Gyanesh Kumar, Sukhbir Singh Sandhu named new Election Commissioners

Gyanesh Kumar, Sukhbir Singh Sandhu named new Election Commissioners

Appointment of Election Commissioners:

  • Appointees: Former IAS officers Gyanesh Kumar and Sukhbir Singh Sandhu were appointed as election commissioners.
  • Selection Process: Approved by the PM-led selection committee, attended by home minister Amit Shah and leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.
  • Chowdhury’s Dissent: Raised questions over the procedure, calling it a “mere formality” as he was given a shortlist of six candidates “just 10 minutes before the meeting”.
  • Vacancies: Due to completion of Anup Chandra Pandey’s tenure in February and sudden resignation of Arun Goel on March 8.
  • Roles: Gyanesh Kumar will replace Rajiv Kumar as the next Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) in February 2025.

Background of Gyanesh Kumar:

  • Career: 1988-batch IAS officer from the Kerala cadre, worked with Union Home Minister Amit Shah before.
  • Experience: Retired as secretary in the Ministry of Cooperation, which comes under Amit Shah, on January 31, 2024. Also served as the secretary in the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs.
  • Key Role: In charge of the Kashmir division in the home ministry when Article 370 was nullified in J&K, involved in formation of the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust.
  • Notable Achievement: Led successful evacuation of 183 Indians, including 70 from Kerala, from Iraq in 2014.

Background of Sukhbir Singh Sandhu:

  • Career: 1988-batch IAS officer from the Uttarakhand cadre.
  • Experience: Served as the chief secretary of Uttarakhand until July 2023, prepared the ground for implementation of Uniform Civil Code in the state, and was closely involved in the reconstruction efforts of Kedarnath temple.
  • Education: MBBS from Amritsar Medical College and also has a master’s degree in history.

Selection Process Controversy:

  • Procedure: A search committee led by the Union Law Minister prepares a shortlist, followed by a selection panel led by the Prime Minister, comprising the Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha and a Union Minister.
  • Court Ruling: In March last year, the Supreme Court ruled that the PM-led panel must also have the Chief Justice of India as a member, but later, the Union government brought a law to replace the Chief Justice by a Union Minister.
  • Chowdhury’s Statement: He sought a shortlist of candidates from the government to give an informed opinion about their abilities and integrity, but received a list of 212 candidates instead, examining it in a matter of 12 hours. He was given a list of six names just ahead of the meeting, which he opposed.

Future Implications:

  • Seniority: It remains to be seen who will succeed chief election commissioner Rajiv Kumar whose tenure ends in Feb 2025, as per convention, the senior-most election commissioner is appointed as the CEC, and seniority is counted from the day of the member joining the commission.
  • Tenure: Kumar will have a five-year tenure till Jan 2029, when he turns 65. Sandhu will have a tenure of four-and-a-half years until July 2028.
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