What is the Election Commission of India?
The Election Commission of India is defined as an independent constitutional institution that conducts and supervises the central and state election procedures in the country. This body is responsible for conducting elections for Rajya Sabha, Lok Sabha, Vice President, President, and the State Legislative Assemblies. It is important to note that for municipalities and panchayats elections, separate commissions are formed at the state level.
In our Indian Constitution, Article 324 grants the Election Commission the power to perform its roles and functions effectively. The first general election in the post-independence period was held in 1951. Before that, the Representation of People’s Act was also passed under Article 327. The Constitution provides the Election Commission of India the supremacy to take necessary measures when a situation that may arise during the conduct of an election is not able to settle through the laws that have already been passed but proven insufficient.
- Types of Elections in India
- Why are elections important for democracy?
- Present Election Commissioner of India
Functions of Election Commission
There are several functions of the Election Commission, which are listed below;
- The officials of ECI oversee, direct, and regulate the whole election process for the offices of the Vice-President and President of India as well as the State legislature.
- The key responsibility of the Commission is to set up dates for general elections after making sure that there are no clashes in different state and union elections.
- Electoral rolls are created, and electronic photo ID cards are issued (EPIC).
- The decisions about the placement of polling booths, the distribution of voters, the vote-counting locations, the arrangements to be made in and around polling centres, as well as any related issues, are taken by the Election Commission of India.
- It acknowledges political parties, confers electoral symbols upon them and settles disputes involving them.
- The Commission even has an advisory committee for the issue of post-election dismissal of leaders and state representatives who are currently serving.
- The Election Commission of India issues the Model code of conduct for candidates and political parties to be followed during the elections. This prevents unfair practices and illegal use of power to get votes.
Powers of Election Commission of India
To perform the functions of the Election Commission effectively, the powers of ECI include determining the territorial boundaries of the Electoral Constituencies across the nation using the Delimitation Commission Act of Parliament as a guide, creating electoral rolls, which are then periodically revised to enrol all eligible voters, etc. The following are the powers of the Election Commission of India:
- Distributing election schedules and dates and reviewing nomination forms.
- Recognising political parties and assigning them electoral insignia.
- Acting as a court to resolve arguments over the decision to recognise political parties and assign them election symbols.
- Appoint investigators to look into electoral arrangements complaints.
- Deciding on the code of conduct for the political parties and candidates to adhere to during elections.
- Putting together a plan to promote all political parties' platforms on radio and television during elections.
- Providing guidance to the President on issues involving the disqualification of MPs.
- Assisting the Governor on issues including MLA disqualification.
- Cancellation of the elections on instances of violence, rigging, or other irregularities, such as booth capture.
- Asking the Governor or President to requisition the personnel needed to conduct elections.
- Monitoring the nation's voting equipment to guarantee the execution of free and fair elections.
- In order to extend the state of emergency after a year, officials must advise the President as to whether elections can be conducted in a state under his control.
- Listing political groups, giving them national or state party status (depending on their poll performance).
Deputy commissioners assist the Election Commission in carrying out its duties. The Commission appoints the deputy ECs, who are recruited from the civil services. Their tenure is set. The secretaries, joint secretaries, deputy secretaries, and under-secretaries working in the secretariat of the commission provide assistance to them.
Composition of Election Commission of India
The Election Commissioner Amendment Act of 1989 changed the commission from being a single-member body to a body with multiple members.
- One Chief Election Commissioner and two commissioners constitute the commission.
- Rajiv Kumar was recently appointed as the Chief Election Commissioner by the Indian President (25th CEC).
- New Delhi serves as the commission's secretariat.
- The Chief Electoral Officer assists the state electoral commission.
- The chief election commissioner and other ECs are chosen by the President.
- Their set term is for six years, or until they reach 65 years old, whichever comes first.
- They have the same standing, compensation, and benefits as Supreme Court judges.
Role of Election Commission
The ECI is greatly important for a democracy as wide and diverse as India. The role of the Election Commission of India includes the following:
- ECI has effectively conducted central and state elections since 1952. The Commission has performed a more active role in recent years to promote increased public participation.
- The Commission has also fined political parties and threatened them with the disqualification of candidature if they failed to uphold internal party democracy.
- It maintains the constitutionally defined values of equity, equality, impartiality, and independence and the rule of law in overseeing, directing, and controlling election governance.
- It holds elections to the greatest standards of professionalism, independence, accountability, fairness, openness, and credibility.
- It ensures that all voters participate in the voting process.
- Another major role of the Election Commission is building confidence and trust in the voting process and governance among voters, officials, political parties, candidates, and the general public.
Constitutional Appointment of ECI
As stated above, the Election Commission of India is a constitutional and permanent autonomous body. Let's review the process of appointment in the ECI;
- The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) was the only member of the ECI from the time of its early establishment in 1950 until 15 October 1989.
- The voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 on October 16, 1989. In order to handle the increasing workload, the president nominated two additional officers.
- Ever since then, it has consisted of a total of three commissioners.
- The Election Commission afterwards returned to its original position in January 1990 after the two positions were eliminated.
- Later in October 1993, the president nominated two additional officers once again.
- The chief and the remaining two officers are paid the same as Supreme Court judges and have the same authority and benefits.
- When the Chief Election Commissioner and/or two other commissioners disagree on a topic, the Commission must resolve the disagreement by a majority vote.
- They hold the position for a period of six years or until they are 65, whichever comes first. Before the end of their term, they are also eligible for removal or resignation at any time.
Election Commission Article
The Indian Constitution's Part XV concerns elections and appoints a commission to handle these issues.
- On January 25, 1950, the Election Commission was constituted in compliance with the Constitution.
- The constitution's Articles 324 to 329 address the Election commission of India and the member's authority, function, tenure, eligibility, etc.
Articles related to Election Commission
Election Commission will be in charge of supervising, directing, and managing elections.
No individual shall be excluded from or claim to be included in a special electoral roster based on their race, religion, caste, or sex.
House of People and state legislative assemblies elections will be based on adult suffrage.
Authority of Parliament to make rules governing legislative elections.
Authority of State Legislature to form rules governing the elections for that legislature.
Prevents judges from interfering in electoral processes.
What is Article 324?
The Election Commission of India is given the authority under the Constitution to direct, supervise, and manage elections for the state legislatures, the president of India, and the Vice-President of India. It is a body shared by the Central government and the State governments that operate across India. It should be noted that the commission has nothing to do with the state's municipal and panchayat elections. As a result, the Indian Constitution establishes a distinct State Election Commission.
The provisions provided by Article 324 for regulating the structure of the Election Commission are as follows:
- The ECI can have the Chief Election Commissioner and as many other officers as required, as provided for in Article 324(2).
- The Chief Election Commissioner and the other commissioners must be appointed by the President of India, according to Article 324(2).
- In circumstances where another Election Commissioner is appointed, the Chief Election Commissioner takes over as head of the commission in accordance with Article 324(3).
- In accordance with Article 324(4), the President of India could also select regional commissioners to assist the commission as he thinks is necessary; this can be done after consulting the ECI.
- According to Article 324(5), the President will determine the term and parameters of the work that the election commissioners and regional commissioners must perform. It further stipulated that the chief election commissioner and the two other commissioners would have equivalent authority and receive equivalent compensation and benefits as a Supreme Court judge would.
Procedure of Removal of the Election Commission
The only way for Parliament to remove the Chief Election Commissioner from office is through a procedure akin to that used to dismiss a Supreme Court judge. Using a motion in Parliament, judges of the Supreme Court, High Courts, the CEC, and the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) may be removed from their positions for inefficiency in work or misbehaviour.
Removal of the Election Commission of India calls for a special majority of 2/3 of the members voting in person, backed by more than 50% of the house's overall strength.
Election Commission of India UPSC
The Election Commission of India UPSC is an extremely important topic for your IAS Exam preparation. Aspirants should be familiar with the topic as it is relevant under the Indian Polity subject in the UPSC syllabus. As it sits at an intersection, it is relevant from the standpoint of Indian History as well. Practice these questions below to test your knowledge.
Election Commission UPSC Questions
Question: Consider the following statements:
- Originally the commission had only one election commissioner but was made a multi-member body through the 42nd amendment act.
- The Chief Election Commissioner can be removed by the President of India.
Which of the given statement/s is/are correct?
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Question: Consider the following statements with respect to the Election Commission of India:
- The term of office of the Election Commissioners is the same as the Chairman of the Union Public Service Commission.
- In case of a difference of opinion amongst the Chief Election Commissioner and/or other Election Commissioners, the matter is referred to the President of India.
- The independence of the Election Commission and its insulation from executive interference is ensured by a special provision under Article 324 of the Constitution of India.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
- I and II only
- II and III only
- I and III only
- All the statements are correct