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Supreme Court refuses to stay law on appointment of Chief Election Commissioners, Election Commissioners

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The Supreme Court today refused to stay the new law regarding appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners by a panel which does not include the Chief Justice of India.

A bench comprising Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice Dipankar Datta issued notice to the Centre on a plea filed by an NGO, Association for Democratic Reforms, and listed the matter along with other pending petitions on the issue for hearing in April.

The petition challenged the constitutional validity of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Act, 2023. Appearing for the Association for Democratic Reforms, Advocate Prashant Bhushan, submitted that the law is contrary to the constitution bench judgement of the apex court which had directed that the Chief Justice of India be there on the panel that would appoint the CEC and ECs.

He further stated that two election commissioners are about to superannuate, and if the operation of the law is not stayed, the plea will become infructuous. When Advocate Prashant Bhushan pressed for interim relief, the bench declined and said that the matter of constitutional validity never becomes infructuous.

The new law states that Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation of a Selection Committee comprising of the Prime Minister as the Chairperson and the Leader of Opposition in the House of the People and a Union Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the Prime Minister as its Member.

The plea stated that the law was enacted in 2023 in order to fill the vacuum under Article 324(2) of the Constitution of India. Nonetheless, the impugned section restores the earlier position of law, that is appointment of Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioner would be done solely by the executive. The selection committee is dominated by the members from the executive namely Prime Minister and Union Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the Prime Minister, it added.

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