dmpq-Ensuring Transparency during the election process is the heart of democracy.” Comment on the statement by citing recent examples.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) is a constitutional body envisaged to uphold the values of equality, equity, impartiality, independence enshrined in the Indian Constitution and the rule of law in superintendence, direction, and control over the electoral governance.  It was established to conduct the elections with the highest standard of credibility, freeness, fairness, transparency, integrity, accountability, autonomy and professionalism.

However, over the last years, the ECI has faced multiple accusations regarding its independence and impartiality in electoral governance and the process of appointment of its members.  Perhaps, a more transparent and independent method in appointment of the members of the ECI, that is also free from a dominant participatory role of the Executive, is what India requires for a better functioning of the body.

Given that ECI is the institutional keystone holding up the edifice of Indian democracy, establishing a multi-institutional, bipartisan committee for fair and transparent selection of ECs can enhance the perceived and actual independence of ECI.

The quasi-judicial nature of ECI’s functions makes it especially important that the appointments process conform to the strictest democratic principles. Such a procedure is already with regard to appointment of the authorities such as the Chief Information Commissioner, Lokpal, Vigilance Commissioner, and the Director of the Central Bureau of Intelligence.

The Second ARC report recommended that an ECI collegium headed by the PM should make recommendations for the President for appointment of the ECI members. The Anoop Baranwal v. The Union of India (2015) case also raised the demand for a Collegium system for the ECI. A Bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud had also noted that the ECs supervise and hold elections across the country and their selection has to be made in the most transparent manner.

ECI’s constitutional responsibilities require a fair and transparent appointment process that is beyond reproach, which will reaffirm the faith of the people in this vital pillar of the Indian polity. The existing veil over the appointment process of ECs potentially undermines the very structure on which India’s democratic aspirations rest.

 

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