The Constitution of India has established a permanent and independent body to ensure free and fair elections in the country known as the Election Commission. The commission is responsible for holding Lok Sabha elections of India.
It is an important topic for IAS Exam, coming under Indian Polity syllabus. This article will hence talk about Election Commission of India, Article 324 (pertaining to the independence and impartial functioning of Election Commission,) its powers and responsibilities and more. Aspirants can also download the UPSC notes PDF of the topic from the link given below.
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What is Article 324?
The Constitution provides the Election Commission of India with the power of direction, superintendence, and control of elections to parliament, state legislatures, the office of president of India and the office of vice-president of India.
The Election Commission is an all-India body that is common to both the Central government and the State governments. It must be noted here that the commission does not deal with the elections to the Municipalities and Panchayats in the states. Hence, a separate State Election Commission is provided by the Constitution of India.
Constitutional Appointment of ECI
Since its inception in 1950 and till 15 October 1989, the election commission was a one-member body with only the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) as its sole member.
- On 16 October 1989, the voting age was changed from 21 to 18 years. So, two more election commissioners were appointed by the president in order to cope with the increased work of the election commission.
- Since then, the Election Commission was a multi-member body that consisted of 3 election commissioners.
- Later on, the two posts of election commissioners were eliminated in January 1990 and the Election Commission was reverted to the previous position.
- This was repeated again later in October 1993 when the president appointed two more election commissioners. Since then, the Election Commission functions as a multi-member body comprising of 3 commissioners.
- The chief and the two other election commissioners have the same powers and emoluments including salaries, which are the same as a Supreme Court judge.
- 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 a majority.
- The office is held by them for a term of 6 years or until they attain 65 years, whichever happens first. They can also be removed or can resign at any time before the expiry of their term.
Aspirants can find the list of Chief Election Commissioners of India in the linked article.
Independence of the Election Commission
Article 324 of The Constitution of India mentions the provisions to safeguard and ensure the independent and impartial functioning of the Election Commission which is as follows.
- The chief election commissioner is provided with security of tenure. He cannot be removed from his office except in the same manner and on the same grounds as a judge of the Supreme Court. In other words, he can be removed by the President on the basis of a resolution passed to that effect by both the Houses of Parliament with a special majority, either on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity.
- Thus, he does not hold his office until the pleasure of the president, though he is appointed by him.
- 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.
- Though the constitution has sought to safeguard and ensure the independence and impartiality of the Election Commission, some flaws can be noted, ie:
- The Constitution has not prescribed the qualifications (legal, educational, administrative or judicial) of the members of the Election Commission.
- 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.
Powers, Functions, and Responsibilities of Election Commission
Among the major Constitutional Bodies in India, Election Commission is a permanent Constitutional Body. It was established in accordance with the Constitution on 25th January 1950.
- The Constitution has vested to this body superintendence, direction and control of the entire process for conduct of elections.
- The Commission’s functions and powers with respect to elections to the offices of the President, the Vice President, the state legislators and the Parliament are divided under three headings:
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Powers of Election Commission of India
In details, these powers of the Election Commission of India are:
- Determining the Electoral Constituencies’ territorial areas throughout the country on the basis of the Delimitation Commission Act of Parliament.
- 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.
- Acting as a court to settle disputes concerning the granting of recognition to political parties and allocating election symbols to the parties.
- Appointing officers for inquiring into disputes concerning electoral arrangements.
- Determining the code of conduct to be followed by the political parties and candidates during elections.
- Preparing a program for publicising the policies of all the political parties on various media like TV and radio during elections.
- Advising the President on matters concerning the disqualification of MPs.
- Advising the Governor on matters concerning the disqualification of MLAs.
- Cancelling polls in case of booth capturing, rigging, violence and other irregularities.
- Requesting the Governor or the President for requisitioning the staff required for conducting elections.
- Supervising the machinery of elections throughout the country for ensuring the conduct of free and fair elections.
- Advising the President on whether elections can be held in a state that is under the President’s rule, in order to extend the period of emergency after 1 year.
- Registering political parties and granting them the status of national or state parties (depending on their poll performance).
The Commission is aided in its function by deputy election commissioners. The deputy ECs are taken from the civil services and they are appointed by the Commission. They have a fixed tenure. They are aided by the secretaries, deputy secretaries, joint secretaries and under-secretaries posted in the commission’s secretariat.
Functions of Election Commission
- To direct and control the entire process of conducting elections to Parliament and Legislature of every State and to the offices of President and Vice-President of India.
- To decide the election schedules for the conduct of periodic and timely elections, whether general or bye-elections
- To decide on the location of polling stations, assignment of voters to the polling stations, location of counting centres, arrangements to be made in and around polling stations and counting centres and all allied matters
- To prepare electoral roll and issues Electronic Photo Identity Card (EPIC)
- To grant recognition to political parties & allot election symbols to them along with settling disputes related to it
- To sets limits of campaign expenditure per candidate to all the political parties, and also monitors the same
- To advise in the matter of post-election disqualification of sitting members of Parliament and State Legislatures.
- To issue the Model Code of Conduct in the election 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.
Composition of Election Commission
Article 324 of the Constitution has made the following provisions with regard to the composition of the election commission:
- The President appoints the Chief Election Commissioner and other election commissioners.
- When any other EC is so appointed, the CEC acts as the Election Commission’s Chairman.
- The President can also appoint regional commissioners to assist the Commission, if necessary after consulting with the Election Commission.
- The tenure of office and the conditions of service of all the commissioners shall be determined by the country’s President.
Importance of Election Commission for India
- The Election Commission has been successfully conducting national as well as state elections since 1952. Now, it plays an active role to ensure the greater participation of people.
- The Commission has brought discipline among the political parties with a threat of derecognizing if the parties failed in maintaining inner-party democracy.
- It supports the values preserved in the Constitution viz, equality, equity, impartiality, independence; and rule of law in superintendence, direction, and control over the electoral governance.
- ECI helps in conducting elections with the highest standard of credibility, fairness, transparency, integrity, accountability, autonomy and professionalism.
- In the electoral process, it ensures the participation of all eligible citizens in an inclusive voter-centric and voter-friendly environment.
- The Election Commission of India engages with political parties and all stakeholders in the interest of the electoral process.
- It creates awareness about the electoral process and electoral governance amongst stakeholders (political parties, voters, election functionaries, candidates and people at large) to enhance and strengthen confidence and trust in the electoral system of this country.
Challenges faced by Election Commission
- Increased violence and electoral malpractices under influence of money have resulted in political criminalization, which ECI is unable to arrest.
- Election Commission is not adequately equipped to regulate the political parties. It has no power in enforcing inner-party democracy and regulation of party finances.
- ECI is becoming lesser independent of the Executive which has impacted its image.
- Allegations of EVMs malfunctioning, getting hacked and not registering votes, corrodes the trust of the general masses in ECI.
Way Forward – ECI
- Until the controversy related to glitches in EVM settles down, the 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 ECI 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 the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commissioners.
Candidates can know more about ARC Reports on the linked page.
UPSC Questions related to Election Commission of India
- What are the powers of the Election Commission in India?
The powers and functions of the Election Commission with regard to elections to the Parliament, state legislatures and offices of President and Vice-President can be classified into three categories, viz, • Administrative • Advisory • Quasi-Judicial
- Who elects the members of the election commission?
The President appoints the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and the other Election Commissioners.
- What are the articles related to ECI?
The following articles of the Constitution of India are 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.|
Candidates can know about relevant commissions of India for comprehensive preparation –
To know more about the list of Commissions and Committees, visit the linked page.
Election Commission Notes:- Download PDF Here
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