Thursday, December 8, 2022

Centre opposes collegium-like system for CEC, ECs appointment

The Centre on Thursday vehemently opposed in the Supreme Court a batch of pleas seeking a collegium-like system for selection of chief election commissioner (CEC) and election commissioners, contending any such attempt will amount to amending the Constitution.
Attorney General R Venkataramani told a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice KM Joseph that the march of law from 1997 case of Vineet Narain versus Union of India (which dealt with appointment of CBI director by a committee) to fill the vacuum in the Constitution cannot be allowed in the present case.
“Any attempt to do this will amount to constitutional amendment,” he said, adding the Constituent Assembly had all the models of Constitution before it but it chose this model, and it certainly had in mind the independence of the Election Commission of India. “So, it cannot be said that there was no application of mind”, he said.
The bench, also comprising Justices Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrisikesh Roy and CT Ravikumar, asked the Attorney General to read Article 316 (on appointment of UPSC members) and Article 148 (dealing with appointment of Comptroller & Auditor General of India) of the Constitution.
It asked why is that for 72 years Parliament has not been able to come up with any law as envisaged in Article 324 (2) (dealing with the appointment of CEC and ECs) like it has done for appointment of Central Vigilance Commissioner or UPSC members. The bench told the Attorney General, when the Constitution says it is “subject to any provision of any law” has not Parliament defeated the vision of the founding fathers of the Constitution.
Venkataramani said if there is no law, then the President is the ultimate authority for appointment, who is bound by the aid and advice of the council of ministers.
The bench said, “We are being asked (by the petitioners) to do a repeat of Vishaka (1997 case in which apex court laid down guidelines regarding sexual harassment at workplace). If we find any unfairness, our powers have to be invoked but the problem is no court can issue mandamus to the Parliament”.
Venkataramani responded, saying, “If court decides to do like the Vishaka case, then it is being asked to do indirectly what cannot be done directly and the conclusion will be the same.”
The bench asked Attorney General to continue his submission on Tuesday, when the court resumes its hearing on the batch of pleas. During the hearing, Justice Roy wondered why till now India does not have any woman as CEC or for that matter CBI director.
On October 23, 2018, the top court had referred to a five-judge Constitution bench the PIL seeking collegium-like system for selection of the CEC and the ECs for authoritative adjudication.

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