State Election Commission
Government official cannot be appointed as State Election Commissioners: Supreme Court
● Recently, The Supreme Court held that independent persons, and not government employees, should be appointed Election Commissioners.
● The top court also directed all government employees who hold the additional charge of state election commissioners across the country to step down immediately.
● The Bench held that people holding public office could not be appointed Election Commissioners and directed States to comply with the constitutional scheme of independent and fair functioning of election commissions.
1. Only an independent state election commission can fulfil its constitutional mandate. Elaborate.
About State Election Commissions:
● The State Election Commission is an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering elections to the 3rd tier of governance i.e. the Local Self Government, which includes the Panchayati Raj Institutions and the Urban Local Bodies.
● Article 243 K & Article 243 ZA were inserted to establish a State Election Commission in every state as a constitutional body with powers of 'superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of electoral rolls for, and the conduct of, all elections to the Panchayats and Municipalities in the State.
● State Election Commission consists of a State Election Commissioner, who is appointed by the Governor for a fixed tenure of 5 years and cannot be removed from his office except in like manner and on the like grounds as a Judge of a High Court.
● The State Election Commission is also responsible for delimitation of all the constituencies, which is done before every general election to the local bodies i.e. after every 5 years.
Issue with autonomy of state election commission:
● Since the Constitution vest the power to determine the service conditions on State legislatures, the service conditions are not uniform across the country.
● The provisions of Article 243K of the Constitution, which provides for setting up of SECs, are almost identical to those of Article 324 related to the EC, still State election commission are unable assert their autonomy to the election commission.
● State governments often entrust additional charge of SEC to a government official.
● According to The Second Administrative Reforms Commission, the State Election Commissioner (SEC) should be appointed by the Governor on the recommendation of a collegium, comprising the Chief Minister, the Speaker of the State Legislative Assembly and the Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly.
● As per the recommendation of the Law Commission, The Central government can provide a separate independent and permanent Secretariat for the SECs and Election Commission.
● Free and fair elections form the bedrock of a democratic state. An independent and autonomous state election commission, which is insulated from executive interference and political pressures is essential pre-requisite for the conduct of free and fair elections.