All about Election Commission of India

Relevance:

  • GS Prelims, GS Mains paper II, IV
  • Polity, Election Commission of India

Why in News?

  • Sunil Arora was appointed as Chief Election Commissioner. He took over from OP Rawat on Dec 2, 2018.

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.

Present Chief Election Commissioner:

  • Sunil Arora, a retired IAS officer of 1980  batch
  • The Election Commission of India is headed by the Chief Election Commissioner, assisted by two Election Commissioner.
  • Arora, takes over office at a time when the poll panel is in the midst of conducting assembly elections in five states, which are being considered as a semi-final to the 2019 general elections.

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:

  • Guardian of Indian Electoral procerss: 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 electionfor filing nominations are issued by the commission.

Other Functions:

  • The commission can issue an order for prohibition of publication and disseminating of results of opinion polls or exit polls to prevent influencing the voting trends in the electorate.
  • In an attempt to decriminalise politics, the Election Commission has approached the Supreme Court to put a lifetime ban on convicted politicians from contesting elections.

2017 Hackathon:

  • Election Commission organised an open hackathon on 3 June at 10 am, to attempt hacking of Electronic Voting Machine used by the commission in various Indian elections.
  • The NCP and CPI(M) were the only two parties that registered for the event but none of them participated.
  • Functioning of EVMs and VVPAT machines were demonstrated to the teams

 

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