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TN Seshan: The no-nonsense CEC who changed the face of Indian election system

TN Seshan: Born on December 15, 1932 in Kerala's Palghat, Tirunellai Narayana Iyer Seshan or famously known as TN Seshan is widely regarded as the man who single-handedly changed the face of Indian election system in the 1990s.

Shashank Shantanu Edited By: Shashank Shantanu New Delhi Published on: November 23, 2022 16:45 IST
TN Seshan, TN Seshan news, TN Seshan CEC, Supreme Court
Image Source : FILE PHOTO/PTI TN Seshan served as Chief Election Commission from December 12, 1990 to December 11, 1996.

Who is TN Seshan: "There have been numerous CECs and T N Seshan happens once in a while. We do not want anyone to bulldoze him. Enormous power has been vested on the fragile shoulder of three men (two ECs and the CEC). We have to find the best man for the post of CEC. The question is how do we find that best man and how to appoint that best man," a five-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Justice KM Joseph, and also comprising Justices Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy and C T Ravikumar, said on Tuesday. 

During a hearing on a batch of pleas seeking a collegium-like system for the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), the Supreme Court questioned the 'absence' of a law governing the appointments of Election Commissioners and CEC. The apex court also raised objections appointment of CECs for short duration.  

ALSO READ: 'Silence of Constitution being exploited': SC calls out Centre over short tenures of CECs

The court pointed out that since 2004, no chief election commissioner has completed the six-year tenure and during the 10-year rule of the UPA government, there were six CECs and in the eight years of the NDA government, there have been eight CECs. 

But why did the Supreme Court mentioned late CEC TN Seshan? 

Who was TN Seshan

Born on December 15  1932 in Kerala's Palghat, Tirunellai Narayana Iyer Seshan or famously known as TN Seshan is widely regarded as the man who single-handedly changed the face of Indian election system in the 1990s. Seshan served as Chief Election Commission from December 12, 1990 to December 11, 1996.

Known for his no-nonsense attitude, TN Seshan brought is sweeping changes in the way the Election Commssion worked. Untill 1990, elections in India witnessed largescale wrongdoings such as bringing voters, use of money and power to influence voting. Booth capturing, violence was a common phenomenon in states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal then. 

ALSO READ: SC says it wants to know whether there was any "hanky panky" in Arun Goel's appointment as election commissioner

Seshan dealth with these issues with an iron-fist approach and ensured that Election Commission transforms into a power organisation that just be an election observer machinery. 

During his tenure as CEC, TN Seshan introduced a list of over 100 malpractices during elections, including distribution of liquor, bribing voters, use of religion in speech by leaders during election campaigning and several others. 

Enforcing a limit on money spent on election campaigning, introduction of Model Code of Conduct and most importantly the Voter ID card were some of the steps taken by Seshan than changed the election system forever. 

TN Seshan's approach also saw him having rifts with ruling governments on several occassions. 

Seshan also served as the 18th Cabinet Secretary, the senior-most position in the Indian civil service hierarchy, in 1989 and later served as a member of Planning Commission. He event contested the 1997 Presidential election, but lost to KR Narayanan. 

TN Seshan passed away November 10, 2019 at the age of 86. 

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