The Election Commission has said that postal ballots facility would not be extended to NRIs for the upcoming elections to the Assam, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Kerala and West Bengal Assemblies.
- The Election Commission of India is an autonomous constitutional body
- Responsible for administering election processes in India at national and state level.
- The body administers elections to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, State Legislative Assemblies, State Legislative Councils and the offices of the President and Vice President of 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.It’s a permanent constitutional body.
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.
Procedure of Removal
- Judges of High Courts and Supreme Court, CEC, Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) may be Removed from office through a motion adopted by Parliament on grounds of ‘Proven misbehaviour or incapacity’.
- Removal requires special majority of 2/3rd 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 judges, CAG, CEC.
- The term ‘Impeachment’ is only used for removing the President which requires the special majority of 2/3rd members of the total strength of both the houses which is not used elsewhere.
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:
Powers of Election Commission of India
In details, these powers of 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’ 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 advice 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 the no one indulges in unfair practice or there is no arbitrary abuse of powers by those in power.
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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- There have been allegations of EVMs malfunctioning, getting hacked and not registering votes which corrodes general masses trust from the institution.
- 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.
- 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.
- There is a need to provide more legal support to the commission’s mandate and the processes that support that mandate.
- As history shows, inadequate leadership is the bane of our public institutions. Safeguards to ensure that ethical and capable people head them are crucial.
- 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.