Supreme Court has a case about Election Commission. Some want a collegium to appoint Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners. The bench consists of Justices K. M. Joseph, Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy and C. T. Ravikumar.
The bench said CEC should be someone with character who does not allow himself to be bulldozed and a person like former CEC T. N. Seshan happens once in a while.
- N. Seshan became CEC because as a bureaucrat he was servile. As Defence Secretary he rejected a report he had prepared as Environment Secretary. He did his master’s bidding. He did not show character and was bulldozed. He became Cabinet Secretary and CEC. He was CEC from 12/12/1990 to 11/12/1996.
As CEC he favoured Congress. In 1991 Congress did not have majority. It had not contested Lok Sabha elections in Punjab. Voting was due on 22/6/1991. On 21/6/1991 P. V. Narasimha Rao government came to power. That day T. N. Seshan postponed Punjab voting to 25/9/1991. That gave Congress time to bring a law to countermand Punjab elections.
Soon Congress found T. N. Seshan was out of control. It made Election Commission a multi-member body and brought in G. V. G. Krishnamoorthy and Mohinder Singh Gill as ECs.
Later T. N. Seshan talked of reforms. He became popular. He started to stretch elections over a long period of time with multi-phase voting and club multiple state elections together. He tried to control election expenditure. He did not succeed because law was changed so that expenditure by party did not count as expenditure by candidate.
He appeared in a TV ad in which he said he eats politicians raw.
There was fight between T. N. Seshan and ECs. T. N. Seshan went to Supreme Court and lost.
After retirement T. N. Seshan contested Presidential election in 1997 and lost. He joined Congress and contested Lok Sabha 1999 election from Gandhinagar and lost.
Subsequent CECs and ECs have continued with multi-phase voting and clubbing multiple state elections together. Recent example is of Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat elections. People of Himachal Pradesh have to wait for 26 days to know the results while in Gujarat it is 7 days or 3 days.
The bench said CEC does not get full six years because he retires at 65 and so independence gets thwarted. CJIs mostly get less than two years. That does not affect independence of judiciary.
It is a bad idea to have a collegium with CJI as member to select CECs and ECs. Judges should concentrate on judicial work and clear cases pending for years instead of taking executive functions. CJI is a member of collegium or committee that selects CBI Directors. That has not made CBI Directors independent.