The Union government on Wednesday listed a bill on the appointments of election commissioners as part of the legislative business to be taken up during a special session of Parliament that will begin on September 18.
Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi had announced on August 31 that the special session would be held from September 18 to September 22. However, the government had not announced the agenda for the session, which the Opposition had described as unfortunate and unilateral.
On Wednesday, bulletins issued by the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha listed the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Elections Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill for discussion in the Rajya Sabha.
The bill aims to constitute a selection committee for the appointment of the election commissioners consisting of the prime minister (as chairperson), the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha and a Union cabinet minister nominated by the prime minister.
This does away with the arrangement put in place by a Supreme Court judgement delivered in March, which had formed a selection committee consisting of the prime minister, the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha and the chief justice of India, till the Parliament comes up with a law.
Other bills to be discussed in Parliament are the Advocates (Amendment) Bill, the Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, the Post Office Bill and the Repealing and Amending Bill. The bulletins, however, said that the list of legislative business was “not to be taken as exhaustive”.
On the first day of the parliamentary session, a discussion has also been scheduled on “parliamentary journey of 75 years starting from Samvidhan Sabha – achievements, experiences, memories and learnings”.
Congress MP Jairam Ramesh claimed that the Centre released the agenda for the session only after a letter by Congress Parliamentary Party chairperson Sonia Gandhi to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Gandhi had said in the letter, written on September 6, that the special session had been convened without consulting any of the Opposition parties. The Bharatiya Janata Party-led Central government, however, denied the charge and claimed the session was called after following procedures.
“The agenda as published at the moment, is much ado about nothing – all this could have waited till Winter session in November,” Ramesh said on X, formerly known as Twitter. “I am sure the legislative grenades are being kept up their sleeves to be unleashed at the last moment as usual.”
The Congress general secretary in charge of communications said that the Opposition INDIA alliance will “steadfastly oppose the insidious CEC [Chief Election Commissioner] Bill”.
Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien questioned why the government said the list of legislative business was not to be taken as exhaustive. He asked whether it was an instance of “dirty tricks”.