Attorney General tells Supreme Court he differs with Centre on Election Commission’s autonomy
The Supreme Court is hearing a PIL on how rules to remove election commissioners and the chief election officer are different.
Attorney General of India KK Venugopal told the Supreme Court on Monday that his “view may not be consistent with the government’s stand” when it comes to complete autonomy for the Election Commission of India.
The Supreme Court in December asked Venugopal’s assistance on a public interest litigation that sought complete autonomy for the Election Commission.
On Monday, Venugopal told the court, “I appear in this case pursuant to your lordship’s order to assist you...My view may not be consistent with the government’s stand. You may seek the Centre’s response, and if the court feels my assistance is required, I will be present,” the Hindustan Times quoted him as saying.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice DY Chandrachud has now asked the Centre for a written response to the PIL in four weeks. The PIL was filed by advocate and BJP leader Ashwani Upadhyay, who argued that the rules to remove of election commissioners should be altered.
“The element of independence sought to be achieved under the Constitution is not exclusively for an individual alone but for the institution,” Upadhyay’s plea said, according to PTI. “Hence, autonomy to the Election Commission can only be strengthened if the election commissioners are provided with similar protection as that of the Chief Election Commissioner.”
The advocate was pointing to Article 324 (5) of the Constitution which gives the chief electoral officer greater protection from removal, as the process is similar to the one used to remove a Supreme Court judge, PTI reported.
However, the government can remove election commissioners on the recommendation of the chief election commissioner. He argued that the CEC and the election commissioners have the same decision-making powers, and the current rules used to remove the latter could allows executive interference.