Cannot have same removal norms for ECs and CEC: Centre tells Supreme Court
The Supreme Court was hearing a plea seeking to empower the Election Commission to make election-related rules and code of conduct.india Updated: Apr 25, 2018 23:22 IST
The Centre on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that election commissioners (ECs) cannot be treated on par with their chief when it comes to the removal process, rejecting a suggestion for a tweak in law to make the change.
The government submitted an affidavit opposing a public interest litigation (PIL) that has demanded that the process for dismissal of an EC should be the same as that of the chief election commissioner (CEC).
The government’s stand is in contrast to the election commission’s demand for a constitutional amendment to the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners (conditions of service) Act, 1991, to extend similar protection to ECs as enjoyed by CEC.
A lengthy and a layered procedure — similar to that for a Supreme Court judge — has been laid out for the removal of the chief of the country’s poll panel that conducts elections and oversees the poll processes. ECs can be removed by the President on the recommendation of the CEC.
The appointment of an election commissioner was determined by the President while that of CEC was mandated by Constitution. CEC was a permanent functionary while ECs may or may not be appointed, the ministry said.
So there could be no justification for bringing the conditions of removal of a permanent constitutional functionary with those for ECs, it said.
The ministry also referred to a Supreme Court judgment that upheld the 1991 law, saying ECs, once appointed, can’t be removed from office before the expiry of their tenure except on the recommendation of the CEC. The directive, the Centre said, guaranteed the independence of the ECs.
The election commission was functioning smoothly and the petitioner, BJP’s Ashwini Upadhyay, had not placed any material backing the need for a change, it said. Initially there used to be only a chief election commissioner but a law brought in 1989 made the poll panel a multi-member body. So far, it has been two ECs and a CEC.