Editorial: Towards Robust EC Selection

Editorial: Towards Robust EC Selection

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Thursday, March 14, 2024, 10:26 PM IST
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Election Commission of India | File

An element of uncertainty had been plaguing the Election Commission ever since Anup Chandra Pandey retired on February 14 and Arun Goel resigned on March 8. It is not yet clear why Goel resigned, one of the speculations being that he would contest on the BJP ticket. Technically, the EC can hold elections even if there is only one Election Commissioner, but it is a relief that the two vacancies have been filled with the appointment of retired bureaucrats Gyanesh Kumar and Sukhbir Sandhu.

In fact, the EC was made a multi-member body only to cut the wings of the then chief election commissioner, the late TN Seshan. While announcing the appointments, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha and a member of the three-member selection committee headed by the Prime Minister, made two cryptic statements. That he did not know how six candidates were shortlisted from 200 or so applicants, and that he wished that the Chief Justice of India was a member of the selection committee. The exclusion of the CJI follows a law enacted last year under which the Prime Minister, a Cabinet Minister nominated by him, and the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha would constitute the selection committee. Since the Cabinet minister functions directly under the Prime Minister, he cannot be expected to act independently of the PM. In other words, the Leader of the Opposition will remain just a mute witness to the deliberations.

The 2023 law was to circumvent a judicial order that mandated the inclusion of the CJI in the committee. It goes without saying that the election commissioners should be persons of unimpeachable integrity and, like Caesar’s wife, should be above suspicion. The Supreme Court will be hearing a petition filed by the Association for Democratic Rights (ADR) and an individual petitioner, Dr Jaya Thakur, on Friday. They want the court to declare the exclusion of the CJI unconstitutional. Nobody knows how the court will decide the matter. In no case should the election process, which is already underway, be affected; in many constituencies candidates have already completed their first round of campaigning. Nonetheless, this should not prevent the apex court from taking a policy decision that will be applicable in the selection process in the years to come.

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