ANI Photo | SC agrees to hear pleas challenging Election Commissioners’ Act dropping CJI from panel to select CEC & ECs on Friday

The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to list for hearing on March 15 pleas challenging the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners Act, 2023, which dropped the Chief Justice of India from the selection panel of Election Commissioners.
A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna, MM Sundresh and Bela M Trivedi said the matter will be listed for hearing on Friday after advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), sought an urgent hearing.
The bench said that it had received a message from CJI DY Chandrachud and would list the plea for hearing this Friday.
“I just got the message from the Chief Justice, the matters are listed for Friday,” Justice Khanna told advocate Bhushan.
The petitions were moved by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and Jaya Thakur (General Secretary of the Madhya Pradesh Mahila Congress Committee), Sanjay Narayanrao Meshram, Dharmendra Singh Kushwaha, and advocate Gopal Singh.
Earlier, the apex court had refused to stay the operation of the Election Commissioner Act, 2023, issued notice to the Centre and sought a response in April.
The pleas challenged the new election commissioners’ law that has dropped the Chief Justice of India from the selection panel for appointing Chief Election Commissioners (CEC) and other Election Commissioners (ECs).
The petitions stated that the provisions of the enactment are violative of the principle of free and fair elections since they do not provide an “independent mechanism” for the appointment of members of the Election Commission of India (ECI).
The petitions said the Act excludes the Chief Justice of India from the process of appointment of the members of the ECI and it’s in violation of the March 2023 verdict of the top court, which had ordered that the appointment of members of the ECI be done on the advice of a committee comprising the Prime Minister, the CJI and the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha until a law is made by the Parliament.
By excluding the CJI from the process, the judgement of the Supreme Court stands diluted, as the Prime Minister and his nominee will always be “the deciding factor” in the appointments, said the petitions.
The petitions in particular challenged Sections 7 and 8 of the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Act, 2023. The provisions lay down the procedure for the appointment of ECI members.
They sought direction from the Centre to include the Chief Justice of India in the selection committee for the appointment of the CEC and ECs, which currently consist of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha and a Union Cabinet Minister nominated by the Prime Minister.
Earlier, on December 28, the President gave assent to the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill 2023.
Notably, on December 21, the Lok Sabha passed the bill to regulate the appointment and service terms of the CEC and ECs.
The Supreme Court, on March 2, 2023, in response to a writ petition, directed that the appointment of CEC and ECs shall be made by the President based on the advice tendered by a committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha or leader of the largest opposition party in the House and the Chief Justice of India.
The Act replaced the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991

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