Supreme Court defends independence of Election Commissioner

23 November, 2022 | Vaishali Sharma

Supreme Court Top News

The Supreme Court stated today that the independence of the Election Commissioner (EC) is paramount. A five-judge bench led by Justice KM Joseph heard petitions calling for changes to the system of...

The Supreme Court stated today that the independence of the Election Commissioner (EC) is paramount. A five-judge bench led by Justice KM Joseph heard petitions calling for changes to the system of appointing election commissioners. The bench also questioned the appointment process’s independence.

“The independence of the Election Commissioner is paramount. The man who becomes EC should be a man who is independent. How independent is the appointing process?” the court asked.

It said the Election Commission is “supposed to be completely insulated”, and referred to how the government had spoken of appointing a “man of character”. “Character consists of various components… one particular characteristic required is independence,” it noted.

It then cited how “one of the Election Commissioners, in fact, resigned”. The court did not take names, rather arguing its central point that the appointment system requires “a larger body” than just the union cabinet to decide on names. “There is a dire need for change.”

“Any government can appoint a ‘yes man’,” the Supreme Court told the Centre. “But the question is whether there is independence in his actions or not. Independence is a quality which is required,” the court said.

An argument made is that the EC is completely funded by the government, the Supreme Court told the Centre, which responded that it is within the purview of the parliament to decide whether to shift to a consolidated fund.

“Was the appointment of the election commissioners two days ago a transparent process? What mechanism did the centre undertake?” the court asked. “It’s a convention, a consultative process,” the Centre said.

Prashant Bhushan, a senior lawyer, said that Arun Goel, who was appointed as Election Commissioner on Saturday, accepted voluntary retirement service, or VRS, the day before his appointment.