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The CEC and Other EC (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023

Published: 22nd Sep, 2023

Context

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

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.

Concernsassociated:

  • 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.

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