10 Mar 2024

Congress Said This Over Resignation of Election Commissioner Arun Goel; How New EC Will be Selected

New Delhi: The sudden resignation of Election Commissioner Arun Goel just days before the scheduled announcement of Lok Sabha election dates has sent shock waves through political circles. While citing "personal reasons" in his resignation letter, insiders suggest that differences with Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar may have been a contributing factor.

Expressing "deep concern," the Congress has voiced apprehension over what it perceives as a disturbing trend of systematic erosion of independent institutions. The party warns that if not curtailed, this trend could lead to the replacement of democracy with a form of dictatorship. Questions are now arising about the fairness of the upcoming elections.

Democracy shall be usurped by dictatorship: Kharge

In a statement on social media, Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge questioned, "Election Commission or Election OMISSION? India now has only one Election Commissioner, even as Lok Sabha elections are to be announced in a few days. Why? As I have said earlier, if we do not stop the systematic decimation of our independent institutions, our democracy shall be usurped by dictatorship."

Kharge claimed that the Election Commission of India (ECI) will be among the last Constitutional institutions to fall victim to this trend. He also questioned the delay in appointing a new Election Commissioner since the completion of the previous commissioner's tenure. He said the new process favors the ruling party and the Prime Minister. Kharge called on the Modi government to provide a reasonable explanation.

Arun Goel's resignation, just ahead of the expected announcement of the 2024 Lok Sabha election schedule, has raised doubts about the previously anticipated timeline. His term was set to continue until December 5, 2027, with plans for him to assume the role of Chief Election Commissioner after the retirement of Rajiv Kumar in February next year.

The ECI, originally consisting of three members, now has a vacant position with only Kumar remaining on the poll panel. Sources indicate that the Lok Sabha election dates, initially expected to be announced next week, are now clouded with uncertainty.

Congress leader KC Venugopal criticizeD the lack of transparency in the functioning of constitutional institutions like the Election Commission, highlighting alleged government pressures. Venugopal draew parallels with the 2019 elections. He referred to the case of Ashok Lavasa, who dissented against giving a clean chit to the Prime Minister. Venugopal emphasized the need for the Election Commission to remain non-partisan to preserve democratic traditions.

How new EC will be selected?

Following Goel's resignation and the change in the appointment process for the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), the search committee, led by the law minister, and including two union secretaries, would initiate the process of shortlisting five names for the position. This committee would assess potential candidates based on their qualifications, experience, and suitability for the role.

Once the search committee finalizes the shortlisted candidates, the selection committee, headed by the Prime Minister and comprising a Union Cabinet Minister nominated by the PM, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, or the leader of the single-largest opposition party, would come into action. This committee would thoroughly evaluate the shortlisted candidates and ultimately choose the final candidate for the position of CEC.

It's important to note that under the revised procedure, the Chief Justice of India is no longer involved in the selection process. After the selection committee makes its decision, the President of the country would formally appoint the chosen Chief Election Commissioner or Election Commissioner, thereby completing the appointment process in accordance with the updated law.

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