Need to reform selection process of Election Commission – UPSC GS2

Current Process of appointment of EC and CEC:
  • The Chief election commissioner and other ECs are appointed by the President on recommendations of the central government. This raises a question of partisan behaviour of officials towards the ruling party.
  • Appointment of Election Commissioners falls within the purview of Article 324(2) of the Constitution.
  • Although the Constitution provided the ‘subject to’ clause in which Parliament has power to decide the appointment procedure for ECs, but Parliament has so far not enacted any changes to the appointment process.
Views on current process:
  • The Election Commission is not only responsible for conducting free and fair elections, but it also has quasi-judicial functions, so the Executive cannot be a sole participant in the appointment process. This also gives the ruling party unlimited power to choose someone whose loyalty to it is ensured.
  • The current process also lacks transparency. 
  • Several petitions in SC have called the current practice into question. They argue that the current practice of appointment violates Articles 14, 324(2), and democracy as a basic feature of the Constitution.
Recommendations on selection process:
  • Various committees like Justice Tarkunde Committee(1975), Dinesh Goswami committee (1990), Law Commission(2015) have recommended that Election Commissioners be appointed on the advice of a committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Lok Sabha Opposition Leader and the Chief Justice of India.
  • 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission recommended that the Law Minister and the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha should also be included in such a Collegium.
Way Forward: 
  • multi-institutional, bipartisan committee for the selection of Election Commissioners can enhance the perceived and actual independence of the ECI.
  • Such a procedure is already followed with regard to other constitutional and statutory authorities such as the Chief Information Commissioner, the Lokpal, the Central Vigilance Commissioner, and the Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation.
  • Changes in the appointment process for Election Commissioners can strengthen the ECI’s independence, neutrality and transparency. Parliament can enact the law for the same.  

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