SC to Hear Pleas Challenging CEC, EC Act on Mar 15

The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to hear the petitions challenging the appointment procedure of Election Commissioners under the new Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Act, 2023 (Act).

The Court will hear the matter on Friday, i.e., March 15, 2024.

The petitions, brought forth by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and Dr. Jaya Thakur, the general secretary of the Madhya Pradesh Mahila Congress Committee, were presented before a Bench comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna, MM Sundresh, and Bela M Trivedi.

On Tuesday, when Bhushan initially mentioned the plea on behalf of ADR for urgent listing, Justice Khanna directed the Counsel to adhere to the proper procedure by submitting a mentioning slip. Today, Justice Khanna informed that the petitions are scheduled for hearing on March 15, 2024.

The recent development follows the resignation of Election Commissioner Arun Goel and the impending vacancies in the Election Commission, with a high-level selection panel led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi expected to fill them by March 15.

The petitioners have submitted interlocutory applications urging the Union to promptly appoint a new member of the Election Commission in line with the directive in Anoop Baranwal’s decision (2023). In this case, it was observed that entrusting the appointment of election commission members to the executive could jeopardize democracy’s health and the conduct of fair elections. Consequently, the court had directed that appointments to the posts of chief election commissioner and election commissioners should be made by the president based on advice tendered by a committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and the Chief Justice of India.

It is noteworthy that ADR’s PIL, under Article 32 of the Constitution, contests Section 7 of the 2023 Act, alleging infringements of Article 14 and the fundamental principles of the Constitution. This section outlines the appointment procedure, specifying that the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners are to be appointed by the President upon the recommendation of a selection committee. The committee consists of the Prime Minister as chairperson, the Leader of Opposition in the House of the People as a member, and a Union Cabinet Minister nominated by the Prime Minister as another member. The 2023 Act substitutes the Chief Justice of India with a Union Cabinet Minister designated by the Prime Minister. The petitioner contends that this amendment makes the selection process vulnerable to manipulation, given the perceived dominance and influence of the executive over the selection committee.

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