Supreme Court Refuses To Stay New Law On Appointment Of Election Commissioners

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The Supreme Court on Friday refused to stay the new law that provides for appointment of the chief election commissioner and election commissioners by a panel excluding the Chief Justice of India.
A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta, however, agreed to examine a batch of petitions challenging the new law and issued notice to the Centre.

The bench asked senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for Congress leader Jaya Thakur, who sought a stay on the new law, to serve a copy of the petition to the Centre’s counsel.

“Please stay this law. This is against the separation of powers,” Mr Singh said.

The bench told Mr Singh, “No, without hearing the other side, we can’t. We will issue a notice.” Several petitions, including Thakur’s, have been filed in the apex court amid a political row over dropping the chief justice of India (CJI) from a panel empowered to choose the chief election commissioner (CEC) and election commissioners (ECs).

Advocate Gopal Singh has also moved the Supreme Court, seeking quashing of the new law that accords the central government sweeping powers to make appointments to the poll body.

The plea filed by Mr Singh has sought the apex court’s direction to implement an “independent and transparent system of selection, constituting a neutral and independent selection committee for appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners (CEC and ECs)”.

The new law states, “Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation of a Selection Committee consisting of — (a) the Prime Minister — Chairperson; (b) the Leader of Opposition in the House of the People — Member; (c) a Union Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the Prime Minister — Member.” The opposition has accused the Modi government of having defied the Supreme Court by dropping the CJI from the selection panel.

In its March 2023 order, the Supreme Court had said the prime minister, the leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha, and the CJI would pick the Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commissioners.

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