At a time when the West Bengal government is accusing the state Election Commission (EC) of bias, the Supreme Court of India on Friday said the independence of Election Commissions is sacrosanct under the Constitution and that no government can even give additional charge of State Election Commission to a bureaucrat serving under the government.
A bench headed by Justice R F Nariman while stinging the Goa government for giving law secretary the additional charge of state EC, who too faced lashing for trying to overreach the HC in a case relating to reservation of SC/OBC and Women seats in elections, said "Henceforth, all state election commission shall be headed by independent persons who do not hold any office under the state government. If they hold any such office, then they have to resign before taking charge of the office."The bench said it was appalled to find that the law secretary, holding charge of the EC, attempted to overreach the hearing of petitions challenging reservation of seats in zilla panchayat elections and "made a mockery of the constitutional mandate for independence of EC".
The Goa zilla panchayat elections were to be held in February last year. However with the case travelling from the HC to SC, it will now be held before April 30, the bench ordered.
The bench termed the attempts of the law secretary to overreach the HC by issuing a notification with lighting speed as the most disturbing feature of the case. This made the SC to use its powers under Article 142 of the Constitution to issue an all India direction barring appointment (or giving additional charge) of a serving bureaucrat as state EC.