A large section of the media has "abdicated its role and become partisan", observed the Supreme Court on Thursday while passing a landmark verdict restricting the government’s powers to appoint the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners.
A five-judge constitution bench was hearing petitions seeking an independent mechanism for appointment of the top EC officials and had reserved its judgment. In a unanimous verdict on Thursday, the court ruled that these appointments will be made on the suggestions of a panel comprising the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India. It noted that these appointments need to “be insulated from the executive interference”.
It also criticised the “unrelenting abuse” of the electoral process and media bias. “There is huge surge in the role of money power and criminalisation of politics. A large section of the media has abdicated its role and become partisan,” the court said, according to a report.
Newslaundry has reported extensively on the media’s bias during elections. Watch a few examples , and .
“We declare that as far as the appointment to the post of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and the Election Commissioners are concerned, the same shall be done by the President of India on the advice tendered by a Committee consisting of the Prime Minister of India, the leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and in case there is no such leader, the leader of the largest party in the opposition in the Lok Sabha having the largest numerical strength and the Chief Justice of India,” the bench led by Justice K M Joseph said, according to the .
The court noted that no party had framed a law to specify the criteria and process for these appointments and the making of a law is required under Article 324 of the Constitution.
The court had reserved its judgment on a batch of petitions seeking a collegium-like system for the appointment of ECs and CEC on November 24 last year, according to ANI. These petitions were referred to a constitution bench in October 2018. While reserving its order, the court had questioned the Narendra Modi government on the “lightning speed” appointment of former IAS officer Arun Goel as the new EC a day after he took voluntary retirement. The court had raised questions on the process.