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Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners Act, 2023

The Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023 was passed in December 2023, and the Supreme Court recently upheld its validity. It replaces the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991, aiming to regulate the appointment, conditions, and tenure of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and other Election Commissioners (EC).

The Act outlines eligibility criteria, salary, term limits, and removal procedures. Concerns remain about the composition of the Selection Committee, potential interference in the Election Commission’s independence, and lack of provisions for post-retirement roles.

Election Commission

The Election Commission of India (ECI) is a constitutional body responsible for administering elections in the country.

  • Constitutional Authority: The ECI operates under the authority of Article 324 of the Constitution of India, which vests it with the superintendence, direction, and control of the preparation of the electoral rolls for, and the conduct of, elections to Parliament and state legislatures.
  • Composition: The Election Commission consists of a Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and other Election Commissioners (ECs), appointed by the President of India. The ECI’s decisions are made collectively by the Commission.
  • Roles and Responsibilities:
    Conducting Elections: The primary responsibility of the ECI is to conduct free, fair, and impartial elections to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, state legislative assemblies, and the offices of the President and Vice-President of India.
    ii) Electoral Roll Management: The ECI oversees the preparation and maintenance of electoral rolls, ensuring their accuracy and completeness.
    iii) Implementing Electoral Laws: The Commission enforces electoral laws and regulations, taking measures to prevent electoral malpractices and promote transparency in the electoral process.
    iv) Voter Awareness: The ECI conducts voter education and awareness programs to encourage voter participation and ensure informed decision-making during elections.
    v) Monitoring Election Expenditure: The Commission monitors and regulates election expenditure by candidates and political parties to ensure a level playing field for all contestants.
  • Independence and Autonomy: The Election Commission operates independently of the government and political parties, ensuring impartiality and integrity in the electoral process. It has quasi-judicial powers and functions autonomously in conducting elections.
  • Challenges and Innovations: The ECI faces various challenges, including electoral malpractices, voter apathy, and logistical issues. To address these challenges, the Commission continually introduces innovations such as voter ID cards, electronic voting machines (EVMs), and voter-verifiable paper audit trails (VVPATs) to enhance the credibility and efficiency of elections.

The Election Commission plays a crucial role in upholding the democratic principles of India by ensuring free, fair, and transparent elections, thereby safeguarding the democratic rights of citizens.

Appointment of Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners

The appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and other Election Commissioners (ECs) is a significant process governed by constitutional provisions. Here’s an overview:

  • Constitutional Authority: Article 324 of the Constitution of India vests the President of India with the power to appoint the CEC and ECs. The appointment process is crucial for ensuring the independence and impartiality of the Election Commission of India (ECI).
  • Selection Committee: The appointment process typically involves a Selection Committee chaired by the Prime Minister of India. The committee also includes the Leader of the Opposition or the leader of the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha, and sometimes the Chief Justice of India or a Supreme Court judge nominated by the Chief Justice.
  • Criteria for Appointment: The Constitution does not specify explicit qualifications or eligibility criteria for the appointment of the CEC and ECs. However, individuals with a background in public administration, law, or governance, along with integrity and experience in electoral matters, are usually considered suitable for these positions.
  • Tenure and Terms: The CEC and ECs are appointed for fixed tenures as prescribed by law. They typically serve for a term of six years or until they reach the age of retirement, whichever is earlier. Re-appointment to the position is generally not allowed to maintain the independence and neutrality of the Election Commission.
  • Role of the President: While the President appoints the CEC and ECs, the actual selection process often involves recommendations from the Selection Committee. The President’s role is largely ceremonial, and appointments are made based on the Committee’s recommendations.
  • Transparency and Accountability: The appointment process aims to ensure transparency and accountability in the functioning of the Election Commission. By involving key stakeholders and adhering to constitutional principles, the process seeks to uphold the integrity and independence of the electoral machinery.

Qualifications of Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners

These are the Qualifications required for the selection of Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners.

  • Background: Preferably in public administration, law, or governance.
  • Experience: Ideally in electoral management or legal matters related to elections.
  • Integrity: Demonstrated commitment to impartiality and upholding democratic principles.
  • Understanding: Thorough knowledge of electoral laws, rules, and procedures.
  • Skills: Strong leadership, decision-making, and management abilities.
  • Judicial Experience: Beneficial, given the quasi-judicial nature of the role.
  • Commitment: To maintain the independence and integrity of the Election Commission.
  • Appointment Process: Involves careful consideration of qualifications, experience, and suitability.

 Search Committee

A Search Committee, led by the Minister of Law and Justice and including two other members with high-ranking government positions, will create a list of five candidates. These candidates will be considered by the Selection Committee for the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners.

Selection Committee

  1. The Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners are appointed by the President upon the recommendation of a Selection Committee.
  2. The Selection Committee is chaired by the Prime Minister.
  3. The committee includes the Leader of the Opposition in the House of the People as a member.
  4. Additionally, a Union Cabinet Minister nominated by the Prime Minister is also a member of the committee.

Power of the Selection Committee to regulate its procedure

  1. The Selection Committee is responsible for regulating its procedure transparently when selecting the Chief Election Commissioner or other Election Commissioners.
  2. The Committee has the authority to consider individuals not included in the panel prepared by the Search Committee.

Term of office

  • The Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners serve a term of six years from the date they assume office or until they reach the age of sixty-five, whichever comes first.
  • They are not eligible for re-appointment after completing their term.
  • If an Election Commissioner is appointed as Chief Election Commissioner, their total term in office, including both roles, cannot exceed six years.

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What is the difference between Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioner?

An election commissioner is appointed by the President of India on the recommendation of a three member selection committee headed by the Prime Minister of India and senior most election commissioner is appointed as chief election commissioner.

Who can remove CEC?

While the CEC can only be removed by office through the process of impeachment requiring two-thirds majority of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha to be present and voting for the same, election commissioners can be removed by the President on the recommendation of the CEC. In 2009, Chief Election Commissioner N.

Who is currently the chief election commissioner of India?

Rajiv Kumar, Election Commissioner in ECI since 1st September 2020, took charge as the 25th Chief Election Commissioner on 15th May 2022. Prior to assuming charge in the Election Commission, Sh.

Who appoints the Chief Election Commissioner and other commissioner?

The President appoints Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners. They have tenure of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier. They enjoy the same status and receive salary and perks as available to Judges of the Supreme Court of India.

What is the maximum age of CEC?

No, there is no age limit to qualify for the CEC program. Although, the older applicants are, the less CRS points they will get under the age factor.

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