PIL in SC challenges new law on appointment of CEC, ECs; seeks “independent, transparent” system

Amid a political row over dropping the Chief Justice of India (CJI) from a panel empowered to choose the chief election commissioner and election commissioners, an advocate has moved the Supreme Court, seeking quashing of the new law that accords the central government sweeping powers to to make appointments to the poll body.

The plea filed by advocate Gopal Singh has sought the apex court’s direction to implement an “independent and transparent system of selection, constituting a neutral and independent selection committee for appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners (CEC and ECs)”.

While dropping the CJI from the selection committee, the new law said “Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation of a Selection Committee consisting of (a) the Prime Minister Chairperson; (b) the Leader of Opposition in the House of the People Member; (c) a Union Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the Prime Minister Member.”

The opposition has accused the Modi government of having defied the Supreme Court by dropping the CJI from the selection panel.

In its March 2023 order, the Supreme Court had said the prime minister, the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, and the CJI will pick the CEC and the election commissioners.

Singh, in his Public Interest Litigation (PIL), has sought an order from the apex court to injunct the implementation of the gazette notification of December 28, 2023 relating to the Chief Election Commissioner and the other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Condition of Service and Term of Office) Act, 2023.

“The pivotal legal question placed for the court’s consideration in the writ petition revolves around the constitutional inquiry of whether the Parliament or any legislative assembly possesses the authority to promulgate a gazette notification or ordinance to nullify or amend a judgment previously rendered by the Supreme Court, particularly when the judgment emanates from a Constitution Bench,” the PIL says.

The plea seeks inclusion of the CJI in the selection committee for the appointment of the CEC and ECs.

The Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Act, 2023 has provisions to set up a search committee chaired by the union law minister and two other persons not below the rank of secretary to prepare a panel of five persons for consideration of the selection committee for appointment as CEC or ECs

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