Constitution vested enormous power on the fragile shoulders of the election commissioner, says SCtext_fields
New Delhi: The Supreme Court said the Constitution has vested enormous powers on the "fragile shoulder" of the chief election commissioner and it wants the CEC of a strong character like former CEC late T N Seshan. The five-judge Constitution bench said it aims to put a system in place so that the "best man" is selected as the CEC.
"There have been numerous CECs and T N Seshan happens once in a while. We do not want anyone to bulldoze him. Enormous power has been vested on the fragile shoulder of three men (two ECs and the CEC). We have to find the best man for the post of CEC. The question is how do we find that best man and how to appoint that best man," said the bench headed by Justice K M Joseph and also comprising justices Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy, and C T Ravikumar.
Seshan is a former cabinet secretary to the Union government and was appointed as the election commissioner (EC) on December 12, 1990, with a tenure till December 11, 1996. He completed his six-year tenure and died on November 10, 2019.
The bench also said Article 324 does not provide the procedure for such appointments. "The article had envisaged the enactment of a law by Parliament in this regard, which has not been done in the last 72 years, leading to exploitation by the Centre." The court pointed out that no CEC has completed the six-year tenure since 2004. "During the 10-year rule of the UPA government, there were six CECs and in the eight years of the NDA government, there have been eight CECs."
The bench told Attorney General R Venkataramani that it is important the top court put a fairly good procedure so that apart from competence, someone of strong character is appointed as the CEC. Representing the Centre, Venkataramani said nobody can have any objection to it and in his view, even the government is not going to oppose the appointment of the best man, but the question is how it can be done.
The bench further said: "Democracy is a basic structure of the Constitution. There is no debate about that. We also cannot tell Parliament to do something and we will not do that. We just want to do something about the issue that has been raised since 1990. The situation on the ground is alarming. We know that there will be opposition from the ruling party to not allow us to go past the present system."
The Supreme Court also called the exploitation of the "silence of the Constitution" and the absence of a law governing the appointments of ECs and CECs a "disturbing trend".