The Election Commission of India (ECI) is a constitutional body tasked with supervising, directing, and controlling electoral governance in accordance with the ideals of equality, equity, impartiality, and independence entrenched in the Indian Constitution and the rule of law. It was founded to provide the greatest level of legitimacy, freedom, fairness, openness, integrity, accountability, and autonomy in the conduct of elections.
The ECI, on the other hand, has faced several allegations about its independence and impartiality in electoral governance and the process of appointing its members. The appointment of Election Commissioners is governed by Article 324(2). Although the Constitution includes a’subject to’ provision that gives Parliament the authority to set the appointment method for ECs, Parliament has yet to adopt any amendments to the appointment process.
The need for reforms
- Various committees, including the Justice Tarkunde Committee in 1975, the Dinesh Goswami Committee in 1990, and the Law Commission in 2015, have recommended that Election Commissioners be appointed on the advice of a committee comprised of the Prime Minister, the Lok Sabha Opposition Leader, and the Chief Justice of India. The Law Minister and the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha were also suggested to be included in such a Collegium by the 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission.
- Several petitions in the Supreme Court have brought the existing practise of appointment into question, claiming that it breaches Articles 14, 324(2), and democracy as a fundamental aspect of the Constitution.
- The existing procedure is likewise opaque. This issue was also raised by a Supreme Court bench that included the then-CJI. “The Election Commissioners monitor and hold elections around the Country, and this is the significance of their job, and their selection must be made in the most open manner,” it said.
- Because the Election Commission is responsible not only for administering free and fair elections, but also for quasi-judicial powers, the Executive cannot be the sole stakeholder in the selection process. This also offers the ruling party the authority to select someone whose devotion to it is guaranteed.
- Failure of Parliament to Enact Legislation: It is the Parliament’s responsibility to make laws governing the appointment of ECs. However, except from increasing the number of ECs from one to three in 1989, Parliament has made no modifications to the appointment procedure.
- Excessive reliance on the Executive for Appointment: The Election Commission serves as a quasi-judicial body between the ruling and opposition parties. In such a circumstance, the executive cannot be the only decision-maker in the selection of ECs. The existing practise of the Centre appointing ECs contradicts Article 14, Article 324(2), and Democracy as a fundamental component of the Constitution.
- Second ARC Report Recommendations: The Second ARC report proposed that an ECI collegium led by the PM submit recommendations to the President for the nomination of ECI members. In the case of Anoop Baranwal v. Union of India (2015), the need for a Collegium structure for the ECI was also expressed. A Bench comprised of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud further stated that the ECs monitor and conduct elections across the nation, and their selection must be done in the most open manner possible.
- Multi-Institutional Committee: Given that ECI is the institutional pillar that supports Indian democracy, forming a multi-institutional, nonpartisan committee to choose ECs in a fair and transparent manner will improve ECI’s perceived and real independence. Because ECI’s powers are quasi-judicial in nature, it is critical that the nomination process adhere to the most stringent democratic criteria. A similar mechanism exists for the appointment of authorities such as the Chief Information Commissioner, Lokpal, Vigilance Commissioner, and Director of the Central Bureau of Intelligence.
- Role of Parliament: Parliament would be wise to foresee judicial constraints by enacting legislation that creates a multi-institutional, nonpartisan Collegium to choose ECs. There is a need for debate and discussion in Parliament on the topic of ECI independence, as well as the passage of necessary legislation. After all, the gold standard for governments across the world is separation of powers.
The constitutional requirements of the ECI need an impeccably fair and open selection process that would reinforce the people’s trust in this critical pillar of the Indian politics. The present shroud surrounding the nomination of ECs has the potential to undermine the fundamental framework that India’s democratic ideals are based on.
How to structure
- Give an intro about election commission of India
- Take a stand and explain why or why not there is a need of reformation
- Suggest measures