New Delhi [India]: Amidst controversy over the functioning of the Election Commission of India (ECI) in the current elections, former President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday praised the role of the poll panel right from the first Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sukumar Sen to the present Commissioners but favoured a different method of choosing the Commissioners.
Mukherjee, who was speaking at a book launch function here, said: “There is some doubt about the functioning of the Election Commission during these elections. There should be a different method of choosing the members of the Commission. There may be some viewpoints.”
“Sukumar Sen was appointed by the executive. All the Election Commissioners have been appointed by the executives till date. All the judges of the higher judiciary are appointed by the Prime Minister and Law Minister. Till 1991, they were appointed with the consultation of the Chief Justice of Supreme Court. Now the judgment of the Supreme Court has been changed that it will be done by the collegium in consultation with the Prime Minister and Cabinet…,” he said.
Speaking further, he said: “I don’t think we have tried to make some improvement by having a different mode by a committee consisting of Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition and the representation of higher judiciary in some appointment to sensitive posts. To what extent we can be able to improve the quality of the functioning by changing the mode of the appointment.”
“If we want to strengthen institutions, we have to keep in mind institutions, which are serving well in the country. If democracy has succeeded, it has succeeded largely due to perfect conduct of elections by the Election Commissioner started from Sukumar Sen in 1951 to the present EC Commissioners,” he said.
The former President further said that Indian electorates have never lost confidence in elections.
“In 1952, for the first time, the adult franchise was exercised in this country. It was done successfully by civil servant Sukumar Sen. We started this journey in 1952. Indian electorates have never lost confidence in elections where all are willing participants,” he said.
“Extremists call for boycott polls but people respond with voting in large numbers. In the ongoing elections, 67.3 per cent participation was witnessed,” he said.
The opposition parties have attacked the Election Commission, accusing it of working at the behest of the Central government and surrendering its autonomy during the just concluded Lok Sabha polls.
They have also criticised the poll panel for giving a number of clean chits to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah on alleged violations of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC).
One of the Election Commissioners, Ashok Lavasa even boycotted the full commission meetings protesting against the non-recording of his dissent on the clean chits to Modi and Shah. There have been demands for making a collegium to select the Election Commissioners instead of the government appointing them.