Editorial: No interference

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear after four weeks a PIL seeking that the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners be appointed by a three-member collegium. The collegium will comprise the Prime Minister, the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India. A bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant took note of submissions that the plea needed an urgent hearing.

“We will list it for hearing after four weeks,” the bench said on Tuesday. BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay has filed the PIL seeking to ensure more autonomy for the Chief Election Commissioner’s (CEC) office and Election Commissioners. The plea has also sought an independent Secretariat for the Election Commission of India (ECI) and that it should also be given the power to make rules. According to Uphadyay’s petition, the CEC and the Election Commissioners enjoy the same decision-making powers. However, Clause 5 of Article 324 does not provide similar protection to the Election Commissioners and merely says that they cannot be removed except on the recommendation of the CEC.

“The reason for giving protection to the CEC as enjoyed by the Judge of this Hon’ble Court in matters of removability from office is in order to ensure autonomy to the ECI from external pulls and pressure. However, the rationale behind not affording similar protection to ECs is not explicable. The element of independence sought to be achieved under the Constitution is not exclusively for an individual alone but for the institution. Hence, autonomy to the ECI can only be strengthened if the ECs are also provided with similar protection as that of the CEC.” said the plea. It added: “Present constitutional guarantee is inadequate and requires an amendment to provide same protection and safeguard in the matter of removability of the ECs as available to the CEC”. There should not be interference of any form in the affairs of the Election Commission and it needs more autonomy.

NT Bureau