Election Commission of India (ECI)

0
4462
Election Commission of India (ECI)
Election Commission of India (ECI)

The Election Commission of India (ECI), a constitutional body, stands as a cornerstone of Indian democracy. Through free, fair, and transparent elections in India, it ensures that the voice of the Indian populace is heard through the ballot. This article of NEXT IAS aims to study in detail the Election Commission of India (ECI), including its constitutional mandate, composition, powers, functions, challenges faced by it, and other related aspects.

  • The Election Commission of India (ECI) is a permanent and independent established by the Constitution of India to ensure free and fair elections in the country.
    • Since it is established directly under the provisions of the Constitution, it is a Constitutional Body.
  • The ECI is an All-India body in the sense that it is common to both the Central and the State governments.
  • The Constitution vests the Election Commission of India (ECI) with the power of superintendence, direction, and control of elections to
    • Parliament – Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha
    • State Legislatures – State Legislative Assembly and State Legislative Council (if exist)
    • Office of President of India
    • Office of Vice-President of India
  • It is to be noted that the ECI is not concerned with conducting elections to Panchayats and Municipalities in the States.
    • For this purpose, the Constitution of India provides for a separate State Election Commission in each State.
  • Article 324 of the Constitution of India deals with the provisions related to the Election Commission of India (ECI).
    • The article contains detailed provisions regarding the composition of the ECI, appointment and service conditions of its members, powers and functions of the ECI, and other related aspects.

Article 324 of the Constitution has made the following provisions about the composition of the Election Commission of India:

  • It shall consist of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and such number of other Election Commissioners (ECs) as the President may from time to time fix.
  • The appointment of CEC and other ECs shall be made by the President.
  • When any other Election Commissioner is so appointed, the Chief Election Commissioner shall act as the Chairman of the ECI.
  • The President may also appoint after consultation with the ECI such Regional Commissioners (RCs) as he may consider necessary to assist the ECI.
  • The conditions of service and tenure of office of the Election Commissioners and the Regional Commissioners shall be determined by the President (subject to any related law made by the Parliament).
Note: At present, the Election Commission of India consists of a Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners.

As per the Chief Election Commissioner and other Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Act, 2023, the Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commissioners are appointed by the President of India on the recommendation of a three-membered Selection Committee consisting of:

  • The Prime Minister of India
  • A Union Minister nominated by the Prime Minister
  • The Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the Lok Sabha

A Search Committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary suggests five names to the Selection Committee. The Selection Committee is not bound to these name suggestions and may consider any person other than those suggested by the Search Committee. It is to be noted that the process of appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commissioners has changed recently in 2023. Before this, they were appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Union CoM.

According to the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991, the Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commissioners hold office for a term of 6 years or until they attain the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.

According to the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991, the Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commissioners can resign at any time by writing to the President.

  • The Chief Election Commissioner can be removed in the same manner and on the same grounds as a judge of the Supreme Court.
    • In other words, he/she can be removed by the President on the basis of a resolution passed to that effect by both Houses of Parliament with a Special Majority, either on the grounds of proved misbehaviour or incapacity.
  • Any other Election Commissioner or a Regional Commissioner is removed from office on the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner.
    • Thus, the protection of security of tenure, which is available to the Chief Election Commissioner, is not available to the other Election Commissioners.

According to the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991, the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and two Election Commissioners (ECs) receive equal salaries, allowances, and other prerequisites that are similar to those of the judge of the Supreme Court.

As per the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991:

  • The Chief Election Commissioner and the two other Election Commissioners are equal in terms of their powers and other perquisites.
  • In case of a difference of opinion amongst the Chief Election Commissioner and/or two other Election Commissioners, the matter is decided by the Commission by majority.

Thus, though the Chief Election Commissioner is the chairman of the Election Commission, the other Election Commissioners have an equal say in deciding a matter.

The powers and functions of the Election Commission of India can be classified into three categories as explained below

  • to determine territorial areas of electoral constituencies based on the Delimitation Commission Act of Parliament.
  • to prepare and periodically revise electoral rolls and to register all eligible voters.
  • to notify the dates and schedules of elections and to scrutinize nomination papers.
  • to grant recognition to political parties and allot election symbols to them.
  • to determine the Model Code of Conduct (MCC).
  • to prepare a roster for publicity of policies of political parties on radio and TV.
  • to cancel polls in the event of rigging, booth capturing, etc.
  • to request the President or Governor to requisition the staff necessary for conducting elections.
  • to supervise the machinery of elections throughout the country to ensure free and fair elections.
  • to register political parties for elections and grant them the status of national or state parties based on their poll performance.
  • to advise the President on matters relating to disqualifications of members of Parliament.
  • to advise the Governor on matters relating to disqualifications of members of the State Legislature
  • to advise the President whether elections can be held in a State under the President’s Rule.
  • to act as a court for settling disputes related to granting recognition to political parties and allotment of election symbols to them.
  • to appoint officers to inquire into disputes relating to electoral arrangements.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) relies on a well-structured machinery comprising various roles and responsibilities to support the electoral process:

These Commissioners are drawn from civil services and appointed by the ECI with a tenure system. They are assisted by the Secretaries, Joint Secretaries, Deputy Secretaries, and Under Secretaries.

These officers are appointed at the State level, by the Chief Election Commissioner in consultation with the State Government.

These officers are appointed at the district level. The Collector acts as the DRO for every constituency in the district.

These officers are appointed by the DRO for every constituency.

These officers are appointed by the DRO for every polling booth.

Article 324 of the Indian Constitution has made certain provisions to ensure the independent and impartial functioning of the Election Commission of India (ECI). The most important of them can be seen as follows:

  • The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) is provided with the security of tenure. He/she can be removed only in the manner and on the same grounds as mentioned in the Constitution.
  • Though the Constitution does not protect the security of tenure for other Election Commissioners or a Regional Commissioner, they cannot be removed from office except on the recommendation of the CEC.
  • The service conditions of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners cannot be varied to his/her disadvantage after their appointment.
  1. The Constitution has not prescribed the qualifications for members of the Election Commission of India.
  2. The Constitution has not specified the term of members of the Election Commission of India.
  3. The Constitution has not prohibited varying service conditions of Election Commissioners after their appointment.
  4. The Constitution has not debarred retiring Election Commissioners from any further appointment by the Government.

In Anoop Baranwal vs Union of India Case (2023), the Supreme Court gave the following directions to ensure the independence and neutrality of the Election Commission:

  • Appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and the other Election Commissioners (ECs) shall be made on the recommendations of a three·member committee consisting of the following:
    • The Prime Minister,
    • The Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and
    • The Chief Justice of India.
  • The grounds for removal of the other Election Commissioners should be the same as that of the Chief Election Commissioner i.e., on the like grounds as a Judge of the Supreme Court subject to the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner.

Apart from the above-mentioned factors, the ECI faces several other challenges which hamper its impartial and effective functioning. Some of the prominent challenges faced by the ECI are as follows:

  • Political Interference – The ECI faces pressure from political parties and powerful interest groups, which seek to influence electoral outcomes through unfair means. Such political interference undermines the autonomy and impartiality of the ECI, posing a threat to the credibility of elections.
  • Limited Powers – The ECI’s power to enforce its decisions and punish offenders is limited. This hinders its ability to effectively implement regulations and ensure compliance with electoral laws.
  • Electoral Fraud and Malpractice – The ECI grapples with the perennial challenge of combating electoral fraud and malpractice, such as voter intimidation, use of money and muscle powers, etc.
  • Electoral Violence – Electoral violence, including clashes between political parties and attacks on polling booths, continues to remain a significant concern for the ECI.
  • Technological Challenges – With the increasing use of technology in elections, the ECI faces challenges related to the security and integrity of the electoral process. For example, the rigging of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
  • Disinformation and Fake News – The proliferation of disinformation, hate speeches, and fake news on social media platforms poses a challenge to the ECI’s efforts to ensure informed and fair elections.
  • Electoral Reforms – Implementing comprehensive electoral reforms to address systemic issues, such as regulations of political party funding, internal party democracy, etc is a persistent challenge for the ECI.
  • The ECI should intensify efforts to educate voters about their rights and responsibilities, the electoral process, and the importance of participation in democracy through various communication channels, including social media, educational programs, and community outreach initiatives.
  • The ECI should advocate for comprehensive electoral reforms to address loopholes and shortcomings in existing laws and regulations through measures such as transparency in campaign financing, integrity of electronic voting systems, and curbing electoral malpractices through stricter enforcement mechanisms.
  • The ECI should invest in modernizing electoral infrastructure such as electronic voting machines (EVMs), voter registration systems, polling facilities, etc.
  • The ECI should collaborate with law enforcement agencies to enhance security measures during elections and combat electoral violence, intimidation, and fraud by deploying adequate security personnel, implementing strict protocols to safeguard polling booths and election materials, and prosecuting offenders swiftly.
  • The ECI should promote transparency and accountability in electoral processes by ensuring fair and impartial conduct of elections, disclosing information on election funding and expenditures, and facilitating robust mechanisms for monitoring and reporting electoral violations.
  • The ECI should engage in knowledge-sharing and capacity-building initiatives with international counterparts and election monitoring organizations to exchange best practices, enhance technical expertise, and foster cooperation in promoting free and fair elections.
  • The ECI should prioritize open dialogue with stakeholders, including political parties, civil society organizations, and the media, to address concerns, solicit feedback, and promote transparency and inclusivity in decision-making processes.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) stands as a bulwark of democracy, ensuring the sanctity of electoral processes and upholding the democratic ideals enshrined in the Constitution. With its unwavering commitment to free and fair elections, the ECI plays a pivotal role in fostering political participation, safeguarding the rights of citizens, and strengthening the democratic fabric of the nation. Necessary steps should be taken to enhance its independence and give more teeth to it.

Article 324 to Article 329 in Part XV of the Indian Constitution contains detailed provisions regarding elections in India. Here’s a brief overview of these provisions:

Article No.Subject-matter
Article 324Superintendence, direction, and control of elections are to be vested in an Election Commission.
Article 325No person is to be ineligible for inclusion in or to claim to be included in a special, electoral roll on grounds of religion, race, caste, or sex.
Article 326Elections to the House of the People and the Legislative Assemblies of States to be based on adult suffrage.
Article 327Power of Parliament to make provisions with respect to elections to Legislatures.
Article 328Power of State Legislature to make provisions with respect to elections to such Legislature.
Article 329Bar to interference by Courts in electoral matters.

When was the Election Commission of India (ECI) Established?

The Election Commission of India (ECI) was established on 25th January 1950. This day (25th January) is celebrated annually as National Voters’ Day.

Where is the Secretariat of ECI?

The Secretariat of the Election Commission of India (ECI) is in New Delhi.

What is Article 324?

Article 324 of the Indian Constitution deals with the functions and powers of the Election Commission of India, which is responsible for conducting elections to the Parliament and State Legislatures.

Who appoints the Members of the Election Commission?

The President of India appoints the members of the Election Commission.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here