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Unfair EC will have chilling effect on political parties: SC

Referring to the electoral scene in the country, the bench pointed out criminalisation of politics, with all its attendant evils, has become a nightmarish reality
Last Updated : 03 March 2023, 02:24 IST

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The Supreme Court on Thursday (March 2) said an Election Commission which does not ensure free and fair poll as per the rules of the game, guarantees the breakdown of the foundation of the rule of law.

A five-judge bench led by Justice K M Joseph stressed the "sterling qualities" which must be possessed by an Election Commission while holding the CEC and ECs would be appointed by a panel of PM, LoP, and CJI.

"In the wide spectrum of powers, if the Election Commission exercises them unfairly or illegally as much as he refuses to exercise power when such exercise becomes a duty it has a telling and chilling effect on the fortunes of the political parties. Inequality in the matter of treatment of political parties who are otherwise similarly circumstanced unquestionably breaches the mandate of Article 14 (right to equality) of the Constitution," the bench said.

The court said the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners stand on a far higher pedestal in the constitutional scheme of things having regard to the relationship between their powers, functions, and duties and the upholding of the democratic way of life of the nation, the upkeep of Rule of Law and the very immutable infusion of life into the grand guarantee of equality under Article 14.

Referring to the electoral scene in the country, the bench pointed out criminalisation of politics, with all its attendant evils, has become a nightmarish reality.

"The faith of the electorate in the very process, which underlies democracy itself, stands shaken. The impact of ‘big money' and its power to influence elections, the influence of certain sections of media, makes it also absolutely imperative that the appointment of the Election Commission, which has been declared by this Court to be the guardian of the citizenry and its Fundamental Rights, becomes a matter, which cannot be postponed further."

Emphasising the need for an independent person to be appointed as CEC and ECs, the bench said, "Holding the scales evenly, even in the stormiest of times, not being servile to the powerful, but coming to the rescue of the weak and the wronged, who are otherwise in the right, would qualify as true independence."

It further said upholding the constitutional values, which are, in fact, a part of the Basic Structure, including democracy, the Rule of Law, the Right to Equality, secularism, and the purity of elections otherwise, would, indeed, proclaim the presence of independence. "Independence must embrace the ability to be firm, even as against the highest," it said.

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Published 02 March 2023, 16:02 IST

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