Upholding the autonomy of the Election Commission
- Taking a cue from the case of the appointment of Election Commissioners (EC) (the Supreme Court has reserved its judgment), this article ponders upon the autonomy of key-independent institutions.
The erosion of a ‘classical understanding’:
- Classical understanding: There are three “wings” of the state: the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary. However, in contemporary times, that understanding is no longer dominant.
- Fourth branch institutions: Healthy constitutional democracies need “integrity institutions”, for providing infrastructure of implementation to ensure basic rights to people. Eg. ECI, CIC etc.
- Need for Independent Institutions: Extensive control of the government over appointments, e.g., the Central Information Commission (CIC) has led to it becoming a largely toothless body.
Examples from overseas:
- South African and Kenyan Constitutions: They have dedicated constitutional provisions for “fourth branch institutions” such as Human Rights Commissions, and Election Commissions.
- South African constitutional court: It has noted that true & functional independence is effectively impossible if the power to appoint rests entirely within a single individual, office.
- Indian constitutional History: Be it the appointment of judges or the CBI Director, Indian constitutional history is no stranger to the threat of executive power over appointments to independent bodies.