Not on same page with govt on EC autonomy, attorney general tells SCindia Updated: Feb 19, 2018 23:35 IST
The Supreme Court had sought the attorney general’s assistance in the PIL, and asked him to appear before it on the last date of hearing.(Sonu Mehta/HT Photo)
Attorney general of India KK Venugopal has admitted to a rare difference of opinion with the Centre on a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking complete autonomy for the Election Commission of India (ECI).
“I appear in this case pursuant to your lordship’s order to assist you. But my view may not be consistent with the government’s stand. You may seek the Centre’s response, and if the court feels my assistance is required, I will be present,” Venugopal, the country’s top law officer, told the apex court on Monday.
The Supreme Court had sought the attorney general’s assistance in the PIL, and asked him to appear before it on the last date of hearing.
Accepting the attorney general’s submission, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra directed additional solicitor general Pinky Anand to file a written response on the government’s behalf within four weeks.
The court allowed the poll panel to submit suggestions after its counsel, Amit Sharma, requested permission to do so.
The petition, filed by advocate Ashwani Upadhyay, also seeks to alter the rules for removal of election commissioners.
Upadhyay contended that although political parties across the board favour more autonomy for the poll panel to ensure fair and transparent elections, no government has taken any legislative steps to ensure parity in the removal of the chief election commissioner (CEC) and election commissioners (ECs).
While the CEC can be removed for misconduct through a process similar to that for a Supreme Court judge, ECs can be sacked by the government on the CEC’s recommendation. This, according to the petitioner, allows executive interference in the poll panel’s functioning.
Upadhyay went on to cite a 1995 Supreme Court judgment in a case involving former poll panel chief TN Seshan, wherein the presiding bench ruled that the CEC was “not superior” (to ECs) because he was only the first among equals in the election commission.
His petition argued that there should be an independent secretariat for the poll body and the Centre must declare its expenditure on the lines of the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha secretariat.