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Gyanesh Kumar, Sukhbir Sandhu Appointed as Election Commissioners

Gyanesh Kumar, Sukhbir Sandhu Appointed as Election Commissioners

On 14th March 2024, the government notified the appointment of ex-bureaucrats Gyanesh Kumar and Sukhbir Singh Sandhu as election commissioners, hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led high-powered committee sat down to fill the two vacancies in the Election Commission of India (ECI). Before this new appointment, the ECI only had the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), Rajiv Kumar.

PM Modi-Led Panel Appoints New Election Commissioners

A high-powered panel chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has appointed Gyanesh Kumar and Sukhbir Singh Sandhu as Election Commissioners. This marks the first appointment of Election Commissioners under the new Act of 2023. The Act mandates a selection committee comprising the Prime Minister, a Union Minister nominated by the PM, and the Leader of the Opposition (LoP) in the Lok Sabha.

Controversy Surrounds Appointment Process

Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury submitted a dissent note, citing issues with the shortlisting process. He revealed that only six names, including Kumar and Sandhu, were shared with him minutes before the meeting. This comes after the Supreme Court’s ruling in March 2023, emphasizing the inclusion of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) in the selection panel.

Appointment Details

Gyanesh Kumar, a retired IAS officer, brings vast administrative experience, including overseeing the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir. Sukhbir Singh Sandhu, another retired IAS officer, served as Uttarakhand Chief Secretary and played pivotal roles in various government bodies.

Challenges in the Supreme Court

Petitions challenging the new appointment procedure for Election Commissioners and Chief Election Commissioners (CECs) are set for urgent hearing in the Supreme Court. The appointment of Kumar and Sandhu follows vacancies due to Arun Goel’s resignation and Anup Chandra Pandey’s retirement.

Background of the New Election Commissioners

Gyanesh Kumar holds a postgraduate degree from Harvard University and has a background in Economics and Technology. Sukhbir Singh Sandhu, with experience in national and state-level roles, has a medical background along with a postgraduate degree in History.

Upcoming Responsibilities

The new Election Commissioners will join CEC Rajiv Kumar in steering the Election Commission. Their appointments come amid ongoing discussions about the transparency and fairness of the selection process for key electoral positions.

Supreme Court on Appointment of Election Commissioners 

After the appointment of new Election Commissioners, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear review petitions challenging the new election commissioners appointed under a 2023 law, objecting to the exclusion of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) from the selection panel.

After hearing the review petitions on 15th March 2024 (today), the Supreme Court of India decided not to stay the appointment of the new election commissioners under the 2023 law, which barred the Chief Justice of India from the selection process. The court has further posted the matter for hearing on 21st March 2024.

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