Wednesday, December 7, 2022

‘Silence’ of constitution on EC, CEC appointments being exploited: SC

The Supreme Court on Tuesday termed the exploitation of the “silence of the Constitution” and the absence of a law governing the appointments of election commissioners and chief election commissioners a “disturbing trend”.
The court flagged Article 324 of the Constitution, which talks about the appointment of election commissioners, and said it does not provide the procedure for such appointments. Moreover, it had envisaged the enactment of a law by Parliament in this regard, which has not been done in the last 72 years, leading to exploitation by the Centre, it said. The court pointed out that since 2004, no chief election commissioner has completed the six-year tenure and during the 10-year rule of the UPA government, there were six CECs and in the eight years of the NDA government, there have been eight CECs.
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice K M Joseph said, “In 10 years of the UPA government, they had six CECs and in the present NDA government, in nearly eight years, it has had eight CECs. This is a disturbing trend as far as our country is concerned.
There are no checks and balances in the Constitution. This is how the silence of the Constitution is being exploited. There is no law and legally, they are correct. Nothing could be done in the absence of a law.”
The top court is hearing a batch of pleas seeking a collegium-like system for the appointment of the CEC. The bench, also comprising justices Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy and C T Ravikumar, said even though the CEC heads an institution, with his truncated tenure, he cannot do anything substantial.
Attorney General R Venkataramani, who appeared in the matter on behalf of the Centre, said the present process under which the president appoints the CECs and ECs cannot be said to be unconstitutional and the court cannot strike it down.
“The Constituent Assembly, which had different models before it, had adopted this model and now, the court cannot say that the present model needs consideration…. There is no provision of the Constitution in this regard which requires interpretation,” he said.
Justice Joseph said it has been 72 years since the Constitution was adopted but still there is no law on the appointment of election commissioners, despite being envisaged in the Constitution. Justice Jospeh further told Venkataramani that if it is part of the Constitution’s basic structure, then it is important for the court to go into the analysis.
The hearing remained inconclusive and would continue on Wednesday.
On November 17, the Centre had vehemently opposed the pleas seeking a collegium-like system for the selection of CECs and ECs.

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