The Centre has defended the present system of selection and appointment of senior bureaucrats as Chief Election Commissioner and the other Election Commissioners saying, “it has withstood the test of time”.
Responding to a PIL in the Delhi High Court seeking laying down of qualification for the appointment of CEC and ECs, the Centre said that the alleged constitutional lacuna in this regard has never been experienced in successfully finding competent persons all through these years to hold these offices.
“The constitutional provisions have been in vogue for more than a half century and the present system of selection and appointment of Election Commissioners and Chief Election Commissioner has withstood the test of time and the democratic functioning has been vibrant,” the Centre said in its affidavit.
In his PIL filed through counsel Ravi Prakash Gupta, petitioner Ravi Mohan had pointed that for all practical purposes the post of the CEC and the EC have been equated with that of the Supreme Court Judge and High Court Judge respectively.
Only persons having the qualification to become a judge of the Supreme Court and High Courts could be appointed as CEC and EC respectively, he had contended.
The petitioner had alleged that and the Centre was taking advantage of absence of any qualification prescribed for the post of CEC and ECs under the Constitution and the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Conditions of Service) Act, 1991 to appoint bureaucrats to these posts.
However, the Centre said that Article 324(5) of the Constitution only empowers Parliament to make provisions for laying down the conditions of service and tenure of office of the Election Commissioners and Regional Commissioners.
But it does not lay down any specific provision either expressly or by implication or by creating any enabling provision empowering Parliament in that behalf, it added.
Unlike in the case of CEC and ECs, Article 124(3) of the Constitution specifically laid down qualifications for the judges of the Supreme Court, it further said.
Terming the absence of qualification criteria under Article 324(5) for appointment of CEC/ECs as not a casual but a “conscious and intentional omission”, the Centre said, laying down any rigid qualifications would be counter-productive to the selection of the most competent person in the wisdom of the government.
Seeking dismissal of the PIL as an exercise to gain publicity, the Government said the question raised in the petition was “a matter of legislative policy” which could not be a subject matter of litigation and “that too under the garb of public interest litigation.”
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