Selection of Election Commissioners: Conflict of Interest?

supreme court

A piquant situation has arisen as the Prime Minister who along with a member of his cabinet have become ex officio members of the search panel for CEC  and two other members of EC, is repeatedly asking Leader of the opposition Adhir Ranjan Choudhuri to join the panel and Choudhuri as adamantly refusing to oblige. Choudhuri’s plea is that it is an unlawful panel as it is a self-serving instrument of the ruling party.The SC has not thought it fit to intervene at the moment though general elections are only weeks away. Parties who had earlier moved it to hold the PM or government guilty of contempt of court for ignoring SC’s own suggestions on composition of that panel  had been rebuffed.That perhaps has dampened enthusiasm for approaching SC again to challenge the composition of the new panel.

But I think the SC had interpreted the earlier move as bad in law as it seemed to challenge the very right of Parliament to pass an act on the composition of the panel. But that does not negate the Court’s power to examine the validity of such acts.

Indeed the present instance is a case in point. It clearly betrays a flagrant conflict of interest.And such a law certainly cannot be said to favour equal treatment of all.It is bound to prefer candidates who will serve the current government’s interests to neutral ones as members of EC. Indeed it will definitely tilt the scales of justice askew.  Choudhuri is right.

So it is a timely and appropriate step to ask the highest court to give its verdict on the Quixotic composition of the panel before a fateful election.

Hiren Gohain is a political commentator

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