THE SUPREME Court on Wednesday wondered why there was no law on the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and observed that leaving it entirely to the political executive would not ensure independence of the poll panel. “This is an important question. The CEC is a person who has to conduct elections across the country…. Leaving the appointment wholly in the hands of the political executive is not a sound basis for preserving the independence of the Election Commission,” the bench of Chief Justice of India J S Khehar and D Y Chandrachud remarked while hearing a PIL.
CJI Khehar pointed out that the appointment “has to be made in a manner as transparent as possible”. The petition alleged that the current practice of appointing Election Commission members was discriminatory and violative of the law, and sought a law to ensure a fair, just and transparent selection process. Appearing for the petitioner, senior counsel Prashant Bhushan sought a direction to the Centre to come up with a law which provides for selection “by constituting a neutral and independent collegium/ selection committee to recommend a name for appointment” of EC members.
The bench pointed out that Article 324 of the Constitution provides that appointments of the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners will be made as per the enabling law, but no such law had been made so far. “The expectation is that Parliament will make the law. In the absence of a law, can’t the court step in and lay down parameters to ensure that the appointment process is fair,” asked the bench.
Appearing for the Centre, Solicitor-General Ranjit Kumar said it was the Parliament’s prerogative to make a law. Justice D Y Chandrachud wanted to know who would decide the nominees and make the selection in the absence of a law. The Solicitor-General replied that as per practice, the Prime Minister and President do that.
The CJI said, “Till now, all appointments have been outstanding and politically neutral”, but indicated that the court intended to hear the questions raised.