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March 11, 2024

Congress Leader Moves Supreme Court to Halt Government’s Appointment of New Election Commissioners

A significant legal battle is brewing in India’s political arena as Congress leader Jaya Thakur has filed a plea in the Supreme Court, aiming to thwart the government’s efforts to appoint new election commissioners. The plea challenges the provisions of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and terms of office) Act, 2023, which has stirred controversy since its enactment.

The plea comes in the wake of two vacancies emerging in the Election Commission following the resignation of Election Commissioner Arun Goel and the retirement of Anup Chandra Pandey. Thakur’s application argues against the urgency of appointing new commissioners under the provisions of the controversial 2023 law, which is currently under scrutiny in the apex court.

In her plea, Thakur highlights the imminent announcement of the Lok Sabha Election 2024 schedule and the necessity of immediate appointments to the Election Commission. Citing a previous verdict, she asserts the court’s clear stance on the appointment process, referencing the case of ‘Anoop Baranwal Versus Union of India’ (March 2, 2023 verdict).

The plea implores the court to direct the government to adhere to the court’s previous judgments and refrain from appointing new commissioners under the contentious provisions of the 2023 Act. Specifically, it seeks to restrain the government from making appointments as per Section 7 and 8 of the said Act, which outlines the appointment procedure.

Under the new law, the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners is vested in the President, upon the recommendation of a Selection Committee. This committee comprises the Prime Minister as Chairperson, the Leader of Opposition in the House of the People, and a Union Cabinet Minister nominated by the Prime Minister.

Critics, including the opposition, have lambasted the Modi government for allegedly flouting the Supreme Court’s directives by excluding the Chief Justice of India (CJI) from the selection panel. In a March 2023 order, the Supreme Court had specified that the CEC and the ECs should be chosen by the prime minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and the CJI.

The legal battle over the appointment of election commissioners underscores the intersection of law, politics, and governance in India’s democratic landscape. As the Supreme Court deliberates on Thakur’s plea, the outcome could have far-reaching implications for the electoral process and the balance of power between the judiciary and the executive branch.

Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri

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