Appoint ECI Members Through Collegium

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    The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) filed a petition before the Supreme Court seeking the formation of a “neutral and independent collegium or selection committee” for the appointment of members of the Election Commission of India (ECI).

    About

    • The plea emphasised that the appointments to the ECI on the ‘whims and fancies’ of the Central government makes the poll body ‘a branch of the executive’.
    • The practice of the central government appointing the members of the Election Commission violates Articles 14 and 324(2) of the Constitution. Article 14 of the Constitution deals with Right to Equality, whereas Article 324(2) gives the President the power to appoint members of the ECI.
    • The plea said the practice of the government making appointments to the poll body is a violation of the Basic Structure of the Constitution and creates a dent on free and fair elections in a democracy.

    Election Commission of India (ECI)

    • It is a constitutional body responsible for administering elections in India according to the rules and regulations mentioned in the Constitution of India. 
    • Established on January 25, 1950.
    • It’s aim is to define and control the process for elections conducted at various levels: Parliament, State Legislatures, and the offices of the President and Vice President of India. 
    • The ECI implements norms and the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) to ensure free and fair elections in the country.

    Appointment & Tenure of Commissioners

    • The President of India appoints the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners. They have tenure of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier. 
    • They enjoy the same status and receive salary and perks as available to Judges of the Supreme Court of India. 
    • The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) can be removed from office only through impeachment by Parliament. The President of India can remove the other officers on the Chief Commissioner’s recommendation.

    Issues with the Appointment Process

    • The constitution has neither prescribed the qualification of the members of the ECI nor specified the terms of the members of the ECI.
    • The constitution has not debarred the retiring Election Commissioners from any further appointment by the government. 
    • Currently, the Executive enjoys the power to make appointments, which the PIL contends has degraded the ECI’s independence over time. 
    • The Commissioner is generally a member of the Civil Services, and more often, of the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) or the Indian Revenue Services (IRS).
    • All of these makes the process of appointing election commissioners partial and biased.

    Various Recommendations Related to ECI

    • Justice Tarkunde Committee (1975) recommended that the members of the Election Commission should be appointed by the President on the advice of a Committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India.
    • 255th Law Commission Report recommended that the appointment of Election Commission members should be made by the President in consultation with a three-member collegium or selection committee, consisting of the Prime Minister, the Leader of Opposition of the Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India
    • 4th Report submitted by the Second Administrative Reform Commission  recommended for the constitution of a neutral and independent collegium headed by the Prime Minister with the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Law Minister and the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha as is members for making recommendations for consideration of the President for appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commissioners.
    • Dr. Dinesh Goswami Committee recommended effective consultation with neutral authorities like the Chief Justice of India and the Leader of the Opposition for the appointment in the Election Commission.

    Way Forward

    • The ECI ensures smooth and successful functioning of the democracy. It cannot become arbitrary and partisan as that will lead to the failure of democracy. 
    • The executive cannot be a sole participant in the appointment of members of the Election Commission as it renders the selection process vulnerable to manipulation. Therefore, the ECI should be insulated from political and/or executive interference.
    • The integrity and independence of the election commission and its process needs to be preserved for a free and fair election in India and to maintain the public’s faith and confidence in the Election Commission of India.

    Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR)

    • A registered society under the Societies Registration Act XXI of 1860.
    • Established in 1999.
    • It has been in the vanguard of electoral and political reforms in the country. 
    • In the past years, it has been indulged in activities related to advocacy for transparent functioning of the political parties, conducting a detailed analysis of candidates in every election, and analysing the financial records of political parties as well as the ministers. 
    • ADR has chosen to concentrate its efforts in the following areas pertaining to the political system of the country:
    • Corruption and criminalization in the political process.
    • Empowerment of the electorate through greater dissemination of information relating to the candidates and the parties, for a better and informed choice.
    • Need for greater accountability of Political Parties.
    • Need for inner-party democracy and transparency in party-functioning.

    Supreme Court on Appointment of State Election Commission

    • The Supreme Court judgment came on an appeal against an order of the Bombay High Court, which had set aside the election notification issued by the Goa State Election Commission in the municipalities.
    • The Supreme Court held that independent persons, and not government employees, should be appointed Election Commissioners.
    • The Bench had said giving government employees additional charge as Election Commissioners was a mockery of the Constitution. The court said it was disturbing to see government employees manning election commissions as an add-on job.
    • The Bench held that people holding public office could not be appointed Election Commissioners and directed States to comply with the constitutional scheme of independent and fair functioning of election commissions. It said the independence of the panels could not be compromised.

    Rojer Mathew v. South Indian Bank Ltd. Case (2020)

    • The Supreme Court (SC) declared the composition of Search-cum-Selection Committee, which was dominated by the members from central government in Column 4 of the Schedule to the Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and Other Authorities (Qualification, experience and other conditions of service of members) Rules, 2017, as unconstitutional.