Ex-CECs backed collegium, Law Ministry not too keen

A string of past chief election commissioners (CECs), notably B B Tandon and N Gopalaswamy, have written to the authorities seeking a collegium comprising opposition leaders as well to appoint the CEC, much before senior BJP leader LK Advani's recent missive to the Prime Minister in this regard.

Advani's call has since got the support of the DMK, a key constituent of the ruling UPA.

Not just that, a debate on fairness and independence of the CEC had also figured in the Constituent Assembly in 1949, where Professor Shibban Lal Saxena and Pandit Hriday Nath Kunzru had expressed doubts and proposed that the CEC's appointment be supported by two-thirds of Parliament.

Tandon wrote in April 2006, in his "personal capacity", to then president A P J Abdul Kalam proposing that a seven-member committee, headed by the prime minister and comprising the Lok Sabha Speaker, Union law minister, leaders of the Opposition of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha and a sitting judge of the Supreme Court nominated by the Chief Justice of India, be given the task of selecting election commissioners.

Pointing out the Administrative Reforms Commission recommended a collegium system for appointment of ECs, Tandon said: "I wrote to the President as I felt all such appointments should inspire confidence in all stakeholders, including political parties. There must be a perception that the right person has been selected for the post."

Gopalaswamy's missive to President Pratibha Patil on January 16, 2009, sought to make an even more stronger case, pointing to the fractured mandate of the polity.

Gopalaswamy's proposal was similar to Tandon's, with the exception of inclusion of members from the judiciary in the collegium.

Outgoing CEC S Y Quraishi, who demits office on June 10, too supports the move. Speaking at The Idea Exchange programme of The Indian Express in April, Quraishi had argued that "instead of the government alone nominating, it should be a collegium". "When we are attacked as stooges of the party that appointed us, it is annoying. But if we have the stamp of approval from a collegium consisting of the leader of the Opposition, the chief justice of India etc, nobody will raise a finger," he had said.

The Union Law Ministry, the administrative ministry in-charge of the EC, however, has remained unenthusiastic to the idea of a collegium. Law Ministry sources told The Indian Express that when the issue was examined after Tandon's recommendation, it was felt that there was no legal basis for a committee being set up to select the CEC and election commissioners.

Senior Law Ministry functionaries felt in order to implement the recommendation, an amendment to the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Conditions of Service) Act, 1991, will have to be passed by Parliament.

Please read our terms of use before posting comments
TERMS OF USE: The views expressed in comments published on indianexpress.com are those of the comment writer's alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of The Indian Express Group or its staff. Comments are automatically posted live; however, indianexpress.com reserves the right to take it down at any time. We also reserve the right not to publish comments that are abusive, obscene, inflammatory, derogatory or defamatory.