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Abuse of power? Supreme Court seems to be 'interfering' in all sorts of matters

Kamal Nath 
By NS Venkataraman*
It seemed surprising, even shocking, when recently the Supreme Court thought it fit to stay the October 30 order of the Election Commission, revoking the “star campaigner” status of former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath. Are the Supreme Court judges suffer from a superiority complex vis a vis that of the Election Commissioners?
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court appears to have failed to keep in mind that the Election Commission is a constitutional body, as much as the judiciary is. Both these constitutional bodies have a definite role to play and have been vested with authority to ensure orderliness and fair play in their domain.
The Chief Justice of India, heading a three judge bench, said the Election Commission had no power to determine who should be the “star campaigner” of a political party. The Chief Justice further asked the Election Commission “who gives you the power to determine who is the leader of the party. We are staying this order. You have no power.”
In recent times, the judiciary has been repeatedly accused of overreaching its powers and interfering in matters that have nothing to do with the interpretation of law and are entirely within the administrative power and responsibilities of the government. The Supreme Court has even interfered in matters relating to conducting NEET examinations and several other purely administrative decisions.
Who has given the powers to the Supreme Court to interfere in such administrative decisions? Judges seem to think that they have the inherent powers to interfere in all sorts of matters and sometimes, even take cases on their own when nobody has filed a complaint.
If the judiciary, which is a constitutional body , thinks that it has inherent and sky high powers, then it should respect the inherent powers of the Election Commission too, which is also a constitutional body.
In the last several years, the judiciary has repeatedly overruled the decisions of the Election Commission on various matters and reduced the status of the Election Commission to that of a litigant. Is it not a case of abuse of power by the judiciary?
In the process, the judiciary has systematically reduced the powers and status of the Election Commission and have virtually made it a laughing stock, eroding the independence of the Election Commission.
What is particularly unfortunate is that the Election Commissioners have not cared to challenge the judiciary for over ruling their decisions and they seem to have failed to realize the fact that Election Commission is an independent constitutional body. Now, the situation is so bad that Election Commissioners seem to fear the judges and hesitate to take decisions thinking that the judges may overrule them.
Why are Election Commissioners so submissive and lack confidence to assert their authority given to them by the Constitution?
Why are Election Commissioners so submissive and lack confidence to assert their authority given to them by the Constitution? As far as the election matters are concerned, the Election Commission should be the ultimate authority and their decisions have to be accepted in toto. If this would not be so, then there is no meaning in viewing the Election Commission as a constitutional body.
Probably one and perhaps the only reason why Election Commissioners do not protect the image and authority of the Election Commission is that most of the Election Commissioners are former bureaucrats, who are used to accept commands rather than deliver commands in their entire career.
Perhaps, if judges were to be appointed as Election Commissioners, then the judges in the courts would be hesitant to overrule the decisions of the Election Commission, since judges as Election Commissioners would protest and even defy the directives of the judiciary. Judges as election commissioners would quote the constitutional provisions and the judges in the courts would have to listen when confronted.
In ensuring peaceful, orderly and honest elections in India, Election Commission has the most important role to play. It would be a dangerous trend to belittle the Election Commission by the judiciary, as a weakened Election Commission would be the death knell for conducting fair elections and these elections are the essential aspect of healthy democracy.
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*Trustee, Nandini Voice for The Deprived, Chennai

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