The Election Commission of India has told the Supreme Court that they have proposed that rule-making power under the Representation of the People (RP) Act should be conferred on it, instead of the Centre.
In an affidavit filed before the apex court, the poll panel has said they had made a proposal in 1998 to the then Law Minister to amend Article 324 of the Constitution which deals with its powers and functions.
The ECI filed the affidavit after the apex court on February 19 sought responses from it and the Centre on a plea seeking treatment of two Election Commissioners on par with the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) in the matter of removability.
"Rule making authority under the Representation of the People Act 1950 and Representation of the People Act, 1951, should be conferred on the Election Commission, instead of on the Central Government, who should, however, be consulted by the Election Commission while framing any rule," the ECI said in its affidavit while referring to the proposal it had submitted way back in 1998.
It said the proposal for conferring the rule-making authority to the ECI was reiterated in the proposal on electoral reforms sent by the poll panel to the government in July 2004.
"Thereafter, the aforesaid proposal was once again reiterated in chapter X of the aforementioned electoral reforms published by the ECI in December 2016," it said.
The ECI has also said that the element of independence under the Constitution was not exclusively for an individual alone but for the whole institution and the poll panel can only be strengthened if the Election Commissioners (ECs) were also provided with the protection similar to that of the CEC.
"The rational behind not affording similar protection to other ECs is not explicable. The element of independence sought to be achieved under the Constitution is not exclusively for an individual alone but for the whole institution.
"Thus, the independence of the Commission can only be strengthened if the Election Commissioners are also provided with the same protection as that of the Chief Election Commissioner," the poll panel said in its affidavit.
The apex poll body said that in order to ensure the independence of the Election Commission and to keep it insulated from external pulls and pressures, Article 324(5) of the Constitution provides that the CEC shall not be removed from his office, except in a manner and on grounds like that of a Supreme Court judge.
The poll panel submitted that this Article does not provide similar protection to the ECs and merely says they cannot be removed from office except on the recommendation of the CEC.
"The provision, in the opinion of the EC, is inadequate and requires an amendment to provide the very same protection and safeguard in the matter of removability of Election Commissioners from office as is available to CEC," the affidavit said.
BJP leader and advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay had filed a PIL seeking a direction to the Centre not to remove the two ECs from their office, except in a similar manner and grounds provided for removing the CEC.
The plea 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.
It has sought a direction to the Centre to take appropriate steps to confer rule- making authority on the ECI on the lines of that vested with the Supreme Court to empower it to make election-related rules and code of conduct.
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