Former officials of the Election Commission of India on Thursday hailed the Supreme Court ruling that the appointment of chief election commissioner and election commissioners will be made by a committee comprising the prime minister, leader of opposition and Chief Justice of India, until there is a law to this effect. They said it will further add trust to the institute and the posts.
Former CEC VS Sampath, who served between 2012 and 2015, said the SC order will significantly improve the credibility of the commission.
“I welcome the orders of the Supreme Court constituting a broad-based selection committee for appointments to the Election Commission of India. This will significantly further improve the credibility of the commission,” he told News18.
Another former CEC, who headed the poll body between 2010 and 2012, SY Quraishi said the demand had been pending for two decades.
“We have been demanding it over the past 20 years. Sitting CECs have also demanded this. When I was heading the office, I too demanded this,” said Quraishi, adding that the transparency in appointment will add to the credibility of the institution.
He said perception was important. “Justice must not only be done, but must also be seen to be done. Even if the Election Commission is independent, it should also appear to be independent. Time and again, it has been alleged that since they (ECs and CECs) have been appointed by the government of the day and so they will be loyal and obliged to them. By and large this was not the case,” he added.
Quraishi further said if the panel will have the leader of opposition as a member, then that will add more credibility.
“The presence of LoP will say even the opposition agrees that the candidate is neutral. Later, there will be no scope of questioning. If the LoP is selecting the candidate, how can they say he is partial later. You (LoP) have selected it yourself,” he said.
Manohar Singh Gill, who served as the CEC for six years between 1996 and 2001, told News18 that he too had made similar demands during his term in the poll panel.
“The SC has given a very good order… The prime minister of the day appointing all the election commissioners can lead to partiality… The SC has given a very good order, this is what we wanted long ago,” he said, adding that the appointments will now be “more fair”.
“Abhi toh prime minister hi appoint karta hai (currently the prime minister makes these appointments), right from the beginning. Jisko marzi woh appoint kar de (they appoint whoever they want), that’s what the Congress was doing, that’s what the BJP is doing… That is naturally imbalanced,” he said.
With this order, Gill said, “the Supreme Court has finally made it balanced”. He added that along with the PM, the LoP and CJI will be there for balance.
“The PM and LoP may not come to a consensus but they will be forced to come to a consensus, because if they differ with each other then the Chief Justice will decide,” he said.
Asked what will be the impact of this ruling, Gill said the CEC will be looked at on a higher level. “Whoever is this CEC, appointed by three people, will be seen as a better and a more neutral man. Yeh toh sara hi accha hai (this is all good),” he added.
The former CEC also said he had written about it to two past prime ministers when he was in office. “But no prime minister wanted to do it because they said ‘main khud hi karunga to achha hai (it is better if I make the appointment)… So it is a good decision,” he added.
Before the order, while speaking to News18, Gill had said the appointment in the ECI was a question to be examined and settled.
He had said he was happy that the SC was really examining the matter. “Let the court settle it now. I am happy that it will bring a settled decision. The situation will change. I can see it. The SC will do something,” he had said.
What has the SC directed?
The SC ruled that the appointment of the CEC and ECs will be made by a committee composed of the PM, LoP and the CJI until a law is made to this effect. The panel will give their suggestions to the president, who will then appoint the CEC and ECs.
A five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice KM Joseph, in a unanimous verdict, held that this norm will continue to hold good till a law is made.
The court said if the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha is not there, then the leader of the single largest opposition party will be in the committee to appoint the CEC and ECs. The bench delivered its verdict on a batch of pleas seeking a collegium-like system for these appointments to the ECI.
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