Appointment of Anup Pandey as Election Commissioner likely to face legal challenge
Several petitions are pending before Supreme Court challenging the Government’s monopoly in arbitrarily appointing Election Commissioners. Pandey’s appointment as EC is also likely to be challenged
The appointment of Anup Chandra Pandey, former Chief Secretary of Uttar Pradesh, as Election Commissioner barely eight months before the Assembly poll in the state, have raised eyebrows. The 1984 batch IAS officer of the Uttar Pradesh Cadre is believed to be close to both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
Reports indicated that Pandey had met the Prime Minister several times to discuss the Ganga development project in Varanasi and also as member of the National Green Tribunal’s monitoring committee for the Uttar Pradesh chapter.”
Pandey, who became chief secretary on June 30, 2018, had served for 37 years in Uttar Pradesh. A mechanical engineer and MBA who also has a PhD in ancient history, will remain EC till February 15, 2024 when he retires. The other election commissioner is Rajiv Kumar, a retired IAS officer from the Jharkhand cadre. Kumar will turn 65 in February 2025 and retire after the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Pandey is a year older.
The last time a retired Chief Secretary was appointed an Election Commissioner was in 2015 when Achal Kumar Joti was installed in the EC. The former Gujarat CS went on to supervise Gujarat Assembly polls in 2017. Allegations had then been made about his partisan conduct and overruling complaints against BJP candidates and functionaries.
Former CEC S Y Quraishi had then pointed out that Election Commissioners were not required to even take any oath. “The oath that even IAS officers take retire with them,” he had exclaimed and conceded that the Government had monopolised appointment of Election Commissioners.
Even the Supreme Court had in 2015 wondered why appointment of Election Commissioners should not involve the Opposition and wider consultations. If the Director, CBI could be appointed by a collegium comprising the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of India and the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, there surely cannot be any objection to a similar collegium to decide on the appointment of Election Commissioners, the judges had observed. But petitions praying for a collegium have been gathering dust in the court since then.
Last month Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) again filed a petition before the Supreme Court asking for a more inclusive collegium, and declare the monopoly of the Government in selecting Election Commissioners as void.
The ADR petition had pointed out that a collegium had been proposed by the VM Tarkunde Committee in the 1970s, by the Dinesh Goswami Committee in 1990, by the Administrative Reforms Commission in 2007 and also by the 255th Report of the Law Commission.
Anup Pandey is credited with aggressively implementing Yogi Adityanath’s cow welfare scheme. It was under his supervision that Yogi Adityanath’s Rs 613-crore cow welfare project was implemented in 2018. The project was to ensure that abandoned cows were not left to roam or attacked for destroying crops. Over 100 people were arrested for cow-related crimes in 2018-2019. Many of the 600 cowsheds built under the project are believed to have become defunct because funds were not released after Pandey’s retirement on August 31, 2019.
In December 2018, Pandey was working on a vision document for Agra’s development when he shelved the plan, realising Adityanath didn’t want such a programme for the city of the Taj Mahal, a Mughal monument, a Telegraph report maintained on Thursday.