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Law ministry not inclined to extend constitutional protection to Election Commissioners

The Supreme Court had on Monday asked the government to file its response to a PIL seeking constitutional protection to the two election commissioners on the lines of the chief election commissioner.

Published: 21st February 2018 03:47 PM  |   Last Updated: 21st February 2018 03:47 PM   |  A+A-

Election Commission of India (File | PTI)

By PTI

NEW DELHI: The government is unlikely to extend constitutional protection to all members of the Election Commission regarding their removal, senior government functionaries have said, citing an over two-decade-old Supreme Court judgement.

The Supreme Court had on Monday asked the government to file its response to a PIL seeking constitutional protection to the two election commissioners on the lines of the chief election commissioner.

The poll watchdog had on several occasions told the government that the current wording of Article 324(5) is "inadequate" and requires an amendment to bring the removal procedures of election commissioners on par with the CEC to provide them with the "same protection and safeguards" as the chief election commissioner.

But the law ministry is learnt to have informed the Election Commission that a political consensus needs to be evolved before Article 324(5) of the Constitution could be amended to provide equal protection to the election commissioners in the event of their removal, the officials said.

A senior functionary said that the Supreme Court had also upheld the present provision that the election commissioners once appointed cannot be removed from office before the expiry of their tenure "except on the recommendation of the CEC" which "ensures their independence".

Quoting the 1995 judgement of the apex court in the T N Seshan Vs Union of India case, functionaries said the court has upheld the present system where only the CEC can be removed by Parliament following impeachment.

The other two ECs can be removed by the President on the recommendation of the CEC.

"It must be remembered that the CEC is intended to be a permanent incumbent and, therefore, in order to preserve and safeguard his independence, he had to be treated differently. That is because there cannot be an Election Commission without a CEC."

"That is not the case with other ECs. They are not intended to be permanent incumbents," the court had said.

The president appoints the chief election commissioner and election commissioners after the law ministry initiates the file for their appointment.

The chief election commissioner can be removed from office only through impeachment by Parliament. The President can remove the ECs based on the recommendation of the CEC.

The law commission had in its report on electoral reforms three years ago had also supported equal constitutional protection to all members of the poll watchdog. Originally the commission had only a chief election commissioner.

It currently consists of chief election commissioner and two election commissioners.

For the first time two additional commissioners were appointed on October 16, 1989, but they had a very short tenure till January 1, 1990. Later, on October 1, 1993, two additional election commissioners were appointed.

The concept of multi-member Commission has been in operation since then, with decision making power by majority vote.

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