India: Court Orders Bipartisan Panel to Select Election Officers

Photo: Reuters

The Facts

  • India's Supreme Court has ordered the creation of an independent panel to appoint members of the Election Commission. It will include the prime minister, chief justice, and either the leader of the opposition in the lower house of parliament or the opposition party with the highest number of house members.

  • The ruling comes after the current Election Commissioner (EC) Arun Goel's appointment process took less than 24 hours. He was appointed to a term of five years, with the court calling a tenure of less than six years a "clear breach" of the law, citing section 4(1) of the 1991 Election Commission Act.

The Spin

Narrative A

As was likely the case with Arun Goel and many other election-related peculiarities in recent years, the ruling regime uses its power to appoint commissioners who are biased toward the incumbent government that appointed them. This ruling addresses the unconstitutional actions taken by the ruling party and, hopefully, the world's largest democracy is now set on a path of transparency.

Narrative B

While the high court rightly pointed out that election regulations should not be taken lightly, the Constitution doesn't actually provide details regarding who selects commissioners. The newly-mandated panel has no constitutional ties, and thus, this is an arbitrary ruling. This drastic change in election law could also have unforeseen consequences, with the next election only a year away.

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