The Supreme Court referred a PIL seeking collegium like system for appointment of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (ECs) to a constitution bench.
The Supreme Court referred to a 5 judge Constitution bench a petition seeking a transparent election process for appointment to the Election Commission of India.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and SK Kaul were hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed by petitioner Anoop Baranwal.
The PIL contended that the practice of appointing Election Commissioners without an independent and neutral collegium system to recommend the name is in violation of Article 14 and Article 324(2) of the Constitution.
However, the Union through Attorney General K.K. Venugopal opposed the petition by pointing to the impeccable and honest record of all past Chief Commissioners and urged the court to not intervene as the matter falls within the executive domain.
The constitution provision in question here is Article 324. It says that Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners will be appointed by the President but subject to a Parliamentary law, if there is one. Under the Constitution, it is expected from the Parliament to make a law but it has not been done that till date. In absence of law, appointment of CEC and EC are made by President on recommendation from Prime Minister. The court thought that there is “a gap in law” before referring it to the Constitution Bench.
The petitioners are claiming that by not making a parliamentary law which ensures transparency in appointment process, the present mechanism of appointment violate right to equality.
The petitioner specifically sought a direction to set up a collegium for the appointment of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (EC).
1) Does the current process of making appointments solely by Executive violate equality guarantee under the Constitution?
2) Does it violate separation of power principle if court issues directions/ guidelines for appointment process of election commissioners?