CEC Law be Struck Down as ‘Arbitrary, Severely Imperiling Independence of ECI’: Justice Nariman

Syllabus:  General Studies-II, Polity and Governance;

Context: Justice (Retired) Rohinton F Nariman, former Supreme Court judge said the recent Bill to regulate the appointment process of the Election Commission of India, be struck down as “arbitrary” and “severely imperiling the independence of ECI”.

Key Features of the CEC bill:

  • Appointment of CEC and ECs: By President on recommendations from a Selection Committee comprising the PM, a Union Cabinet Minister, and the Leader of Opposition in LS.
  • Search Committee: led by the Cabinet Secretary will suggest candidates to Selection Committee.
  • Eligibility Criteria: Candidates must have held a post equivalent to the Secretary to the central government.
  • Salary and Conditions: The CEC and ECs will receive salaries and benefits equivalent to the Cabinet Secretary, a change from the previous equivalence to a Supreme Court judge.

Key Highlights of the interview:

  • Need ‘independent’ governors: Referring to the Kerala Governor sitting over eight bills for a period of 23 months, he also batted for Governors with “unimpeachable integrity” to “independently” exercise discretion over giving assent to Bills and to send a report to the Centre if there is a constitutional breakdown in the state.
  • On onslaught on media: referred to the tax raids on the BBC office after it aired a documentary on Gujarat riots earlier this year and said that “the media is our watchdog and if it is killed, then nothing remain”
    • The tax raids should be termed ‘illegal and unconstitutional, if the court finds the independent reporting has led to the same.
  • On collegium: said that the present system is ‘worst’ but ‘there is nothing better’ available.
    • He suggested that for appointment of judges, there should be a collegium of retired judges which could be selected by the practicing advocates in the Supreme Court and High Courts.
  • On CEC bill: According to me, it (CEC Bill) should be struck down for the asking as an arbitrary piece of legislation, because it severely imperils the independence of the working of the election commission. I sincerely hope so. If it is not, it is fraught with the greatest danger to democracy
  • On Abrogation of 370: SC’s judgment upholding abrogation of Article 370 was a ‘disturbing feature’ of this year having ‘tremendous impact on federalism’ and there was a question as to why it was abrogated when there was already a President’s Rule in the state and the centre was administering it.
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