New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government’s penchant for delaying key appointments in institutions closely associated with the anti-corruption and transparency movement has now extended to the Election Commission (EC).
A Haryana-based RTI activist and lawyer Hemant pointed out that former chief election commissioner (CEC) Om Prakash Rawat retired in December on attaining the age of 65 – which is the maximum prescribed for the post. Thereafter, Sunil Arora, who was the senior-most amongst the two election commissioners – the other being Ashok Lavasa – was appointed CEC.
This left the commission with just one commissioner. And till date, the post of the other commissioner has not been filled up.
EC made a three-member body in 1993
The lawyer-activist also noted that the commission was made a three-member body in October 1993, comprising a CEC and two election commissioners. In the past, whenever the CEC or a commissioner retired, the vacancy would be filled up immediately or at the most within a few days.
However, this time he claimed that there has been an “inordinate delay” in appointment and that too at a time when the country is headed towards general elections.
Delay more hurtful as elections approaching
“The ECI is scheduled to announce the poll schedule for general elections 2019 (17th Lok Sabha) along with assembly elections to the states of Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim where the five-year term of their respective houses is going to end by June 2019,” he said.
Apart from this, Hemant said, the Jammu and Kashmir assembly was also dissolved prematurely in November 2018 and may witness simultaneous elections.
In such a scenario, he appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to “do the needful” at the earliest.
Centre also delayed appointment of CICs, CBI chief, Lokpal
Incidentally, the delay in the appointment of the EC has added to the long list of positions which the Modi government has desisted from filling on time.
RTI activists have repeatedly pointed out, both in public fora and in the Supreme Court, that the Centre has failed to appoint a single commissioner – or chief – to the Central Information Commission without the courts intervening and nudging it to do so.
In the case of the ombudsman Lokpal as well, the BJP government has not appointed one despite it completing 56 months in office. The Supreme Court had to again intervene and direct the shortlisting of candidates for the post.
The matter of appointment of the new CBI director too reached the Supreme Court as despite knowing that the incumbent Alok Kumar Verma was due to retire at the end of January, the Centre appointed an interim director and did not make the timely appointment of the new incumbent.