Summoning CEC, EC to PMO is outrageous
- Recently, the Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners were summoned by the PMO to attend a meeting with the Principal Secretary to the PM.
- The PMO summoning or “inviting” not just the CEC but the full bench is in violation of the Constitution, irrespective of how important or urgent the issue.
- President could appoint ECI but could not order them, or remove them because of the constitutional scheme of things.
- An independent ECI is a gift of the Constitution to the nation. Free and fair and credible elections are sine qua non of the EC. The Supreme Court has repeatedly stressed this point, calling it part of the basic structure of the Constitution.
- The PMO summoning or “inviting” not just the CEC but the full bench is in violation of the Constitution, irrespective of how important or urgent the issue. Let alone the PS to the PM, even the mighty PM himself cannot indulge in this unacceptable act.
- There is no difference between the neutrality and independence of the Supreme Court and ECI in this context.
- Both are independent constitutional authorities deliberately separated from the executive. Not to speak of summoning CEC and ECs, the PS to the PM cannot even call on the ECI without public knowledge of the meeting and what transpired in it.
- Politicians of all hues visit the ECI regularly with their petitions or complaints or suggestions, but with full transparency.
- Transparency is the key word here and perception of transparency is equally important.
- The CEC is very high in the warrant of precedence — ninth, while the PS to PM is 23rd.
- How can such a high constitutional functionary be summoned to attend a meeting with an officer, howsoever high and mighty?
- The law ministry, which advises the government on all legal and constitutional matters, should have known better than convey that the PMO “expects” the CEC/ECs to attend.
What is ECI?
- The Election Commission of India is an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering Union and State election processes in India.
- The body administers elections to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, and State Legislative Assemblies in India, and the offices of the President and Vice President in the country.
Articles related to Elections
- 324 : Superintendence, direction and control of elections to be vested in an Election Commission.
- 325 : No person to be ineligible for inclusion in, or to claim to be included in a special, electoral roll on grounds of religion, race, caste or sex.
- 326 : Elections to the House of the People and to the Legislative Assemblies of States to be on the basis of adult suffrage.
- 327 : Power of Parliament to make provision with respect to elections to Legislatures.
- 328 : Power of Legislature of a State to make provision with respect to elections to such Legislature.
- 329 : Bar to interference by courts in electoral matters.
Structure of the Commission
- Originally the commission had only one election commissioner but after the Election Commissioner Amendment Act 1989, it has been made a multi-member body.
- The commission consists of one Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners.
- The secretariat of the commission is located in New Delhi.
- At the state level election commission is helped by Chief Electoral Officer who is an IAS rank Officer.
- The President appoints Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners.
- They have a fixed 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.
- The Chief Election Commissioner can be removed from office only through a process of removal similar to that of a Supreme Court judge for by Parliament.
Procedure of Removal
- Judges of High Courts and Supreme Court, CEC, Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) may be Removed from office through a motion adopted by Parliament on grounds of ‘Proven misbehaviour or incapacity’.
- Removal requires special majority of 2/3rd members present and voting supported by more than 50% of the total strength of the house.
- The Constitution does not use the word ‘impeachment’, for the removal of the judges, CAG, CEC.
- The term ‘Impeachment’ is only used for removing the President which requires the special majority of 2/3rd members of the total strength of both the houses which is not used elsewhere.
- This incident is a transgression that should not happen again.
- The distance of an arm’s length in interactions between institutions envisaged in the Constitution is sacrosanct.
- It should not only be maintained but also “seen” to be maintained.