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Petition In Supreme Court To Restrain Centre From Appointing Poll Officers

New Delhi: 

The appointment of two Election Commissioners, expected later this week, faces a new challenge in the Supreme Court. A Congress leader from Madhya Pradesh has filed a petition citing a 2023 order to restrain the government from appointing the Election Commissioners.

The two posts of Election Commissioners fell vacant after the latest resignation of Arun Goel and the retirement of Anup Chandra Pandey last month. The three-member Election Commission of India is now left only with Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar as the national elections are likely to be announced later this week.

Election Commissioners in India are appointed by the President on the recommendation of a three-member panel chaired by the Prime Minister. It also comprises a Union Minister and Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.

The high-powered committee is expected to finalize the appointments by March 15.

In her petition, Congress leader Jaya Thakur cited the 2023 order of the Constitution Bench that ruled that election commissioners must be appointed on the advice of a panel comprising the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, and the Chief Justice of India.

Terming the new law unconstitutional, Ms Thakur sought a direction from the Supreme Court for the appointment of the Election Commissioners in line with its 2023 decision. She said the inclusion of the Chief Justice in the appointments panel will ensure transparency in the process.

In its 2023 order, the court had said the judgment would hold good "until a law is made by parliament".

The government brought a new law in December to establish a new mechanism to appoint the Chief Election Commissioner and the two Election Commissioners. The new law replaced the Chief Justice of India with a Union Minister in the panel that finalizes the appointments.

Opposition parties had opposed the law, alleging it gives the government greater powers on the appointment of top poll officers and compromises the autonomy of the poll body.

The Supreme Court had earlier refused to pause the law while hearing a previous petition by Ms Thakur. Several pending cases on this subject are set to be heard in April, likely around when the country goes to polls.

Source: NDTV

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