Commissioner O P Rawat at the meeting.
At a follow-up meeting later, senior officials of the law ministry were learnt to have informed the Commission that the demands for equal protection to the two ECs needed amendment to Constitution for which political unanimity was required.
The officials are also understood to have referred to the 1995 Supreme Court judgement in the T N Seshan, Chief Election Commissioner of India Vs Union of India case in which the apex court had also examined Article 324 (5) of the Constitution dealing with appointment and removal of CEC and fellow Commissioners.
The provision states that “any other Election Commissioner or a Regional Commissioner (RC) shall not be removed from office except on the recommendation of the CEC.”