Lok Sabha Clears Controversial Election Commissioners Appointment Bill Amidst Opposition Outcry

By manish198832 Dec 21, 2023

Lok Sabha Clears Controversial Election Commissioners Appointment Bill

Lok Sabha Clears Controversial-Introduction:
In a contentious move marked by the absence of a significant opposition presence, the Lok Sabha recently passed the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023. With most Opposition members suspended, the legislation sailed through the lower house, following the earlier approval by the Rajya Sabha. Despite the controversial nature of the bill, it is now poised to reach the President for final approval.

Lok Sabha Clears Controversial

Lok Sabha Clears Controversial-Background:
The genesis of this bill lies in the perceived inadequacies of the 1991 Act concerning the service conditions of top poll officers. According to Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal, the previous legislation was deemed a “half-baked attempt,” prompting the need for a comprehensive update. The bill aims to establish a new mechanism for the appointment of Chief Election Commissioners and Election Commissioners.

Lok Sabha Clears Controversial-Legal Landscape:
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court delivered a landmark judgment asserting that election commissioners must be appointed based on the advice of a panel comprising the Prime Minister, the Leader of Opposition, and the Chief Justice of India. This directive aimed to insulate the top election body from political interference. Notably, the court clarified that its ruling would remain in effect until the government enacted a suitable law.

Lok Sabha Clears Controversial-Controversial Changes:
During the legislative process, the bill underwent substantial changes in response to objections from various quarters. One significant alteration that drew severe criticism was the replacement of the Chief Justice with a Union Minister in the panel responsible for advising on appointments. The Opposition argued that this change vested the government with excessive powers in the appointment process, jeopardizing the autonomy of the election commission.

Lok Sabha Clears Controversial-Opposition’s Critique:
The Opposition, largely absent during the Lok Sabha proceedings, has vehemently criticized the bill. Congress MP Randeep Surjewala, during the discussion in the Rajya Sabha, expressed concern over the perceived erosion of autonomy, fearlessness, and fairness within India’s democracy and electoral machinery. He accused the Modi government of launching an assault on the democratic principles of the country.

Lok Sabha Clears Controversial-Rejection of Supreme Court Status:
Another contentious provision that triggered protests, particularly from former poll officers, was the proposal to strip the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners of the status of Supreme Court judges. Additionally, the bill aimed to align their salary and rank with those of officers of Cabinet Secretary-rank. However, the government later backtracked on this aspect, deciding to undo the proposed change in response to the widespread opposition.

As the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023, awaits the President’s assent, its journey through parliament has been marked by controversy and opposition outcry. The perceived threats to the autonomy of the election commission and concerns over potential political interference continue to fuel debates surrounding the legislation. The implications of this bill on India’s democratic fabric and electoral machinery remain subjects of intense scrutiny and debate, emphasizing the need for a delicate balance between institutional autonomy and governmental oversight in the realm of election governance.

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