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‘A change in the selection procedure for the appointment of CEC and ECs is necessary’

It would add prestige to the Commission if the commissioners are chosen through a procedure in which the President has the benefit of getting a recommendation from a committee that will reflect a bipartisan consensus


February 5, 2009 2:21:27 am

The second letter to the President of India by CEC N. Gopalaswami on January 16th 2009,deals with the selection procedure of the CEC and ECs. The text of the letter is reproduced below:

The appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners is governed by the provisions of Article 324 of the Constitution. As there is no separate law nor any prescribed procedure,in the scheme of things currently in force,the CEC and ECs are appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister.

I have given my anxious thought to this issue of the procedure of selection of CECs and ECs. I have carefully perused debates in the Constituent Assembly where Pandit Hirday Nath Kunzru and Prof. Shibban Lal Saksena spoke eloquently on the need to appoint a person as CEC or EC who commands confidence of a majority of both Houses of Parliament. In principle,one could say that the person appointed should be such as to be acceptable and should have the confidence of a cross section of the Parliament or the political spectrum. In the last 60 years after independence,our polity has undergone a lot of changes and from the days of one party dominance we are passing through an era of coalition governments. Any alternative arrangement has to keep this fact in view.

Presently,the appointments to the post of the Central Vigilance Commissioner and that of the chairman and the member of the National Human Rights Commission are made by constituting a committee which is bipartisan. In the case of appointment of the CVC,the leader of the opposition in the House of the People is a member of the selection committee. In the case of the appointment to the NHRC,the leader of the opposition of both Houses of Parliament are members of the selection committee with the committee being presided over by the prime minister. The following is the composition of the committee for the appointment of the Central Vigilance Commissioner and the Vigilance Commissioner :

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(i) The Prime Minister – chairperson,

(ii) The Minister of Home Affairs – member,

(iii) The Leader of the Opposition in the House of the People – member.

The committee for the appointment of chairman and members of NHRC consists of the following:

(i) The Prime Minister – chairperson

(ii) Speaker of the House of the People – member

(iii) Minister in-charge of the Ministry of Home Affairs in the government of

India – member

(iv) Leader of the opposition in the House of

People – member

(v) Leader of the opposition in the Council of States – member

(vi) Deputy chairman of the Council of States – member.

Based on the recommendation of the committee,the appointments are then made by the President by warrant under her hand and seal. It would be in the fitness of things to incorporate a similar procedure in respect of the appointment of the CEC and ECs where the credibility and independence of the Commission is of paramount importance and the body is entrusted with the responsibility to deliver free and fair elections which is the very bedrock of democracy.

Over the years the Commission has been able to win the confidence of the political parties and the voters with its impartiality and neutrality and has come to be recognised as one of the most successful election management bodies in the world. It appears that in order to nurture and strengthen this confidence of the public and the political parties,a change in the selection procedure for the appointment of CEC and ECs is necessary keeping in view the changed political scenario in the country with its multiparty focus. It would add prestige to the Commission if the Commissioners are chosen through a procedure in which the President has the benefit of getting a recommendation from a committee that will reflect a bipartisan consensus. Therefore,it is suggested for your kind consideration that a committee having the following composition could be entrusted the responsibility of making this selection :

(a) The Prime Minister – chairperson,

(b) Speaker of the House of the People – member,

(c) Deputy Chairman of the Council of States – member,

(d) Leaders of the opposition in two Houses –

members,

(e) Minister in-charge in the Ministry of Law & Justice – member

Based on the recommendations of this committee,the appointment of the CEC and Election Commissioner could be made by warrant under the hand and seal of the Hon’ble President.

Such a broad-based Committee in my considered view will greatly add to the perceived sense of impartiality,neutrality and credibility thereby further strengthening the faith of the public in the institutional framework of the Election Commission. I am therefore,submitting this proposal seeking your Excellency’s invaluable guidance to the government on the above lines

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