NEW DELHI, Dec 12: The government has decided to retain the status of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and other election commissioners on par with judges of the Supreme Court following protests by opposition parties and former chief election commissioners.
At present, the CECs and ECs enjoy the status of a Supreme Court judge.
The CEC and other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023 introduced in the Rajya Sabha in August this year had proposed to bring the status of the CEC and other ECs on par with the Cabinet Secretary.
The opposition parties and some former CECs had opposed the move, saying it will go against the independence of the institution.
Now the government has decided to move amendments to the Bill pending in the Rajya Sabha.
One of the amendments which Union law minister Arjun Ram Meghwal will move, states that “The CEC and other commissioners shall be paid a salary which is equal to the salary of a judge of the Supreme Court.”
According to another amendment, a search committee headed by the Union law minister comprising two other members not below the rank of secretary to the government of India, shall prepare a panel of five persons for the selection committee.
In the bill, it was proposed that the cabinet secretary will head the search committee.
Through this amendment, the government has upgraded the search committee by replacing the cabinet secretary with the law minister.
The official amendment also seeks to insert a new clause in the bill to protect CEC and ECs from court cases while discharging their official duties.
It states that notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, no court shall entertain or continue any civil or criminal proceedings against any and other person who is or was a Chief Election Commissioner or an Election Commissioner.
The new clause comes against the backdrop of the Telangana High Court placing under suspension a special sessions judge in connection with a “direction” given by him to police for registering an FIR against Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar and several others, saying the judge acted in “undue haste”.
Another proposed amendment made it clear that the chief election commissioner shall not be removed from his office except in like manner and on the like grounds as a judge of the Supreme Court.
It also states that the other Election Commissioner shall not be removed from office except on the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner.
These two clarifications are in line with constitutional provisions mentioned in Article 324 dealing with the Election Commission, a former poll panel functionary pointed out.
The bill is listed for consideration and passage in the Rajya Sabha for Tuesday. (PTI)