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SC refuses to stay fresh appointments to ECI, next hearing on March 21

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New Delhi, March 15: The Supreme Court on Friday refused to stay the fresh appointments to the Election Commission of India, made under the legislation which excludes the Chief Justice of India from the process of appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and the other Election Commissioners.

“Normally, we don’t stay a legislation by an interim order,” observed a Bench, headed by Justice Sanjiv Khanna, as it heard a bunch of applications seeking to restrain the Centre from filling the vacancies in the poll panel in accordance with the Chief Election Commissioner and the other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Condition of Service and Term of Office) Act, 2023.

The Act provides that the CEC and the ECs will be appointed by the President on the recommendation of a Selection Committee consisting of the PM, the Leader of the Opposition (or the largest opposition party) in the Lok Sabha, and a Union Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the PM.

During the hearing, senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for a PIL litigant, claimed that the scheduled meeting of the PM-led selection committee was advanced to Thursday after the apex court on Wednesday agreed to urgently list the matter for hearing on Friday.

He urged the top court to decide the validity of the legislation introduced by the Parliament before the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls.

Without passing any interim direction, the bench, also comprising Justices Dipankar Datta and Augustine George Masih, said: “Mr Vikas Singh, let the application come up on record. We will examine it.”

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, the second highest law officer of the Centre, said that the interlocutory application seeking to restrain fresh appointments to the ECI has not been served to them.

Ultimately, the apex court posted the matter for hearing on March 21.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to urgently list on March 15 the pleas seeking directions to appoint the member of the poll body as per the March 2023 Constitution Bench judgment of the apex court requiring the appointment to be done by the President on the advice of a panel comprising the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition, and the CJI.

On Thursday, the Union government issued the notification for the appointment of former bureaucrats Gyanesh Kumar and Sukhbir Singh Sandhu as Election Commissioners. The decision comes days after the resignation of Election Commissioner Arun Goel ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. The other Election Commissioner, Anup Chandra Pandey retired last month.

IANS

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