SC to hear PIL seeking Collegium for ECs' appointment

Supreme Court of India. (Reuters Photo)

After four weeks, the Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to consider a plea for setting up a Collegium-like mechanism for appointment of Election Commissioners.

A bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant ordered to post the matter for hearing after four weeks after a counsel orally mentioned it saying the case has not come up for hearing since September 2018.

The counsel mentioned the PIL filed by BJP leader and advocate Ashwini K Upadhyay, who sought a direction for setting up independent secretariat like Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha for the Election Commission.

He also sought a declaration that the EC's expenditure would be charged from the consolidated fund of India. He also prayed for conferring rulemaking power to the poll panel, to ensure its independence.

Notably, in October 2018 the top court had referred to a Constitution bench to decide upon a "foolproof and better" system for appointment of Election Commissioners.

"We are of the view that the matter may require a closer look at Article 324 of the Constitution," a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul had said.

The court had passed its order on a PIL by advocate Prashant Bhushan on behalf of Anoop Baranwal.

Bhushan then contended a Collegium must be put in place in order to ensure the independent and transparent system for appointment of Election Commissioners like it has been done in case of CBI director and the Chief Vigilance Commissioner. He said the gaps in law must be plugged to ensure the independence of the institution.

"Till a law is passed, directions must be issued to ensure the independence of ECs from government's interference," he had said.

Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the Union Government, however, had said so many eminent persons like Sukumar Sen, TN Sheshan, J M Lyngdoh, S Y Quraishi and N Gopalaswami have been appointed in the Election Commission.

He said the yardsticks used for the appointment of judges in constitutional courts cannot be employed for the appointment of ECs. He cited examples of constitutional bodies like Comptroller and Auditor General of India, UPSC chairman, Chairman, Finance Commission and National Commission for SC and STs where the appointments were made by the government only.

The petitioner claimed though there is a process for appointment of Chief Election Commissioner, there was no provision with regard to two Election Commissioners.

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