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PIL In SC For Stronger, More Independent Election Commission Of India [Read Petition]

A PIL has been filed before the Supreme Court for strengthening the Election Commission of India making it more independent while also providing protection to the Election Commissioners at par with the Chief Election Commissioner.

The PIL has been filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay seeking direction to the Centre to “take appropriate steps to confer rule making authority on the Election Commission of India on the lines of the rule making authority vested in the Supreme Court of India to empower it to make election related rules and code of conduct”.

Upadhyay also prayed for direction to the Centre to provide independent secretariat to the Election Commission of India and declare its expenditure as charged on the consolidated fund of India on the lines of the Lok Sabha / Rajya Sabha secretariat.

Besides, he sought “same and similar protection to the Election Commissioners (EC) so that they shall not be removed from their office except in like manner and on the like grounds as the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC)”.

Upadhyay said: “ECI cannot function independently until the CEC and ECs are protected similarly, its expenditure is charged as consolidated fund and has independent secretariat & rule making authority.”

The PIL challenged Clause (5) of the Article 324 of the Constitution, according to which THE CEC can be removed only by way of impeachment whereas the ECs can be removed on the recommendation of the CEC and are treated as regional commissioners.

“The reason for giving protection to the CEC as enjoyed by the Judge of this Hon’ble Court in matters of removability from office is in order to ensure autonomy to the ECI from external pulls and pressure. However, rationale behind not affording similar protection to ECs is not explicable. The element of independence sought to be achieved under the Constitution is not exclusively for an individual alone but for the institution. Hence, autonomy to the ECI can only be strengthened if the ECs are also provided with the similar protection as that of the CEC,” it said.

Independence of ECI

The PIL said the ECI had reiterated that its expenditure should be charged on the Consolidated Fund of India. Subsequently, the government moved the Election Commission (Charging of Expenses on the Consolidated Fund of India) Bill, 1994, in the 10th Lok Sabha with the objective of providing for the salaries, allowances and pension payable to the CEC and ECs and the administrative expenses, including salaries, allowances and pension of the staff of the ECI, to be expenditure charged upon the Consolidated Fund of India. But, the Bill lapsed without being passed on the dissolution of the Lok Sabha in 1996 and was never re-introduced.

“Law Commission is of the opinion that charged budget would be a symbol of the independence of the ECI and will secure its unconstrained functioning & suggests that the Bill, which lapsed with the dissolution of the 10th Lok Sabha, needs reconsideration and the expenditure of the ECI should be charged on consolidated fund of India,” said Upadhyay, as he added that independence of the ECI can be strengthened further if its Secretariat consisting of officers and staff at various levels are also insulated from the interference of the Central Government in the matters pertaining to their appointments, promotions, etc. and all such functions are exclusively vested in the ECI on the lines of the secretariat of the Lok Sabha/Rajya Sabha and registry of the Supreme Court and high courts.

Read the Petition Here

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