The Supreme Court on Friday observed that a person associated or employed with the Centre or the state government cannot work as a state election commissioner.
The judgement came on an appeal by the Goa government against the ruling of the Goa bench of the High Court on panchayat polls. The bench said election commissioners have to be independent persons and no state can appoint a person who holds any office with the government.
A bench headed by Justice RF Nariman also directed the Goa state election body to issue notification for the panchayat polls within 10 days from Friday and complete the poll process by April 30.
Under the Constitutional mandate, it is the duty of the state to not interfere with the functioning of the state election commission, it held. It took strong note of the fact that Goa government has given its Law Secretary the additional charge of State Election Commissioner.
The bench issued the direction exercising its powers under Articles 142 and 144 of the Constitution. Under Article 142, the apex court is empowered to issue directives to do “complete justice” whereas Article 144 obligates all authorities to act in aid of the Supreme Court.
“The independence of the election commission cannot be compromised in a democracy. Entrusting additional charge of state election commissioner to a government official is a mockery of the Constitution,” held the court.
The elections to 11 civic bodies in Goa are scheduled to be held on March 20 and at least 2.5 lakh people are eligible to vote in these polls.
However, last week, the Supreme Court ordered to stay the verdict of the High Court’s Goa bench, which had set aside the notification of the state Urban Development ministry on reservation of wards in five municipal councils.