Chief Election Commissioner
Why in news? A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court directed in a landmark judgment that Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners will be appointed by High powered committee
- High powered committee consists of President on the advice tendered by a committee of Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha or the leader of the single largest party in Opposition and the Chief Justice of India.
- The committee would continue to advise the President on the appointment until Parliament enacts a law on the appointment process of Election Commissioners
- CECs and Election Commissioners have so far been appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister.
- The judgment came on petitions filed through advocates for an accountable and transparent appointment process.
How are the CEC and ECs currently appointed?
- There are just five Articles (324-329) in Part XV (Elections) of the Constitution
- Article 324 of the Constitution vests the “superintendence, direction and control of elections” in an Election Commission consisting “of the Chief Election Commissioner and such number of other Election Commissioners.
- The Constitution does not lay down a specific legislative process for the appointment of the CEC and ECs.
- The President makes the appointment on the advice of the Union Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister.
What are the powers of the Election Commission?
- The Constitution of India gave the Election Commission sweeping powers without going into the specifics. Introducing this provision in the Constituent Babasaheb Ambedkar had said “the whole election machinery should be in the hands of a Central Election Commission, which alone would be entitled to issue directives to returning officers, polling officers and others”.
- Parliament subsequently enacted The Representation of the People Act, 1950, and The Representation of the People Act, 1951, to define and enlarge the powers of the Commission.
- The Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991 (EC Act) requires that the EC and CEC must hold the post for a period of six years. This law essentially governs the conditions of service of the CEC and ECs.
Was the Election Commission always a three-member body?
- Until 1989, the Election Commission was a single-member body, with only a Chief Election Commissioner (CEC).
- The Election Commission was expanded just ahead of the elections to the ninth Lok Sabha
- On October 1989, President R Venkataraman, in the exercise of his powers under Article 324(2), issued a notification creating two positions in the Election Commission in addition to that of the CEC.
- The V P Singh government to enacted the aforementioned Act of 1991, which gave the CEC a status equal to that of a Supreme Court judge, and his retirement age was fixed at 65 years.
- The ECs were given the status of High Court judges, and their retirement age was fixed at 62 years.
- The passage of the EC Act essentially meant that if and when the Election Commission became a multi-member body again, the CEC would act as its chairman, and the ECs would be junior to him