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Supreme Court, Election Commission: Must Have Best Man As Election Body Chief: Supreme Court’s Big Remarks

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The bench was hearing a petition for reforms in system of appointing election commissioners

New Delhi:
The Constitution has vested enormous powers on the “fragile shoulder” of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and it is important that “someone of strong character” is appointed to the post, the Supreme Court has said.

Here are top 10 points on this big story

  1. The court pointed out yesterday that the “situation on the ground is alarming” and that it wants a CEC like late T N Seshan, known for bringing key electoral reforms as the poll panel chief from 1990 to 1996.

  2. The five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice K M Joseph was hearing a petition seeking reforms in the system of appointing election commissioners.

  3. The bench, also comprising Justices Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy and C T Ravikumar, said its endeavour is to put a system in place so that the “best man” is selected as the CEC.

  4. “There have been numerous CECs and T N Seshan happens once in a while. We do not want anyone to bulldoze him. Enormous power has been vested on the fragile shoulder of three men (CEC and two election commissioners). We have to find the best man for the post of CEC,” the court said.

  5. “What is important is that we put a fairly good procedure so that apart from competence, someone of strong character is appointed as the CEC,” the court told Attorney General R Venkataramani, who appeared for the Centre.

  6. The government’s counsel said that the government is not going to oppose the appointment of the best man, but the question is how can it be done. “There is no vacuum in the Constitution. Election commissioners are presently appointed by the president on the aid and advice of the council of ministers,” he said.

  7. The bench said that since 1990, several voices, including BJP veteran LK Advani, have called for a collegium-like system for appointments to constitutional bodies, including the Election Commission.

  8. “Democracy is a basic structure of the Constitution. There is no debate to that. We also cannot tell Parliament to do something and we will not do that. We just want to do something to the issue that has been raised since 1990,” the court said. “The situation on the ground is alarming. We know that there will be opposition from the ruling party to not allow us to go past the present system,” it said. 

  9. The court pointed out that since 2004, no CEC has completed a six-year tenure. During the 10-year rule of the UPA, there were six CECs and in the eight years of the NDA, there have been eight. “The government is giving such a truncated tenure to the ECs and CECs that they are doing its bidding,” it said. 

  10. This comes after the centre strongly opposed a batch of pleas seeking a collegium-like system for the selection of CECs and election commissioners, contending that any such attempt will amount to amending the Constitution.

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