Supreme Court to take up on Friday petition challenging the appointment procedure of election commissioners

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Supreme Court To Hear Petition On Poll Officers' Appointments On Friday

The Supreme Court will hear the matter on Friday

New Delhi:

The Supreme Court today accepted the request for an urgent hearing on a petition challenging the decision to exclude the Chief Justice of India from the panel that selects election commissioners. Justice Sanjeev Khanna told advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner Association for Democratic Reforms, that they have got a message from the Chief Justice and the matter will be listed on Friday.

This comes at a time when the poll body has two vacancies in its top panel. Election Commissioner Arun Goel resigned last week and his colleague on the top panel, Anup Chandra Pandey, retired last month. This leaves only Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar on the top panel, and the Lok Sabha election – the biggest event for the poll body – is weeks away.

As per the current procedure to appoint election commissioners, a search committee led by Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal will prepare two panels of five names each for the two posts. Later, a selection committee led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and comprising a Union Minister and Leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury will name two persons for appointment.

The selection committee is likely to meet today or tomorrow, and government sources have told news agency PTI that both vacant posts may be filled by Friday.

The ADR’s petition puts the spotlight on the rules for appointment of Election Commissioners.

Last year, a Constitution bench of the Supreme Court had ruled that the top poll officials must be appointed on the recommendation of a committee comprising the Chief Justice of India, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha.

Months later, the Centre brought the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023. This legislation, which cleared the Parliament, dropped the Chief Justice of India from the selection panel. Instead, a Union Minister was put on it. This gave the Executive more heft on the panel.

The ADR’s petition challenges this move. Congress leader Jaya Thakur has also challenged the law in Supreme Court.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had refused to pause appointments under the new law last month. But the matter has gathered steam after the resignation of Mr Goel. The Centre has drawn fire from the Opposition, which has alleged a “systemic decimation” of government institutions.

On February 13, the court had refused to pause appointments, but sought the Centre’s reply to the petition challenging the new process.

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