New Delhi [India]: The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that people manning the Election Commission of India should not be “yes man” of the government but “independent who can act independently” even if it comes to taking on the Prime Minister.
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice KM Joseph emphasised that the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commissioners should be “procedure-based and transparent”.
In a hypothetical poser to the government, the bench asked, “Do you think the Election Commissioner… if he is asked to take on none less than the Prime Minister, it’s just example, and he doesn’t come around to doing it – will it not be a case of complete breakdown of the system?”
The apex court was hearing pleas challenging the constitutionality of the present appointment process of CEC and ECs and contended that appointments were being done as per the whims of the executive.
The daylong hearing on the third day saw Centre reiterating its argument that the practice of the appointment of CEC and the ECs have worked well over seven decades and there was no “trigger” pointing to any acts of the poll panel adversely impacting the conduct of free and fair election s in the country, for the court to intervence.
Attorney General R Ventakaramani, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and senior advocate Balbir Singh, appearing for the Centre, said that if there is no law prescribing the procedure for the appointment of CEC and the ECs, then the “silence of constitution” on this aspect can be addressed by the parliament alone and not by judicial intervention.
They told the apex court that independence of executive was sacrosanct as independence of judiciary and there cannot be any outside interference in its affairs of the government.
The hearing in the case will continue on Thursday.
The petitions sought creation of an independent collegium or selection committee for future appointments of CEC and two other ECs.
The petitions stated that unlike the appointments of the CBI director or Lokpal, where the leader of the Opposition and judiciary have a say, the Centre unilaterally appoints the members of the Election Commission.
The apex court had referred a PILs to the Constitution bench on October 23, 2018.