Indian SC questions absence of procedure for appointment of CEC, ECs

Says ‘silence of the Constitution’ being exploited by successive governments
New Delhi, November 23 (KMS): The Indian Supreme Court has questioned the central government on the absence of a law to govern the appointment of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (ECs).

According to Kashmir Media Service, the apex court’s five-judge Constitution Bench led by Justice KM Joseph said that “silence of the Constitution” was being exploited by successive governments. Terming it a “disturbing trend”, the court pointed out that since 2004, no CEC has completed the six-year tenure.

The Bench – which also included Justice Ajay Rastogi, Justice Aniruddha Bose, Justice Hrishikesh Roy and Justice CT Ravikumar – made these observations while hearing petitions referred to it in 2018 seeking a Collegium-like system for the appointment of the CEC and ECs. Last week, the central government had vehemently opposed it, saying any such attempt will amount to amending the Constitution.

The Bench said in 10 years of the UPA (Congress-led United Progressive Alliance) government, they had six CECs and in the present NDA (BJP-led National Democratic Alliance) government, in nearly eight years, it has had eight CECs. “This is a disturbing trend as far as our country is concerned. There are no checks and balances in the Constitution. This is how the silence of the Constitution is being exploited. There is no law and legally, they are correct. Nothing could be done in the absence of a law,” it said.

“Looking at the list of the chief election commissioners since 2004, the majority of them do not have more than two years’ tenure. As per law, they have fixed a tenure of six years or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier. Most of them were former bureaucrats and the government knew about their age. They were appointed at such a point that they were never able to complete six years and had a truncated tenure,” the Bench told Attorney General, R Venkataramani.

The Bench pointed out that Article 324 of the Constitution talks about the appointment of CEC and ECs but it does not provide for the procedure for such appointments and it left it to Parliament to enact a law for the purpose. But it has not been done in the last 72 years, leading to exploitation by the Central government, it said.

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