Appointment of Election Commissioners

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    Anup Chandra Pandey, a retired Uttar Pradesh cadre IAS officer, has been appointed to the post of Election Commissioner.

    About

    • The President of India made the appointment.
    • Following the elevation of Sushil Chandra as the Chief Election Commissioner, the position of an Election Commissioner was vacant since April 13.

     

    Election Commission of India (ECI)

    • It is a constitutional body responsible for administering elections in India according to the rules and regulations mentioned in the Constitution of India. 
    • It was established on January 25, 1950.
    • It’s aim is to define and control the process for elections conducted at various levels: Parliament, State Legislatures, and the offices of the President and Vice President of India. 
    • The ECI implements norms and the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) to ensure free and fair elections in the country.

    Constitutional Provisions

    • Article 324: Superintendence, direction and control of elections to be vested in an Election Commission.
    • Article 325: No person to be ineligible for inclusion in, or to claim to be included in a special electoral roll on the ground of religion, race, caste or sex.
    • Article 326: Elections to the Lok Sabha and Legislative Assemblies of States to be on the basis of adult suffrage.
    • Article 327: Power of Parliament to make provision with respect to elections to legislature.
    • Article 328: Power of Legislature of a State to make provision with respect to elections to such Legislature.
    • Article 329: Bar to interference by courts in electoral matters.

    Appointment & Conditions of Service

    • The President of India appoints the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners. 
    • They have tenure of six 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. 

    Removal of Election Commissioners

    • The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) can be removed from office only through impeachment by Parliament. 
    • The CEC can be removed from office only through a process of removal similar to that of a Supreme Court Judge by Parliament.
    • The President of India can remove the other officers on the Chief Commissioner’s recommendation.
    • They can resign anytime or can also be removed before the expiry of their term.

    CEC vs ECs

    • Though the Chief Election Commissioner is the chairman of the election commission, his powers are equal to the other election commissioners. All the matters in the commission are decided by the majority amongst its members. 
    • The Chief Election Commissioner and the two other election commissioners receive equal salary, allowances and other benefits.

    Power and Functions of ECI

    • Administrative
      • Determining the Electoral Constituencies’ territorial areas throughout the country.
      • Preparing and periodically revising electoral rolls and registering all eligible voters.
      • Notifying the schedules and dates of elections and scrutinising nomination papers.
      • Granting recognition to the various political parties and allocating them election symbols.
      • It issues the Model Code of Conduct in elections for political parties and candidates so that no one indulges in unfair practice or there is no arbitrary abuse of powers by those in power.
    • Advisory
      • Under the Constitution, the ECI has advisory jurisdiction in the matter of post-election disqualification of sitting members of Parliament and State Legislatures.
      • To advise the President of whether elections can be held in the state under the President’s Rule in order to extend the period of emergency after one year.
    • Quasi-Judicial
      • The cases of persons found guilty of corrupt practices at elections which come before the Supreme Court and High Courts are also referred to the ECI for its opinion on the question as to whether such person shall be disqualified and, if so, for what period.
      • The opinion of the ECI in all such matters is binding on the President or, as the case may be, the Governor to whom such opinion is tendered.
      • The ECI has the power to disqualify a candidate who has failed to lodge an account of his election expenses within the time and in the manner prescribed by law.
      • The ECI can cancel polls in the event of rigging, booth capturing, violence and other irregularities.

    Significance

    • It conducts elections with the highest standard of credibility, freeness, fairness, transparency, integrity, accountability, autonomy and professionalism.
    • It creates awareness about the electoral process and electoral governance amongst stakeholders namely, voters, political parties, election functionaries, candidates and people at large.
    • It plays an important role in preventing the dissemination of misinformation with the help of technological tools.

    Some Flaws in ECI

    • The Constitution is silent about the procedure for removal of the two Election Commissioners. It only provides for removal on the recommendation of the CEC.
    • The Constitution has neither prescribed the qualification of the members of the ECI nor specified the terms of the members of the ECI.
    • The Constitution has not debarred the retiring election commissioners from any further appointment by the government.
    • Currently, the Executive enjoys the power to make appointments that affect the ECI’s independence and make the process of appointing election commissioners partial and biased.

    Way Forward

    • The ECI should be insulated from political and/or executive interference to prevent any kind of manipulation in the selection process
    • The ECI ensures the smooth and successful functioning of the democracy. It cannot become arbitrary and partisan as that will lead to the failure of democracy.
    • The ECI needs to continuously reinvent its powers given to it under the Indian Constitution for better functioning.
    • The integrity and independence of the ECI and its process needs to be preserved for a free and fair election in India and to maintain the public’s faith and confidence in the Election Commission of India.

    Sources: TH