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Indian Case Summary

T.N.Seshan Chief Election … vs Union Of India & Ors on 14 July, 1995 – Case Summary

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In the case of T.N. Seshan, Chief Election Commissioner of India, versus the Union of India and others, a landmark judgment was delivered by the Supreme Court of India on July 14, 1995. The case was presided over by a bench consisting of A.M. Ahmadi CJI, Jagdish Saran Verma, N.P. Singh, S.P. Bharucha, and M.K. Mukherjee.

Facts of the Case

The case arose from a writ petition (civil) 805 of 1993 filed by T.N. Seshan, the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) of India, against the Union of India and others. The primary issue was the promulgation of an ordinance by the President of India, under clause (1) of Article 123 of the Constitution of India, titled “The Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Condition of Service) Amendment Ordinance, 1993”. This ordinance amended “The Chief Election Commissioner and other Commissioners (Condition of Service) Act, 1991”, and was published in the Gazette of India on October 1, 1993.

The ordinance made several amendments to the 1991 Act, including changes to the conditions of service of the CEC and Election Commissioners (ECs), the procedure for transaction of business by the Election Commission, and the tenure of office of the CEC and ECs. It also introduced a new chapter on the transaction of business of the Election Commission.

Issues Raised

The main issue raised by the petitioner was the constitutional validity of the ordinance and the consequential orders and appointments of the ECs. The petitioner alleged that the ordinance was arbitrary, unconstitutional, and void, and sought a writ of certiorari to quash the notifications fixing the number of Election Commissioners at two and the appointment of Mr. M.S. Gill and Mr. G.V.G. Krishnamurthy as Election Commissioners.

The petitioner further claimed that the ordinance was intended to sideline the CEC and erode his authority so that the ruling party at the center could extract favorable orders by using the services of the newly appointed ECs. The petitioner also challenged sections 9 and 10 of the ordinance as ultra vires the Constitution, arguing that they were inconsistent with the scheme underlying Article 324 of the Constitution.

Court’s Observations

The court observed that the concept of plurality is evident in Article 324, which clearly envisages a multi-member Election Commission comprising the CEC and one or more ECs. The court noted that the plain language of Article 324(2) envisages a multi-member Commission and, therefore, any exercise undertaken to achieve that objective would be consistent with the scheme of the said constitutional provision and could not be branded as malafide or ultra vires the Constitution.

The court also noted that the provision that the ECs and the Regional Commissioners once appointed cannot be removed from office before the expiry of their tenure except on the recommendation of the CEC ensures their independence. The court emphasized that this privilege has been conferred on the CEC to ensure that the ECs and the Regional Commissioners are not at the mercy of political or executive bosses of the day.

Conclusion

The court concluded that the impugned notifications providing for the other two ECs could not be faulted solely on the ground that Article 324 does not contemplate a multi-member body. The court also held that a provision to the effect that, in the event of a difference of opinion between the three members of the Election Commission, the majority view should prevail is consistent with democratic principles and cannot be described as arbitrary or ultra vires Article 14 of the Constitution. The court thus dismissed the writ petitions as wholly misconceived.