The Supreme Court on February 13 refused to pass any interim orders staying the operation of a new law on the appointment of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners.
Appearing before a Bench headed by Justice Sanjiv Khanna, advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), said the elections were near and Election Commissioner Anup Chandra Pandey was retiring on February 14.
However, the Bench recalled that there were other petitions challenging the law and they had been posted for hearing in April. The court, issuing notice, said the current plea would also come up for hearing along with the others.
The court had similarly refused to order an interim stay on the implementation of the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Act of 2023 when earlier petitions filed by Jaya Thakur and Gopal Singh had come up for hearing on January 12.
The petitioners had, in one voice, argued that the 2023 Act diluted the Supreme Court judgment by replacing the Chief Justice of India in the high-powered selection committee with a Union Cabinet Minister.
Ms. Thakur, a Congress party leader, had contended that the exclusion of the Chief Justice virtually “nullified” the committee.
The new law had brushed aside the Supreme Court judgment. The judgment had directed the Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commissioners’ appointments to be done on the basis of advice tendered by a committee of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and, in case, there was no such Leader, the Leader of the largest Party in the Opposition in the Lok Sabha having the largest numerical strength, and the Chief Justice of India.
However, the new law had removed the Chief Justice of India from the committee to be replaced by a Union Cabinet Minister nominated by the Prime Minister, effectively giving the government primacy in the appointment process.