- Election Commission of India(ECI) is a permanent, independent and constitutional body.
- It was established to ensure free and fair elections in the country.
- It administers Union and State election processes in India.
- It is an autonomous authority: it means that it is independent of executive, legislature and judiciary.
- It is an all-India body: as it is common to both the Central government and the state governments.
- Article 324 to 329 of the constitution: It deals with powers, function, tenure, eligibility, etc. of the commission and its members.
- ECI plans and conducts two different types of elections: Direct Election and Indirect Election.
- Direct Election: Parliament and the State legislature.
- Indirect Election: President and Vice President Election.
Article 324 of the Constitution has made the following provisions with regard to the composition of election commission:
- ECI shall consist of the chief election commissioner (CEC) and such number of other election commissioners (ECs), if any, as the president may from time to time fix.
- Since its inception in 1950 and till 15 October 1989, it functioned as a single member body consisting of the Chief Election Commissioner only.
- In 1989, the president appointed two more election commissioners.
- Today, the Election Commission has been functioning as a multi-member body consisting of three election commissioners, including Chief Election Commissioner.
- The Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commissioner are appointed by the President of India.
- If it is multi-member body, the chief election commissioner shall act as the chairman of the election commission.
- In case of difference of opinion amongst the Chief Election Commissioner and/or two other election commissioners, the matter is decided by the Commission by majority.
- The president may also appoint after consultation with the election commission such regional commissioners as he may consider necessary to assist the election commission.
Conditions Of Service
- The President fixes the service condition and tenures.
- They enjoy the same status and receive salary and perks as available to Judges of the Supreme Court of India.
- They have tenure of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
- They can resign at any time by addressing the resignation letter to the president or can also be removed before the expiry of their term.
Procedure For Removal
- He/she can be removed either on the ground of “proved misbehaviour or incapacity”.
- He/she can be removed by the president on the basis of a resolution passed to that effect by both the Houses of Parliament with special majoritye. majority of two-third members present and voting supported by more than 50% of the total strength of the house.
- The Constitution does not use the word ‘impeachment’, for the removal of the Chief Election Commissioner. The term ‘Impeachment’ is only used for removing the President.
- The Election Commissioner or Regional Commissioner can only be removed from office by the Chief Election Commissioner.
Article 324 of the Constitution has made the following provisions to safeguard and ensure the independent and impartial functioning of the Election Commission:
- Security of tenure: He cannot be removed from his office except in same manner and on the same grounds as a judge of the Supreme Court.
- The service conditions of the chief election commissioner cannot be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment.
- Any other election commissioner or a regional commissioner cannot be removed from office except on the recommendation of the chief election commissioner.
- Election Commission has complete authority on how, where, and when to conduct an election without any interference from the executive, whether it is general election or by-election.
Some Flaws In Ensuring Independence Of ECI
- The Constitution has not prescribed any qualifications (legal, educational, administrative or judicial) of the members of the Election Commission.
- At present, the appointment is done unilaterally by the government of the day, which raises the potential for partisan appointments, thus diluting its credibility.
- The Constitution has not specified the term of the members of the Election Commission.
- The Constitution has not debarred the retiring election commissioners from any further appointment by the government
- To demarcate electoral constituencies in the country on the basis of the Delimitation Commission Act of Parliament.
- To prepare and periodically update electoral rolls and to register all eligible voters.
- To notify the dates and schedules of elections and to scrutinise nomination papers.
- To grant recognition to political parties and allot election symbols to them.
- To cancel polls in the event of rigging, booth capturing, violence and other irregularities.
- To supervise the machinery of elections throughout the country to ensure free and fair elections.
- To register political parties for the purpose of elections and grant them the status of national or state parties on the basis of their poll performance
- ECI appoints the following seats:
- Chief Electoral Officer
- District Election Officer
- Returning Officer
- Electoral Registration Officer
- It regulates the campaign expenditure per candidate of all political parties without any discrimination.
- It acts as a court for settling disputes related to granting of recognition to political parties and allotment of election symbols to them.
- To appoint officers for inquiring into disputes relating to electoral arrangements.
- It defines a model code of conduct for all political parties and candidates and ensures they adhere to it during election season.
- It advises the president on matters relating to the disqualifications of the members of Parliament.
- It advises the governor on matters relating to the disqualifications of the members of state legislature.
- It advises the president whether elections can be held in a state under president’s rule in order to extend the period of emergency after one year.
- The election commission cannot review any result on its own without a proper election petition filed before the High court or Supreme Court.
Initiatives Taken By ECI:
- Electoral Photo Identity Cards (EPICs) were issued in 1993 to prevent electoral fraud. From the 2004 elections, these were made mandatory.
- Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) were introduced to improve reliability and efficiency.
- Declaration of assets and criminal cases pending against candidates made mandatory while filing of nomination form.
- Computerized electoral rolls.
- Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation program, better known as SVEEP, is the flagship program of the Election Commission of India for voter education, spreading voter awareness and promoting voter literacy in India.
- It cannot deregister political parties: Despite being the registering authority for political parties under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, it has no power to de-register them even for the gravest of violations.
- Its expenditures are made from consolidated fund of India. That is, they are voted upon in the parliament. This affects the independence and autonomy of Election Commission.
- At present only Chief Election Commissioner has security of tenure, not election commissions: the two Election Commissioners can be removed by the government on the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner.
- Give constitutional protection for all three-election commissioners as opposed to just one at present.
- Institutionalize the convention where the senior most EC should be automatically elevated as CEC in order to instil a feeling of security in the minds of the ECs and that they are insulated from executive interference in the same manner as CEC.
- Reducing the ECI’s dependence on DoPT, Law Ministry and Home Ministry. The ECI should have an independent secretariat for itself and frame its own recruitment rules and shortlist and appoint officers on its own.
- Its expenditures must be charged upon the Consolidated Fund of India similar to other constitutional bodies such as the UPSC.