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Election Commission Of India (ECI) | POLITY

About ECI – Election Commission of India

  • The Election Commission of India is an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering election processes in India.
  • The body administers elections to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, state Legislative Assemblies in India, and the offices of the President and Vice President in the country.
  • The Election Commission operates under the authority of Constitution per Article 324, and subsequently enacted Representation of the People Act.
  • The commission has the powers under the Constitution, to act in an appropriate manner when the enacted laws make insufficient provisions to deal with a given situation in the conduct of an election.
  • Being a constitutional authority, Election Commission is amongst the few institutions which function with both autonomy and freedom, along with the country’s higher judiciary, the Union Public Service Commission and the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.
  • Founded in 1950. Initially had only one Election Commissioner
  • Two additional Commissioners were appointed to the commission for the first time on 16 October 1989 but they had a very short tenure, ending on 1 January 1990.
  • The Election Commissioner Amendment Act, 1989 made the commission a multi-member body. The concept of a 3-member Commission has been in operation since then, with the decisions being made by a majority vote.
  • At Centre: The Chief Election Commissioner and the two Election Commissioners who are usually retired IAS officers draw salaries and allowances as per with those of the Judges of the Supreme Court of India as per the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Conditions of Service) Rules, 1992.
  • At the state level: Election Commission is assisted by the Chief Electoral Officer of the State, who is an IAS officer of Principal Secretary rank. At the district and constituency levels, the District Magistrates (in their capacity as District Election Officers), Electoral Registration Officers and Returning Officers perform election work.

Articles related to ECI

Important Articles related to Election Commission of India

  • 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 grounds of religion, race, caste or sex.
  • Article 326-Elections to the House of the People and to the 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 Legislatures.
  • 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.

Structure of the Commission

  • Originally the commission had only one election commissioner but after the Election Commissioner Amendment Act 1989, it has been made a multi-member body.
  • The commission consists of one Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners.
  • The secretariat of the commission is located in New Delhi.
  • At the state level election commission is helped by Chief Electoral Officer who is an IAS rank Officer.
  • The President appoints Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners.
  • They have a fixed 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.
  • The Chief Election Commissioner can be removed from office only through a process of removal similar to that of a Supreme Court judge for by Parliament.

Term of Office

  • 6 years or upto 65 years, whichever is earlier

Removal from office

  • The Chief Election Commissioner of India can be removed from his office similar to the removal of a judge of the Supreme Court of India which requires a resolution passed by the Parliament with a two-thirds majority in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha on the grounds of proved misbehavior or incapacity.
  • Other Election Commissioners can be removed by the President of India on the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner.
  • A Chief Election Commissioner has never been impeached in India.

Functions of ECI

  • Guardian of Indian Electoral process: The Election Commission is regarded as the guardian of elections in the country. In every election, it issues a Model code of Conduct for political parties and candidates to conduct elections in a free and fair manner.
  • Issues Model Code of Conduct: The commission issued the code for the first time in 1971 for the 5th Lok Sabha elections and revised it from time to time.
  • It lays down guidelines for the conduct of political parties and candidates during an election period.
  • However, there have been instances of violation of the code by various political parties with complaints being received for misuse of official machinery by the candidates.
  • The code does not have any specific statutory basis but only a persuasive effect.
  • It contains the rules of electoral morality. However, this lack of statutory backing does not prevent the commission from enforcing it.
  • Registration of Political Parties: A law regarding the registration process for political parties was enacted in 1989 and a number of parties got registered with the commission.
  • Issuing symbols to Political Parties: The election commission has the right to allow symbols to the political parties. It is noteworthy that Election commission cannot allot same symbol to two regional political parties even if they are not in the same state.
  • Recognition to Political Parties: It gives recognition to the national parties, state parties and regional parties.
  • Setting limits on expenditure: It set limits on poll expenses.
  • Preparing and updating Electoral Rolls: The commission prepare electoral rolls and update the voter’s list from time to time.
  • Notifications of dates and schedules of election for filing nominations are issued by the commission.

Major Challenges

  • One of the major institutional drawback is non- transparency in election of CEC and other two commissioners and is based on the choice of presiding government.
  • Over the years influence of money and criminal elements in politics has increased along with violence and electoral malpractices resulting in criminalization of politics. The ECI has been unable to arrest this deterioration.
  • 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.
  • There has been rampant abuse of power by the state government who at times make large-scale transfers on the eve of elections and posts pliable officials in key positions, using official vehicles and buildings for electioneering, flouting the ECI’s model code of conduct.
  • 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.
  • There have been allegations of EVMs malfunctioning, getting hacked and not registering votes which corrodes general masses trust from the institution.

Conclusion

  • Until the controversy related to glitches in EVM settles down, commission needs to establish its trust amongst people by installing ( Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail System ) VVPATS in more and more constituencies.
  • The challenge before the commission is to be vigilant and watchful against the collusion at the lower level of civil and police bureaucracy in favour of the ruling party of the day.
  • 2nd ARC report recommended that collegium headed by the Prime Minister with the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Law Minister and the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha as members should make recommendations for the consideration of the President for appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commissioners.
  • There is a need to provide more legal support to the commission’s mandate and the processes that support that mandate.
  • There is need of Safeguards to ensure that ethical and capable people head the commission.

 

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