Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023

Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023

News: The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed Bill to regulate the appointment and service terms of India's Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners.

• The Bill replaces the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991.
• The new bill provides details related to the appointment, qualifications, search committee, selection committee, term of office, salary, resignation and removal, leave, and pension of the chief election commissioner and other election commissioners.

Key provisions:
• As per the Bill, the CEC and ECs will be appointed by the President upon the recommendation of a Selection Committee, which will consist of the Prime Minister, a Union Cabinet Minister, and the Leader of the Opposition or leader of the largest opposition party in Lok Sabha.
• Recommendations of the Selection Committee will be valid even when there is a vacancy in this Committee.
• A Search Committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary will propose a panel of names to the Selection Committee.
• Eligibility for the posts includes holding (or having held) a post equivalent to the Secretary to the central government.
• The salary and conditions of service of the CEC and ECs will be equivalent to that of Cabinet Secretary. Under the 1991 Act, it was equivalent to the salary of a Supreme Court Judge.
• Term: Members of the Election Commission will hold office for six years, or until they attain the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
• Reappointment: Members of the Commission cannot be re-appointed. If an EC is appointed as a CEC, the overall period of the term may not be more than six years.

• The selection process of the Election Commission may be dominated by the government, which has implications for its independence.
• Accepting the Selection Committee’s recommendations in spite of a vacancy in its constitution may effectively lead to a monopoly of government members in selecting candidates.
• Making the CEC and EC’s salary equivalent to the Cabinet Secretary may lead to government influence as it is fixed by the government. This is unlike the salary of a Supreme Court judge which is fixed through an Act of Parliament.
• CECs and ECs also perform quasi-judicial functions. Limiting these posts to senior bureaucrats may exclude other suitable candidates.
• The Opposition has argued against this provision of the bill, saying it would end all balance and transparency in the selection process. It has also pointed out that the change was a violation of a Supreme Court order.
• The Supreme court earlier in 2023 had suggested that the selection committee should consist of the Prime Minister+ Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha (or leader of single largest opposition party in Lok Sabha) + Chief Justice of India. The current bill goes against the SC’s verdict. 

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