Election Commission of India
(Article 324 of Part XV of Indian Constitution)
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
- The Election Commission of India is an autonomous and permanent constitutional authority responsible for administering election processes in India.
- The body administers elections to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, state Legislative Assemblies, state legislative Councils, and the offices of the President and Vice President of the country.
- The Election Commission operates under the authority of Constitution as per Article 324, and subsequently enacted Representation of the People Act.
- Article 324 to 329 of the constitution deals with powers, function, tenure, eligibility, etc. of the commission and the member.
Election Commission – A Constitutional Body
- Election Commission of India is a permanent Constitutional Body.
- The Election Commission was established in accordance with the Constitution on 25th January 1950.
- Originally the commission had only a Chief Election Commissioner. It currently consists of Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners.
- For the first time two additional Commissioners were appointed on 16th October 1989 but they had a very short tenure till 1st January 1990. Later, on 1st October 1993 two additional Election Commissioners were appointed.
- The concept of multi-member Commission has been in operation since then, with decision making power by majority vote.
Composition or Structure of the Commission
- Article 324 provides for the following in respect to the composition of the Election Commission –
- The Election Commission shall consist of the chief election commissioner and such number of other election commissioners, if any, as the president may from time to time fix.
- The appointment of all election Commissioners to be made by the president.
- When any other election commissioner is so appointed, the chief election commissioner shall act as the chairman of the election commission.
- The president may also appoint after consultation with the election commission such regional commissioners as he may consider necessary to assist the election commission.
- The conditions of service and tenure of office of the election commissioners and the regional commissioners shall be determined by the president.
- As mentioned above, from the formation of the Election Commission till 15 Oct 1989, the Election Commission of India functioned as single member body.
- But, on 16 October 1989, the president appointed two more election commissioners to deal with the increased work of the election commission due to lowering of the voting age from 21 to 18 years. (61st Amendment Act, 1988)
Appointment & Tenure of Commissioners
- The President appoints Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners.
- They have tenure of 6 years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
- They enjoy the same status and receive salary and perks as available to Judges of the Supreme Court of India.
- They can resign at any time or can also be removed before the expiry of their term.
- The Chief Election Commissioner can be removed from office only through impeachment by Parliament.
Independence of Election Commission of India
- There are following Provisions made by Indian Constitution to safeguard and ensure the independence and impartial functioning of Election Commission –
- The Chief Election Commissioner is provided with the security of tenure. He holds office for a term of 6 years from the date he assumes office or till he attains the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
- The Chief Election Commissioner cannot be removed from his office except in like manner and grounds as a Judge of the Supreme Court i.e. he can be removed by the president on the basis of a resolution passed by both the Houses of Parliament with special majority, either on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity.
- Any other election commissioner or a regional commissioner cannot be removed from office except on the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner.
- The service conditions of the Chief Election Commissioner cannot be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment.
Procedure of Removal
- The Chief Election Commissioner may be removed from his office through a motion adopted by Parliament on grounds of ‘Proven misbehaviour or incapacity’.
- Removal requires special majority of 2/3rd members present and voting supported by more than 50% of the total strength of the house.
- Article 324 – broadly speaks of the functions of EC and its composition.
- Article 325 – there shall be one general electoral roll for every territorial constituency for election to either Houses of Parliament or State legislature. It establishes equality among citizens by affirming that no person shall be ineligible for inclusion in the electoral roll on the grounds of religion, race, caste or sex.
- Article 326 – lays down adult suffrage as the basis of elections to the Lok Sabha and to the Legislative Assemblies of States.
- Article 327 – confers on Parliament the power to make provisions with respect to elections to federal and State Legislatures.
- Article 328 – confers on State Legislature the power to make laws with respect to elections to such legislature.
- Article 329 – bars interference by courts in electoral matters. Notwithstanding anything said in the constitution i.e. validity of any law relating to the delimitation of constituencies or the allotment of seats to such constituencies shall not be called in question in any court.
Powers and Functions of Election Commission of India
- The powers and functions of the Election Commission with regard to various elections can be classified into three categories –
- Details are as follows –
- To prepare and revise electoral rolls for election to the Parliament, State Legislatures, Local Bodies and to the offices of the President and the Vice-President.
- To determine the territorial areas of the electoral constituencies throughout the country and delimiting constituencies for election to the Parliament and to State Legislatures.
- Notifying the dates and schedules of elections.
- Establishing and enforcing code of conduct.
- Scrutinizing the nomination papers of candidates.
- Sets limits of campaign expenditure per candidate to all the political parties, and also monitors the same.
- Scrutinizing election expenses.
- Allotment of symbols and giving recognition to political parties.
- Giving advice to the President and Governors on disqualification of MPs and MLAs.
- Granting exemptions to persons from disqualifications imposed by judicial decision.
- Declaring election results after proper counting and to cancel elections in a constituency if the need arises.
- Advising the President or the Governor regarding all electoral matters including disqualification of members.
- Preparing guidelines for model code of conduct for political parties, voters and candidates during election campaign.
- Performing quasi-judicial functions.
- Requesting the president or the governor for requisitioning the staff necessary for conducting elections.
- Superintendents, direct and control the entire process of conducting elections.
- Election Commission of India appoints the following-
- Chief Electoral Officer – Election Commission of India in consultation with State Government/Union Territory Administration nominates or designates an Officer as the Chief Electoral Officer to supervise the election work.
- District Election Officer – Election Commission of India in consultation with the State Government/ Union Territory Administration designates an officer to supervise the election work of a district.
- Returning Officer – Election Commission of India in consultation with State Government/Union Territory Administration nominates an officer of the Government or a local authority as the Returning Officer for each assembly and parliamentary constituency. Returning Officer is responsible for the conduct of elections in the parliamentary or assembly constituency and may be assisted by one or more Assistant Returning Officers (again appointed by ECI) in the performance of his functions.
- Electoral Registration Officer – Election Commission of India appoints the officer of State or local government as Electoral Registration Officer for the preparation of Electoral rolls for a parliamentary/ assembly constituency.
New Initiatives and Reforms
- Over the years, the Commission has brought several reforms in the electoral processes. A few are summarized below –
- Use of state-owned Electronic Media for broadcast/telecast by political parties.
- Checking criminalization of Politics.
- Computerization of electoral rolls.
- Providing voters with Identity Cards.
- Simplifying the accounts maintenance and filling procedures by candidates.
- A variety of measures for strict compliance of Model Code of Conduct, to conduct fair elections.
- “None of the above” button – In 2013, SC passed a landmark judgment, approving the ‘Right to Negative Vote’ by exercising the NOTA option in EVMs (Electronic Voting Machines) and ballots. The NOTA option is being used since November 2013.
Importance of Election Commission of India
- It has successfully conducted national as well as state elections since 1952. In recent years, however, the Commission has started to play the more active role to ensure greater participation of people.
- The Commission had gone to the extent of disciplining the political parties with a threat of derecognizing if the parties failed in maintaining inner-party democracy.
- It upholds the values enshrined in the Constitution viz, equality, equity, impartiality, independence; and rule of law in superintendence, direction, and control over the electoral governance.
- It conducts elections with the highest standard of credibility, freeness, fairness, transparency, integrity, accountability, autonomy and professionalism.
- It ensures participation of all eligible citizens in the electoral.
- It engages with political parties and all stakeholders in the interest of the electoral process.
- It creates awareness about the electoral process and electoral governance amongst stakeholders namely, voters, political parties, election functionaries, candidates and people.
- ECI has been unable to arrest the influence of money and criminal elements in politics which has increased along with violence and electoral malpractices resulting in criminalization of politics.
- Regular violation of the Model Code of Conduct during Elections by the Political Parties.
- The ECI is not adequately equipped to regulate the political parties. The ECI has no power in enforcing inner-party democracy and regulation of party finances.
- In the recent years, an impression is gaining ground that the Election Commission is becoming less and less independent of the Executive which has impacted the image of the institution.
- One of the major institutional drawback is non-transparency in election of Chief Election Commissioner and other two commissioners and is based on the choice of presiding government.
- There have been allegations of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) malfunctioning, getting hacked and not registering votes which corrodes general masses trust from the institution.
So, this was all about the Election Commission of India and its Roles and Functions.
In the Next Post (Click Here), we are going to discuss the Union Public Service Commission.