Bill from Centre omits Chief Justice from selection process of poll officers.

The proposed Bill outlines a significant change in the process of appointing polling officers, with the President responsible for their appointment based on the recommendations of a panel consisting of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, and a Cabinet Minister nominated by the Prime Minister. This development, occurring in New Delhi, is expected to spark a fresh conflict between the government and the judiciary, as the new legislation will remove the Chief Justice of India from the process of appointing the nation’s top election officers.The Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Services and Term of Office) Bill of 2023, which was presented in the Rajya Sabha, seeks to modify the procedure for selecting top Election Commission officials. According to this Bill, the President will make appointments based on the suggestions of a panel led by the Prime Minister, accompanied by the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha and a Union Cabinet Minister nominated by the Prime Minister.This move appears to undermine a ruling made by the Supreme Court in March 2023. The Constitution bench of the Supreme Court decreed that Chief Election Commissioners and Election Commissioners must be appointed following the advice of a panel comprising the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition, and the Chief Justice of India. This arrangement was to remain in place until parliament enacted a law to address the matter.The Bill also outlines the composition of the search committee tasked with identifying five candidates for consideration by the Prime Minister-led panel. The search committee will consist of the Cabinet Secretary and two other secretaries of the central government. Additionally, the Bill stipulates that Chief Election Commissioners and Election Commissioners should have held a position equivalent to that of a secretary in the Government of India.Interestingly, in contrast to the proposed Bill, the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, introduced after a similar Supreme Court decision in 2014, retained the involvement of the Chief Justice of India in the selection committee for appointing a CBI Director.This fresh Bill adds to the ongoing tensions between the Supreme Court and the Central Government. The two entities have been at odds over various issues, ranging from the appointment of judges to contentious laws like the Delhi Services Act. Differences in opinions have also emerged between the government and the Supreme Court regarding the basic structure doctrine, which essentially asserts that the Constitution possesses an unalterable fundamental framework that cannot be modified by parliament.

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