The Supreme Court on Friday held that independent persons and not bureaucrats should be appointed State Election Commissioners.
A Bench, led by Justice Rohinton F. Nariman, in a judgment, said giving government employees the additional charge of State Election Commissioners is a “mockery of the Constitution”.
The top court directed that the States should appoint independent persons as Election Commissioners all along the length and breadth of the country.
What Supreme Court Observe:
- It said government employees holding the post of State Election Commissioners as additional charge should give up the post.
- The Supreme Court said its direction should be followed strictly.
- The independence of Election Commissions cannot be compromised at any cost, the Bench said, adding that it was “disturbing” to see government employees manning State Election Commissions as an add-on job.
- The judgment criticised the Goa government for giving its Law Secretary the additional charge of State Election Commissioner.
- “Under the constitutional mandate, it is the duty of the State to not interfere with the functioning of the State Election Commission,” the Bench said.
- The judgment came on an appeal against an order of the Bombay High Court which had set aside the election notification issued by the Goa State Election Commission in the municipalities of Margao, Mapusa, Mormugao, Sanguem and Quepem.
- The Supreme Court ordered the Goa State Election Commission to issue a notification for panchayat polls within 10 days and complete the election process by April 30.
About State Election Commission:
- The State Election Commission has been entrusted with the function of conducting free, fair and impartial elections to the local bodies in the state.
- Article 243K(1): It states that the superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of electoral rolls for, and the conduct of, all elections to the Panchayats (Municipalities under Article 243ZA) shall be vested in a State Election Commission consisting of a State Election Commissioner to be appointed by the Governor.
- Article 243K(2): It states that the tenure and appointment will be directed as per the law made by the state legislature. However, State Election Commissioner shall not be removed from his/her office except in like manner and on the like grounds as a Judge of a High Court.
Powers and removal of state election commissioner:
- The State Election Commissioner has the status, salary and allowance of a Judge of a High Court and cannot be removed from office except in like manner and on the like grounds as a Judge of a High Court.
- The ECI and SECs have a similar mandate; do they also have similar powers?
- The provisions of Article 243K of the Constitution, which provides for setting up of SECs, are almost identical to those of Article 324 related to the EC. In other words, the SECs enjoy the same status as the EC.
- In 2006, the Supreme Court emphasized the two constitutional authorities enjoy the same powers.