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Report No. 255

C. Permanent, Independent Secretariat of the ECI

6.13. Currently the ECI has a separate secretariat of its own, with the service conditions of its officers and staff being regulated by the rules made by the President under Article 309 of the Constitution, similar to other departments and ministries of the Government of India in connection with union matters. Officers at the higher level, such as the level of deputy election commissioner are normally appointed on a tenure basis on deputation from the national civil services. Lower level officers are permanent officers in the ECI's secretariat, from its own ranks.224

224. Mendiratta, supra note 161, at 187

6.14. To further strengthen the independence of the secretariat, consonant with the intention of the framers of the Constitution, the Goswami Committee in 1990 recommended that the ECI should have an independent secretariat, along the lines of the Lok Sabha/Rajya Sabha secretariats provided in Article 98(2), which permits the Parliament to regulate the recruitment and service conditions of persons appointed to the secretarial staff in either House of Parliament.225

225. Goswami Committee Report, supra note 113, at para 3

6.15. To give effect to the Goswami Committee's recommendation, the government introduced the Constitution (Seventieth Amendment) Bill, 1990 in the Rajya Sabha on 30th May, 1990. However, the government subsequently withdrew the Bill in 1993 in view of the changed composition of the ECI on having become a multi-member body (pursuant to the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991) and their belief that the Constitution Amendment Bill needed some amendments to reflect this change.226 The Bill was never re-introduced.

226. Mendiratta, supra note 161, at 187-188

6.16. The ECI relied on these two developments in 2004 to recommend the introduction of an independent Secretariat, which would be "vital" to the ECI's functioning, noting that its independence would be further strengthened if its Secretariat was insulated from Executive interference on the issues of appointments, promotions etc., along the lines of the Secretariats of the Lok Sabha, and Rajya Sabha, Registries of the Supreme Court and High Courts, etc.227

227. ECI 2004 Reforms, supra note 203, at 15

6.17. The Background Paper on Electoral Reforms prepared by the Legislative Department of the Law Ministry in 2010 reiterated these recommendations.

6.18. It is of paramount importance to ensure that the ECI, entrusted with the task of conducting elections throughout the country, be "fully insulated" T.N. Seshan, CEC v. Union of India, (1995) 4 SCC 611 from political pressure or Executive interference to maintain the purity of elections, inherent in a democratic process.

The ECI, the Goswami Committee and others are unanimous in their view that the ECI should have a permanent, independent secretariat to ensure its continued functioning as an independent, constitutional authority. The government too, has signified its in principle approval with the introduction of the Constitution (Seventieth Amendment) Bill, 1990, which was withdrawn only with a view to re-introduce a more comprehensive Bill.

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