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The Supreme Court today said a copy of the plea seeking treatment of two Election Commissioners at par with the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) in the matter of removability, be served upon the Attorney General of India. A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud said it may seek the assistance of Attorney General K K Venugopal in dealing with the matter and ordered listing of the PIL for hearing after three weeks. Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, lawyer and Delhi BJP spokesperson who has filed the PIL, was earlier asked to provide the copy of the plea to the poll panel also. The petition has sought direction to the Centre not to remove the two Election Commissioners (ECs) from their office, except in a similar manner and grounds provided for removing the CEC. "The element of independence sought to be achieved under the Constitution is not exclusively for an individual alone but for the institution.
Hence, autonomy to the ECI can only be strengthened if the ECs are also provided with the similar protection as that of the CEC," the plea said. The plea pointed out that Article 324(5) of the Constitution protects the CEC from removal, except if the manner and grounds of removal are the same as a judge of the Supreme Court. It said the reason for giving this protection to the CEC was in order to ensure autonomy to the ECI from external pulls and pressure but the "rationale behind not affording similar protection to ECs is not explicable." It said the CEC and ECs enjoy the same decision-making powers, which is suggestive of the fact that their powers are at par with each other. "However, Clause(5) of the Article 324 does not provide similar protection to the ECs and it merely says that the ECs cannot be removed from office except on the recommendation of the CEC," the petition claimed. It also sought steps to provide an independent secretariat to the ECI and declare its expenditure as charged on the Consolidated Fund of India on the lines of the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha secretariats. "Direct the Central Government to take appropriate steps to confer rule making authority on the ECI on the lines of the rule making authority vested in the Supreme Court of India to empower it to make election related rules and code of conduct," the petition said. It has sought a direction to the Central Government to take appropriate steps to confer rule making authority on the ECI on the lines of the rule making authority vested with the Supreme Court to empower it to make election related rules and code of conduct.
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