In unanimous ruling, Supreme Court says committee of PM, LoP and CJI will appoint Election Commissioners

5-judge Constitution Bench headed by Justice KM Joseph held this would be the norm until a law is enacted by Parliament.

BySouth First Desk

Published Mar 02, 2023 | 1:22 PM Updated Mar 02, 2023 | 1:22 PM

Supreme Court judgement on Election Commission

In a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court on Thursday, 2 March, said that the appointment of the chief election commissioner (CEC) and elections commissioners will be made by the President of India on the advice of a committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha (LoP), and the Chief Justice of India.

A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Justice KM Joseph, in its unanimous verdict, held that this would be the norm until a law on this issue is enacted by Parliament.

Reading out the judgement, Justice Joseph said that in the event there is no LoP in the Lok Sabha, the leader of the single-largest Opposition party will be on the committee to appoint the CEC and elections commissioners.

The bench, also comprising Justices Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy and CT Ravikumar, delivered its judgement on a clutch of petitions seeking a Collegium-like system for the appointment of CEC and the election commissioners.

Justice Rastogi, who concurred with the main judgement authored by Justice Joseph, however, delivered a separate verdict giving his reasoning.

Related: Election Commission should be free from political interference: SC

‘Need to maintain purity of election process’

Stressing the need to ensure the purity of the election process in a democracy, the apex court said it is intrinsically linked to the will of the people. It will otherwise lead to disastrous consequences, it said.

The bench said the Election Commission must act within the constitutional framework and within the law, and it cannot act in an unfair manner.

If the Election Commission does not play a free and fair role in the process, it would lead to a breakdown of the rule of law, which is the bedrock of democracy, the court said.

The bench said that democracy is fragile and would collapse if only “lip service” is paid to rule of law.

The matter was referred to the Constitutional Bench when a Division Bench of the apex court took the view that “a close look and interpretation of the provision of Article 324 of the Constitution of India” — which states superintendence, direction and control of elections to be vested in the Election Commission — may be required.

‘Unrelenting abuse’

The court said that a Democracy could succeed only if all stakeholders work to maintain the purity of the election process, so as to reflect the will of the people.

It expressed deep concern at the “unrelenting abuse” of the electoral process over a period of time. It also commented on the impartiality of the media in the present times.

“A large section of the media has abdicated its role and become partisan,” it said, according to the legal website LiveLaw.

The bench noted that power often becomes the goal of political parties. However, the conduct of the government has to be fair and in a democracy, the end cannot justify the means. Thus, it said, that EC has to be independent.

“The means to gain power in a democracy must remain pure and abide by the Constitution and the laws. EC cannot claim to be independent and then act unfairly. A person in a state of obligation to the state cannot have an independent frame of mind. An independent person will not be servile to those in power,” LiveLaw quoted it as saying.

Also read: Election Commission testing remote EVM prototype

(With inputs from PTI)