The Election Commission of India is central to the idea of a successful democracy. Especially with respect to a country as large and as vast like India, both in terms of size and diversity, it becomes imperative to be well prepared with respect to all the important aspects of this institution for the Civil Services 2019 preliminary as well as mains examination.
What is Election Commission?
The Election Commission of India was established in 1950. It is an autonomous constitutional body which oversees the conduct of free and fair elections in the country. It administers control on the election conducted for the Rajya Sabha, Lok Sabha, State Legislative councils, assemblies as well as the President and Vice-President.
The election commission has been entrusted these responsibilities under Article 324 and the People’s Representation Act 1951. The commission is empowered under the Constitution of India to act appropriately whenever prevalent laws prove insufficient to conduct an election under certain conditions.
Election Commission Powers
The powers of the Election Commission are defined in the following articles of the Indian Constitution:
- Article 324: Superintendence, control and direction of national and state level elections are to be directly handled by the ECI
- Article 325: Inclusion and exclusion of names in electoral rolls are based on Indian Citizenship. No citizen of India above the voting age should be excluded from the rolls or included in a special electoral roll based on any criteria such as race, caste, religion or sex.
- Article 326: Defines universal adult franchise as the basis for elections to all levels of the elected government.
- Article 327: Defines responsibilities of the ECI and parliament for the conduct of national elections.
- Article 328: Defines the role and responsibilities of the state legislatures with respect to state level elections.
- Article 329: Prohibits court interference in matters related to elections unless specifically asked to provide their views.
The powers of the Election Commission can be studied under three headings :
- Administrative Powers
- Advisory Powers
- Quasi-Judicial Powers
Let us discuss each of them one by one.
Administrative Powers of the Election Commission
- The commission has been empowered to function in accordance to the Delimitation Commission Act and define the territorial boundaries of electoral constituencies for different elections.
- It has been given powers to register and deregister any political party or entity.
- It is empowered to enforce the ‘Model Code of Conduct’ for election campaigns and ensures its implementation.
- It is empowered to keep a check on the election expenses of the political parties. This ensures a level playing field for all the political parties irrespective of their size and thus the capacity to spend.
- It has the power to appoint officers as election observers and expenditure observers from different departments of the Civil Services.
Advisory Powers of the EC:
- The Commission is empowered to advise the President of India regarding disqualification of the members of Parliament and the conditions for the same.
- The Commission also advises the Governors with respect to the disqualifications of members of the State Legislatures
- It advises the High Courts and Supreme Court in matters related to post-election disputes between candidates and political parties.
Note: The post-election disputes related to the election of President and Vice President go to the Supreme Court. Disputes regarding the Parliament and the State Legislatures are referred to the High Courts.
Election Commission Quasi-Judicial Powers
- The Election Commission is empowered to settle disputes regarding recognition granted to political parties and candidates.
- It has the powers to act as a court for matters related to disputes arising out of the allotment of election symbols to political parties and candidates. No two election symbols are the same, even in different regions.
- It must be noted that the elections with respect to the election of Panchayats and Municipalities are carried out under the supervision of the State Election Commission. The State Election Commissions are in turn advised by the ECI and are answerable to it.
The ECI is one of the few constitutional authorities which have the freedom to operate autonomously. Other such bodies are the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India’s Office, Higher judiciary such as the High Courts and Supreme Court and the Union Public Service Commission. It is an important part of Public Administration as well as General Studies. The commission is also a very important institution covered by Indian Polity and IAS aspirants should stay abreast of the latest developments related to it.
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