The CEC and Other EC (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023
Polity & Governance
22nd Sep, 2023
The special session of Parliamentis going to 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.
About the Bill:
- The Bill attempts to alter constitutional provisions that equate ECs with Supreme Court judges.
- It also seeks to undo the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in ‘AnoopBaranwal vs. Union of India’ Case.
- Key points:
- 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.
- This Bill seeks to constitute a committee of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the LokSabha, and a Cabinet Minister nominated by thePM to select members of the Election Commission of India.
How does the new Bill change the 1991 Act?
- Section 3 of the 1991 Act states that, “There shall be paid to the Chief Election Commissioner [and other Election Commissioners] a salary which is equal to the salary of a Judge of the Supreme Court.”
- However, Section 10 of the Bill states that the salary, allowances, and service conditions of the CEC and ECs shall be the same as those of the Cabinet Secretary.
- Bureaucratic ambit: This move seeks to bring Election Commissioners under the ambit of the bureaucracy, which in turn could stifle their authority and independence
- Shift tasks and roles: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.
- CJI not a member: The committee formed for election of CEC will not have the Chief Justice of India as a member, contrary to the top court’s suggestion in a ruling delivered in March this year.
- Equivalent to Supreme Court Judge vs. Cabinet secretary: The proviso to Article 324 (5) of the Constitution says that a CEC can only be removed in a manner similar to that of a SC judge.
- The reason behind the EC’s independence and equivalence to SC judges was so that it could freely and fairly decide cases involving the government, the Prime Minister, and Ministers.