THE Supreme Court Friday, in a significant ruling, held that the State Election Commissioner (SEC) has to be a person who is independent of the State Government.
A bench led by Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman held the assignment of additional charge of SEC to a Law Secretary to the government of a state to be against the constitutional mandate of Article 243K.
Article 243K of the Constitution vests the superintendence of elections to the Panchayats in a State Election Commission consisting of a State Election Commissioner to be appointed by the Governor.
The judgment comes as an indictment of the Goa Government for giving additional charge of the SEC to its own Law Secretary.
“The most disturbing feature of these cases is the subversion of the constitutional mandate contained in Article 243K of the Constitution of India”, the court, which was ruling on an appeal filed by the Goa government challenging Bombay High Court at Goa’s order, said.
The Supreme Court was hearing the Goa government’s challenge to a High Court order cancelling a notification commencing election to the 11 municipal councils – for not reserving seats for women.
“Giving an additional charge of such an important and independent constitutional office to an officer who is directly under the control of the State Government is, in our view, a mockery of the constitutional mandate”, the bench which also had Justices BR Gavai and Hrirshikesh Roy said.
Invoking its inherent power, the bench ordered that if there was any such person holding the post of State Election Commissioner in any other state, such person must be asked forthwith to step down from such office and the State Government concerned be bound to fulfill the constitutional mandate of Article 243K by appointing only an independent person.
The top court yesterday upheld the High Court’s order.