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Election Commissioners Bill 2023 

The Special Session Of Parliament Scheduled This Week Will Witness The Discussion On A Bill That Seeks To Regulate The Appointment, Service Conditions, And Office Terms Of The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) And Other Election Commissioners.

Election Commissioners Bill 2023 – Everything You Need To Know

Why In The News?

  • The Special Session Of Parliament Scheduled This Week Will Witness The Discussion On A Bill That Seeks To Regulate The Appointment, Service Conditions, And Office Terms Of The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) And Other Election Commissioners.
  • Although The Chief Election Commissioner And Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions Of Service And Term Of Office) Bill, 2023, Was Passed In The Rajya Sabha On August 10, It Has Now Finally Made Its Way To The Lok Sabha For Passage.
  • Significantly, The Bill Attempts To Alter Constitutional Provisions That Equate ECs With Supreme Court Judges. It Also Seeks To Undo The Top Court’s Recent Ruling In ‘Anoop Baranwal Vs. Union Of India’.
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Anoop Baranwal Vs. Union Of India

  • In January 2015, Anoop Baranwal Filed A PIL On The Ground That The Current System For Appointing Members Of The Election Commission Of India (ECI) Is Unconstitutional. Currently, The Executive Enjoys The Power To Make Appointments, Which The PIL Contends Has Degraded The ECI’s Independence Over Time.
  • In That Order, The Supreme Court Held That The Selection Of The CEC Must Be Done By A Three-member Committee Comprising:
    • The Prime Minister (PM)
    • The Leader Of Opposition
    • The Chief Justice Of India (CJI)
  • However, The Supreme Court Itself Noted That This Arrangement Was Temporary, Until Parliament Passed A Law In This Regard.

What Does The Constitution Say In This Regard?

  • Clause 2 Of The Article 324 Of The Constitution Vests The Power Of Appointment Of The CEC And Other Election Commissioners In The President, Subject To Any Law That Parliament Might Make.
  • However, The Parliament Didn’t Pass Any Law Which Effectively Made The President’s (i.e., The Executive’s) Powers Permanent To Appoint CEC And ECs. The Supreme Court Then Found In The Aforesaid Case That Giving The Executive The Power To Appoint The CEC Was Incompatible With The Independence Of ECI.

What Does New Election Commissioners Bill Say?

  • Provides Executive Supremacy: The Election Commissioners Bill Replaces The CJI With A Cabinet Minister Nominated By The PM. Which Again Gives The Executive A Clear Majority And, Therefore, A Decisive Say In The Appointment Of The Election Commissioners. Now, The Selection Committee Will Consist Of:
    • The Prime Minister (Chairperson)
    • The Leader Of Opposition In The Lok Sabha (Member)
    • A Union Cabinet Minister Nominated By The Prime Minister (Member)
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What Else Does The Bill Say?

  • The Bill Proposes To Revise The Salary, Allowance, And Service Conditions Of The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) And The Two Election Commissioners, To Bring It At Par With Those Of A Cabinet Secretary.
  • Until Now, Election Commissioners Were At Par With Supreme Court Judges In This Regard, Under The Election Commission Act, Of 1991. However, The Bill’s Passage Will Result In The 1991 Act’s Repeal.
  • Although The Stipulated Salary Of A Supreme Court Judge And The Cabinet Secretary Is Nearly The Same, Top Court Judges Are Entitled To Additional Post-retirement Benefits, Including Domestic Help And Lifetime Provision Of Drivers.
  • But The Issue Is That This Move Seeks To Bring Election Commissioners Under The Ambit Of The Bureaucracy, Which In Turn Could Stifle Their Authority And Independence.
  • The EC’s Primary Task Is That Of Superintendence, Direction, And Control Of Elections, As Laid Down Under Article 324. However, This Control Of Elections Is Likely To Shift If The Election Commissioner, Who Will Now Be Equivalent To The Rank Of A Cabinet Secretary Tries To Discipline A Union Minister For Electoral Violations.
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