New Election Commissioners 2024

The high-powered selection committee chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has appointed two retired Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers, Gyanesh Kumar and Sukhbir Singh Sandhu, as the new Election Commissioners of India. The appointments were made on March 14, 2024, following the recommendations of the panel.

The other members of the selection committee included Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury. The appointments have been made to fill the vacancies created by the retirement of Anup Chandra Pandey on February 15 and the surprise resignation of Arun Goel on March 9.

Dissatisfaction expressed Over Selection Process

While the government has hailed the appointments as a step towards ensuring the independence and impartiality of the Election Commission, the selection process has come under scrutiny from the opposition. Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, who was part of the selection panel, has submitted a dissent note questioning the criteria used for shortlisting the candidates.

CJI’s Absence from Selection Panel Criticized

Another point of contention raised was the absence of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) from the selection panel. In a landmark ruling in March 2023, the Supreme Court had directed that the selection committee for appointing Election Commissioners should comprise the Prime Minister, the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, and the CJI.

The court had stated that this order would remain in force until a law was enacted by the Parliament on the matter. However, in December 2023, the government passed the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Act, 2023, which excluded the CJI from the selection panel.

Profiles of the New Election Commissioners

  • Gyanesh Kumar, a 1985-batch IAS officer of the Kerala cadre, retired as the Secretary of the Ministry of Cooperation in 2021. He holds a postgraduate degree in Economics from Harvard University and a B.Tech from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur.

During his tenure in the Union Home Ministry, Kumar played a key role in the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir. He also served as the Secretary of Parliamentary Affairs and was instrumental in setting up the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra Trust.

  • Sukhbir Singh Sandhu, on the other hand, is a 1988-batch IAS officer of the Uttarakhand cadre. He retired as the Chief Secretary of Uttarakhand in January 2023, after serving in the post for nearly two years.

Sandhu holds an MBBS degree from the Government Medical College, Amritsar, and a postgraduate degree in History from Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar. He has also served as the Chairman of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and as Additional Secretary in the Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development.

 


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