Lok Sabha Clears The Bill To Appoint Poll Officers

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New Delhi: Following a series of suspensions that saw most Opposition members absent from the House, the Lok Sabha successfully passed a crucial bill on Thursday. This legislation aims to establish a fresh framework for the appointment of Chief Election Commissioners and Election Commissioners.

Before its passage in the Lok Sabha, the Rajya Sabha had already given its approval to the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023. Consequently, the bill has completed its journey through parliament and now awaits the President’s assent.

During the discussion on the bill in the Lok Sabha, Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal highlighted that the existing 1991 Act concerning the service conditions of top election officers was insufficient, and the newly proposed bill addresses the gaps left by the previous legislation. The bill received approval through a voice vote.

Significant revisions were made to the legislation after objections were raised from various quarters. However, the Opposition has criticized the bill, expressing concerns that it could jeopardize the independence of the election panel.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court emphasized that election commissioners should be appointed based on the advice of a committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, and the Chief Justice of India. This landmark decision aimed to safeguard the top election body from undue political influence. Nonetheless, the court specified that this ruling would remain in effect until the government introduced a law.

The new legislation introduced by the government replaces the Chief Justice with a Union Minister. The Opposition alleges that this alteration grants the government more authority in appointing top election officers and compromises the autonomy of the election body.

During discussions in the Rajya Sabha about the bill, Congress MP Randeep Surjewala expressed grave concerns, stating that India’s democracy and electoral apparatus’ autonomy, courage, and impartiality have been severely undermined.

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