The Union government has planned to bring an amendment on Tuesday (12 December) that will ensure the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioner's (EC) salary and benefits are on par with a Supreme Court judge, instead of the previously proposed equivalence to the Cabinet Secretary.
On 10 August, the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023 was introduced in the Rajya Sabha by Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal.
The Bill proposed the establishment of a panel consisting of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, and a Cabinet Minister chosen by the PM. It also suggested equating the salary of the three-member Election Commission (EC) with that of the Cabinet Secretary.
This proposition was widely perceived as a downgrade in the EC's status, which is currently on par with Supreme Court judges, despite the salary of a Supreme Court judge and the Cabinet Secretary being identical.
Following the introduction of the Bill, numerous ex-CECs communicated their apprehensions to the government about the demotion of the commission's status, as reported by The Indian Express.
The Bill was scheduled for debate and approval in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, featuring amendments suggested by Meghwal. One of the key amendments put forward by the Minister includes substituting the parity of salary, leave encashment, and dearness allowance of the Cabinet Secretary with that of a Supreme Court judge.
Previously, the legislation suggested a Search Committee led by the Cabinet Secretary to compile a list of potential candidates for the Election Commission. However, the amendment now proposes the Law Minister to take over as the head of this committee, replacing the Cabinet Secretary.
The amendment also aims to modify the removal procedure for the CEC, aligning it with the same conditions and methods used for a Supreme Court Judge's removal. The draft amendment indicated that the ECs would be dismissed based on the CEC's recommendation.
Previously, the Bill maintained an equal removal process for the CEC and ECs according to Clause(5) of Article 324 of the Constitution, stipulating that the procedure should mirror that of a Supreme Court judge's removal.
The suggested modification introduces an additional provision aimed at safeguarding the CEC and ECs for measures implemented during their tenure.
The amendment states that, regardless of any existing laws, no court will accept or proceed with any civil or criminal cases against anyone who is or was a CEC or an EC. This protection applies to any action, statement, or deed committed by the individual while performing or appearing to perform their official duties or functions.
Nishtha Anushree is Senior Sub-editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @nishthaanushree.
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