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Bill on Appointment of Chief Election Commissioner Listed for Sep 18 Parliament Session

The Election Commissioners Bill seeks to replace the CJI from the selection committee.

Representational Image. Image Courtesy: PTI

Bills on The crucial bill on the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) of India will be up for consideration and passing in the two Houses of Parliament during the special session scheduled from September 18 to 22.

The new Bill seeks to replace the current process of appointing the CEC and other Election Commissioners with a selection committee headed by the prime minister, one Union minister, also nominated by the prime minister, and the Leader of the Opposition (LoP) as its members. It will eliminate the position of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) in the selection panel, which has sparked concerns.

The Election Commissioners (Appointment Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023, is among the five bills slated for discussion during the special parliamentary session. The bill was first introduced in the Rajya Sabha on August 10. This was officially communicated by the Central government through two bulletins published on Wednesday.

The exclusion of the CJI from the selection panel is in contrast with a significant Supreme Court judgment from March this year. The apex court had recommended that the President would make appointments to the positions of the CEC and the three Election Commissioners based on the recommendations of the committee consisting of the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and the Chief Justice of India.

The ruling, delivered by a five-judge Constitution Bench led by Justice KM Joseph, was unanimous. It said that this procedure would remain in effect until the Parliament enacts a law regarding the matter.

Before the Supreme Court's ruling, the President appointed the CEC and Election Commissioners based on the government's recommendations.

Interestingly, ahead of the high-pitch 2024 Lok Sabha elections, Election Commissioner Anup Chandra Pandey is set to retire on February 14, which will create a vacancy in the Election Commission.

As outlined in the parliamentary bulletins, the agenda encompasses the consideration and passage of five bills. Among these, four bills will be presented in the Lok Sabha, with two having already received approval from the Rajya Sabha, while the other two are pending approval from either House of Parliament. One bill is expected to be deliberated upon in the Rajya Sabha, having been passed by the Lok Sabha on July 27, 2023.

Among the bills set for discussion in the Lok Sabha is the Advocates (Amendment) Bill, 2023, which was initially introduced in the Rajya Sabha on July 31 and subsequently passed on August 3. The proposed legislation aims to repeal the Legal Practitioners Act, 1879, and amend the Advocates Act, 1961, following consultation with the Bar Council of India (BCI). The bill also aims to provide sufficient safety and security to advocates and protect them from incidents of assaults, coercion and threats.

The remaining three bills listed for discussion during the parliamentary session are as follows:

Repealing and Amending Bill, 2023, which was passed by the Lok Sabha on July 2, mainly seeks to repeal 65 obsolete laws or those rendered redundant by other legislation. 

Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, 2023, passed by the Rajya Sabha on August 3, will abolish the Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867. It will provisions for the registration of periodicals, including publications containing public news or comments on public news. Notably, this excludes books and scientific or academic journals.

Post Office Bill, 2023, introduced in the Rajya Sabha on August 10, seeks to repeal the Indian Post Office Act, 1898, and address matters pertaining to the functioning of India Post.

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