ANI Photo | Modi govt committed to maintaining impartiality of all institutions: Arjun Ram Meghwal in Rajya Sabha

Union Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal on Tuesday said that the functioning of the Election Commission is impartial and that Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government is committed to maintaining the impartiality of all the institutions.
The Union Minister was replying to the debate in Rajya Sabha on the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023, which was moved by him earlier today for its consideration and passage.
A total of 26 members participated in the debate, which witnessed arguments and counter-arguments from both the Opposition and Treasury Benches.
During his address, Meghwal said, “The functioning of the Election Commission is impartial and the government led by PM Modi is committed to maintaining the impartiality of all the institutions and there is no doubt about it.”
The remarks of the Union Minister came after the opposition members argued that the legislation, if passed would lower the status of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners.
The opposition mainly flagged the concerns over clause 7 of the bill which asks for the constitution of a Selection Committee, consisting of the Prime Minister, a Union Cabinet Minister, and the Leader of the Opposition or leader of the largest opposition party in Lok Sabha for the appointment of CEC and ECs.
Aam Aadmi Party MP Raghav Chadha alleged that the Centre through this bill is attempting to overturn the Supreme Court’s March 2 order. “Which stated that there should not be any interference from the government in the appointment of the Election Commission,” he said.
“To end this, we constitute a committee, in which the Chief Justice is replaced with a Cabinet Minister. So that a system should be created in which the person who they want will become the Chief Election Commissioner,” Chadha argued during the debate.
Union Minister, targeting Congress, said that those who have not introspected themselves are giving knowledge today.
“How did you appoint Naveen Chawla and MS Gill (the former Chief Election Commissioners)? Everyone knew the ideology. But we don’t want to go into that,” Meghwal said.
As per the Bill, the CEC and ECs will be appointed by the President upon the recommendation of a Selection Committee, which will consist of the Prime Minister, a Union Cabinet Minister, and the Leader of the Opposition or leader of the largest opposition party in Lok Sabha.
Meghwal said now they are opposing the Prime Minister’s inclusion into the selection committee.
“The first sentence of our Constitution says, we the people of India. The people of this country elected the Prime Minister. And the PM should not be on the selection committee? I don’t understand what kind of argument they were making. And doesn’t the Prime Minister have any role in executive function?” he added.
The bill replaces the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991. Earlier, the bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on August 10 of this year.
He said that the bill is for ‘limited purposes’ and that had the 1991 Act mentioned the provision for the appointment of ECs and the CEC then the government wouldn’t have introduced the legislation.
“On August 10, I introduced the bill in Rajya Sabha. It replaces the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991, which doesn’t have an appointment provision. That’s why we have added that,” he added.
Earlier today while moving the bill for its consideration and passage, Meghwal said that the legislation has been brought in response to the Supreme Court’s March 2, 2023, order.
“This bill was introduced in this House on 10 August 2023, replacing the (earlier) Act of 1991. In that, other things were fine but there was no provision for an appointment. And you are aware that on March 2, 2023, while hearing a PIL, gave a judgment, (which states) until the Parliament makes a law in consonance with Article 324(2) of the Constitution. So in pursuance of this decision, the government has brought this bill,” he had said.
Moreover, as per the bill, the salary and conditions of service of the CEC and ECs will be equivalent to that of the Cabinet Secretary. Under the 1991 Act, it was equivalent to the salary of a Supreme Court judge.
The selection process of the Election Commission may be dominated by the government, which has implications for its independence.
Accepting the Selection Committee’s recommendations in spite of a vacancy in its constitution may effectively lead to a monopoly of government members in selecting candidates.
Making the CEC and EC’s salary equivalent to the Cabinet Secretary may lead to government influence as it is fixed by the government. This is unlike the salary of a Supreme Court judge, which is fixed through an Act of Parliament.
CECs and ECs also perform quasi-judicial functions. Limiting these posts to senior bureaucrats may exclude other suitable candidates

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