How to make it easier for Election Commission transparency

Wishing the robustness of state institutions need not stem only from concern. Suggestions to buttress such institutions is, thus, welcome. As the Supreme Court highlighted on Tuesday, the Election Commission‘s functioning must be independent and appointment of election commissioners more transparent.

It is the manner of appointment – not the duration of tenure as mentioned by the court – that holds the key to greater transparency. Appointments that have wider non-executive endorsement, for instance, could serve this pivotal institution well, even better.

A judicious blend of executive, legislative and judicial approval – rather than the current format of presidential (read: executive) endorsement – would go a distance to remove any impression of lack of transparency or bias the court has mentioned being the case over decades under different dispensations.

Where the Supreme Court observation has conflated matters may be in its stern remarks regarding ‘truncated tenures’ being the source of alleged manipulation.
That it finds the ‘situation on the ground [to be] alarming’ sounds rather extravagant, considering the court is hearing petitions recommending reforms in the process of appointment of EC members, CEC included, not US-style charges of ‘electoral appropriation’. Also, the supposed ‘shortness’ of tenure of EC members bears little weight on institutional independence. Appointments start for EC, some of whom graduate as CEC, not a brief period of time by any measure.

As for the court’s wish to have a CEC ‘like T N Seshan‘, that would be a personality-based wish, not an input for institutional bulwark. One suggestion that could be worth pursuing, though, is expanding the pool for EC members to members beyond the civil service.

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