Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) N. Gopalswami has strongly batted for changes in the selection procedure in the appointment of CEC and other Election Commissioner's (EC) and advocated a ten-year bar on them from entering politics after retirement.
He has suggested setting up of a selection committee headed by the Prime Minister with Lok Sabha Speaker, Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman, Leader of the opposition in two Houses and Minister in charge of Ministry of Law and Justice as its members to choose CEC and ECs.
In two separate letters to President Pratibha Patil last month, the CEC, who is engaged in a war of words with his colleague Navin Chawla, said that the EC Conditions of Service Act was silent with regard to the appointment of the CEC and ECs to any post or office under the government after their retirement.
He said in an increasingly fragmented polity where multi-party coalitions were becoming the order of the day, the role of the EC as a "neutral umpire providing a level playing field is assuming ever greater importance".
"More than ever before, there now is a felt-need to emphasise the neutrality of the Commissioin and the Commissioners," Gopalaswami who would be demitting office on April 20 said.
Observing that it did not appear appropriate to have retired CEC and ECs accepting offices under the government and "worse still, joining political parties," Gopalaswami said one way to articulate a strong sense of neutrality expected of them, "in my view, is to mandate against any post-retirement employment for the ECs".
Gopalaswami's remarks assumes significance as former CEC T N Seshan had contested elections after demitting office and similarly M S Gill became a Rajya Sabha member and subsequently a Union Minister.
Gopalaswami will be demitting office on April 20 when Chawla, the senior-most EC is expected to take over. The letters come against the backdrop of Gopalswami recommending to the President removal of Chawla on charges of "partisan" functioning.
The CEC also cited that the Chairman and Members of UPSC and Central Vigilance Commissioner and other Vigilance Commissioners were ineligible for further employment after retirement.
Seeking a change in the selection procedure for the appointment of CEC and ECs, Gopalswami said it would add prestige to the Commission if the Commissioners were chosen through a procedure in which the President has the benefit of getting a recommendation from a Committee that would reflect a bipartisan consensus.
"Such a broad-based Committee in my considered view will greatly add to the perceived sense of impartiality, neutrality and credibility thereby further strengthening the faith of the public in the institutional framework of the Election Commission," Gopalaswami said.
He said at present appointments to the post of the CVC and Chairman and the members of the National Human Rights Commission were made by constituting a committee which is bipartisan.
"It would be in the fitness of things to incorporate a similar procedure in respect of the appointment of CEC and ECs where the credibility and independence of the Commission is of paramount importance and the body is entrusted with the responsibility to deliver free and fair elections which is the very bedrock of democracy," he said.
It appeared that in order to nurture and strengthen the confidence of the political parties and the voters, a change in the selection procedure for the appointment of CEC and ECs was necessary keeping in view the changed political scenario in the country with its multiparty focus, he added.
CEC Bats for Changes in EC Selection
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