West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday hit out at the union government over the proposed law that excludes the Chief Justice of India (CJI) from the panel to appoint the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (ECs), saying the ruling BJP has bowed down to anarchy. Opposing the bill tabled in the Rajya Sabha earlier this week, Banerjee said that the role of CJI in the 3-member panel to appoint CEC is crucial.
“Amidst calls to bow down to the judiciary, the @BJP4India instead bows to anarchy!” the Trinamool Congress supremo wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
“The CJI’s role in the 3-member committee for selecting the CEC is crucial. We strongly oppose replacing the CJI with a cabinet minister in the EC selection,” she added.
The chief minister claimed that the plan to exclude the CJI from the appointment panel shows discomfort of the BJP which suggests that “their vote manipulation could suffer.”
“India must question this blatant disregard for the judiciary! Are they aiming to turn the Judiciary into a minister-run kangaroo court? We pray to the JUDICIARY for INDIA. My lord, save our country!” Banerjee added.
The Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Appointment Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023 seeks to replace the CJI with a cabinet minister as one of the three members of the selection panel to choose the CEC and election commissioners — the other two being the prime minister and the leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha.
The Congress has already opposed the bill citing veteran Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L K Advani’s 2012 letter to then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for appointments to Constitutional bodies on a bipartisan basis. Advani had proposed a committee comprising the CJI and leaders of the Opposition from both Houses of Parliament to select the CEC and the ECs.
Congress Rajya Sabha member Randeep Surjewala said, “The bill is an assault on the Constitution, the judiciary and people’s rights to elect their own government in a fair and impartial manner…”
Manoj Jha of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) said the composition of the selection committee does not bode well for the poll panel’s independence.
“I am shocked but not surprised at the manner in which the present dispensation will decimate everything that we thought was according to constitutional propriety or morality,” he said outside of Parliament.
The government, however, pointed out that it was the Supreme Court that ruled in March that appointments to the poll panel should be made on the advice of a committee comprising the PM, LoP in the Lok Sabha and the CJI until Parliament framed a law on the selection process.