Ex-poll officials write to PM Modi to reconsider new bill on Election Commission
The former poll officials said that diminishing of the status of the CEC and ECs will also diminish the Election Commission of India’s international perception as an independent body
Seven top former poll officials have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi opposing the new bill tabled in Parliament on the appointment of the chief election commissioner (CEC) and election commissioners (ECs), saying that diminishing of their status will also diminish the Election Commission of India (ECI)’s international perception as an independent body. The former poll officials, mostly chief election commissioners, have urged the Prime Minister to reconsider the bill, people familiar with the matter said.
The Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Appointment Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023, was introduced by the government in Rajya Sabha during the last Monsoon Session. It will remove the Chief Justice of India (CJI) from the earlier formed panel to appoint the CEC and ECs, contrary to a Supreme Court judgement. The Bill also seeks to change salary and allowance structure of top poll officials, thereby altering their service conditions from that of a judge in the top court to a Cabinet secretary.
The former poll officials, in their letter to the Prime Minister, argued that the downgrading of the status of election commissioners will impact the status of the Election Commission, that is considered unbiased and independent worldwide.
“Bringing their status down to that of a Cabinet secretary will be somewhat anomalous in light of the constitutional provision. Further, the whole Bharat prides itself on the high national and international recognition given to ECI. This will be highly affected by diminishing their status in the proposed bill,” the latter said, according to a person who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“More importantly their status will also diminish the ECI in international perception as an independent body. ECI enjoys the kind of place among election bodies of the world, which is an exalted position,” it added.
The person cited above said that the Constitution gives election commissioners a status same as that of Supreme Court judges because it gives a perception of ECI being independent of the government. That is the reason why removal of election commissioners can only be done in a manner similar to that of a Supreme Court judge, he added.
The former officials also added that they hope that their letter will receive a favourable response.
As per the new bill, the panel that will appoint the CEC and ECs will have three members including the Prime Minister, a Union minister and the leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha.
Earlier, the CEC and ECs were appointed based on recommendations of suitable candidates by Union law minister to PM, who then selected the candidates, and then President made the appointment.
According to the latest list of business for Parliament, the Bill has not been listed for consideration in the ongoing special session. However, there is no confirmation that the government will withdraw it.