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Efficient and Transparent Collegium Bill for Election Commis



  Aug 11, 2023

Collegium Bill for Election Commissioners


Bill was introduced in the Parliament that seeks to replace the Chief Justice of India (CJI) from the committee responsible for selecting the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners.
 

Background:

A Constitution Bench led by Justice K.M. Joseph, now retired, had included the Chief Justice in the selection committee for the CEC, in line with a recommendation from a committee headed by the then Law Minister Dinesh Goswami in 1990.(Read on)
 
The goal of this recommendation was to introduce electoral reforms and enhance the independence of the Election Commission of India.
 

Key Points:

The March judgment declared that the CJI should be part of the three-member panel, chaired by the Prime Minister, and also comprising the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, for selecting the CEC until a new law is enacted.
 
The Goswami committee recommended that the CEC should be appointed by the President in consultation with the CJI and the Leader of the Opposition.
 
It further suggested that the two Election Commissioners should be appointed in consultation with the CJI, Leader of the Opposition, and the CEC, and emphasized the need for statutory backing for the consultation process.
 
The Law Commission of India endorsed the Goswami recommendations in its 255th report in March 2015, aiming to strengthen the Election Commission's office and ensure neutrality.
 
The Law Commission modified the recommendation, suggesting that all Election Commissioners' appointments should be made by the President in consultation with a three-member collegium or selection committee, consisting of the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha (or the leader of the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha), and the CJI.In summary, the Bill to exclude the Chief Justice of India from the committee for selecting the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners goes against the recommendations aimed at enhancing the independence and neutrality of the Election Commission, as proposed by various committees and endorsed by the Law Commission of India.
 

Anoop Baranwal RulingTaken Forward

In 2015, Anoop Baranwal filed a PIL on the ground that the current system for appointing members of the Election Commission of India (ECI) is unconstitutional. Currently, the Executive enjoys the power to make appointments, which the PIL contends has degraded the ECI’s independence over time. The PIL pleads for the Court to issue directions to set up an independent, Collegium-like system for ECI appointments. It claims that the current system of appointments violates Article 324(2) of the Constitution.
 
Article 324 specifies that while the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners will be appointed by the President, this is subject to Parliamentary law (if such law exists). While this provision places an expectation on Parliament to draft a relevant a law, it has not done so .In the absence of such a law, the President has been making appointments as per the recommendations of the Prime Minister.
 
In 2018, matter was referred to a five-judge Constitution Bench. In 2023 March, the Constitution Bench decided to change the process for Election Commission appointments in order to secure their independence. The Bench created a committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, and the Chief Justice of India. This committee will make recommendations and advise the President on Election Commission appointments until Parliament enacts a separate law on the subject.


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