How Election Commission ensures free and fair elections in the country? What is its composition? What are its issues and significance? To answer these questions, read further.
The Indian Constitution established the Election Commission as a permanent and independent organization to oversee free and fair elections throughout the nation.
According to Article 324, the election commission shall have the authority to supervise, direct, and regulate elections for the Indian Parliament, state legislatures, the President of India, and the Vice-President of India.
In Mohinder Singh Gill v. Chief Election Commissioner, the Supreme Court held that the ECI has broad authority under Article 324, which allows it to take all necessary measures to ensure free and fair elections.
- The commission initially just had one election commissioner. However, it is now a multi-member body as a result of the Election Commissioner Amendment Act of 1989.
- The commission is made up of two election commissioners and one chief election commissioner.
- Election commissioners and the chief election commissioner are appointed by the president.
- They have a fixed term of six years, or until they reach the age of 65, whichever comes earlier.
- They have the same status as a Supreme Court Judge, and they receive the same pay and benefits.
Removal of Election commissioners
Chief Election Commissioner: He cannot be removed from his office except in the same manner and on the same grounds as a judge of the Supreme Court.
Election Commissioner: Any other election commissioner or a regional commissioner cannot be removed from office except on the recommendation of the chief election commissioner.
Resignation: Election Commissioners including chief election commissioners can resign at any time or can also be removed before the expiry of their term.
Procedure for Removal
- The Chief Election Commissioner can only be removed from office by Parliament using a procedure similar to that of a Supreme Court judge.
- The Chief Election Commissioner may be removed from their posts by a resolution approved by Parliament on the grounds of “Proven misbehavior or incapacity.”
- Removal needs a special majority of two-thirds of the members present and voting, as well as approval from more than half of the house’s total membership.
- The term “impeachment” is not used in the Constitution to describe the removal of CEC.
Independence of ECI
The chief election commissioner cannot be dismissed from his position other than in the same way and for the same reasons as a Supreme Court judge.
After being appointed, the chief election commissioner’s service requirements cannot be changed to his detriment.
A regional commissioner or another election commissioner cannot be dismissed from their positions unless the chief election commissioner recommends it.
Powers and Functions of the Election Commission
- The Indian Election Commission compiles and regularly updates electoral rolls, registers all eligible voters, announces election dates and schedules, and examines nomination papers.
- The commission determines the geographic limits of electoral seats across the country based on the Delimitation Commission Act of Parliament.
- The commission is responsible for the creation of an electronic photo identity card and the preparation of an election list.
- All political parties must adhere to spending caps on each candidate’s campaign, which are carefully monitored, and guide the post-election disqualification of sitting members of the state legislature and the Parliament.
- It requests that the governor or president for the staff required to conduct elections. Additionally, it enrolls political parties for electoral purposes and grants them national or state party status based on the results of polls.
- It provides advice to the governor on issues of the disqualification of members of state legislatures as well as the president on issues of the disqualification of members of Parliament.
- In the event of rigging, booth capturing, violence, or other irregularities, the commission selects officers to conduct inquiries into complaints relating to electoral arrangements and to call off elections.
- Political parties are given recognition and are given election symbols by the commission.
- They establish the code of conduct that the parties and candidates will adhere to during the election.
- The Commission creates a schedule for political party policies for the advertisement on radio and television during election times and oversees the election infrastructure across the nation to ensure free and fair elections.
Issues with ECI
- The Election Commission lacks the necessary tools to control political parties. It is unable to impose internal party democracy or control party finances.
- The rise in violence and money-driven electoral fraud, which ECI is helpless to stop, have resulted in political criminality.
- The general public’s confidence in ECI is eroded by claims that EVMs are broken, vulnerable to hacking, and incapable of recording votes.
- False affidavit or withholding of material information taken by a candidate in the affidavit are not grounds for contesting the election or for the part of the RPA, 1951 that deals with the rejection of nomination papers.
- Political parties can be registered with ECI, but they cannot be de-registered.
- The legal, academic, administrative, and judicial requirements for Election Commission members have not been outlined in the Constitution.
- The Constitution does not prohibit the government from appointing the retiring election commissioners again. Here independence is susceptible to being threatened.
- In the unlikely event that the individual in charge of the commission adheres to a certain ideology, he or she may give strange instructions that destabilize politics or trigger a constitutional crisis.
Elections are the cornerstone of democracy, and the ECI is crucial to that legitimacy. Therefore, to defend its autonomy, the guardian of elections itself urgently needs structural safeguards.
Along with overseeing the holding of free and fair elections, it also serves as a sort of court system for disputes between the various political parties and the current administration.
The budget of the Election Commission should be deducted from the Consolidated Fund of India. It should not be put to a vote by Parliament.
Both the Tarkunde Committee on Electoral Reform (1975) and the Goswami Committee on Electoral Reform (1990) advocated for the appointment of a commissioner as opposed to a presidential appointee.
The second ARC also recommends that a collegium consisting of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Law Minister, and the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha recommend the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commissioners to the President.
Article written by Chetna Yadav