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Election Commission of India

Posted by Admin on September 17, 2014 | Comment

The Election Commission of India is a permanent body which has been vested with the responsibility of directing and controlling the entire process of conducting elections. The commission is known for upholding the principle of free and fair elections as mentioned in the Constitution.Election Commission of India

History & Development of Election Commission

The Election Commission was established on 25th January 1950 with an objective of supervising all elections to the Parliament of India, state legislatures and to the office of the President and the Vice-President of India. In the first few decades of its existence, the commission was led by a Chief Election Commissioner (CEC). Sukumar Sen was the first CEC of India.

Much later in 1989, two additional commissioners were appointed to the commission for the first time. However, they remained in office for a brief period. With the enactment of The Election Commissioner Amendment Act (1993), the poll commission became a multi-member body. The concept of multi-member Commission became operational once again after two additional Election Commissioners were appointed.  

One of the major developments brought about by the poll panel was the introduction of EVM – Electronic Voting Machines. The concept behind this initiative was to reduce malpractices and bring in more transparency in electoral process. Electoral Photo Identity Cards (EPICs) were issued for the first time in 1993 in a bid to ensure transparency. The Commission came up with its website in 1998 and in the same year it took the call of computerising electoral rolls.

Composition of the Election Commission of India

Presently, the Election Commission comprises a Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners. According to Article 324 of the Indian Constitution, the President appoints the Chief Election Commissioner and “such other Commissioners” as he may from time to time fix. The CEC and other Election Commissioners are appointed for a period of six years, or up to the age of 65 years. When an Election Commissioner is appointed, the CEC acts as the Chairman of the Commission.

Chief Election Commissioner can be removed from his office on the grounds of misconduct or incapacity if the two-third members in both houses of the Parliament give their consent to the decision. The President can remove other Election Commissioners if it is being recommended by the CEC. Prior to the general elections or state elections, the President may also appoint Regional Commissioners to assist the Election Commission in performing its duties.

The Secretariat, which comprises about 300 officials, helps the Commission perform its executive functions. The secretariat is headed by two deputy election commissioners, who are selected by the Commission from the national civil service. On a state level, it’s the chief electoral officer (CEO) who supervises the election work. The Commission selects the electoral officer from senior civil servants recommended by the state government.

Functions of the Election Commission of India

The Commission has taken several measures to hold “free & fair elections” on a periodic basis. As a constitutional body, it issues a Model Code of Conduct for political parties and candidates to prevent malpractices during elections. The guidelines for conduct of political parties and their candidates are laid down by the commission. Every new political party has to get itself registered with the commission.

Putting checks and balances in place is what the Election Commission is expected to do.  Time and again, it fixes limits on the amount of money a candidate can spend for election campaigns. The observers appointed by the Election Commission keep an eye on the election expenditure. Moreover, the candidates are also required to give details of expenditure at least 30 days prior to the declaration of results. Similarly, the Commission takes details of the candidates’ assets while they submit the nomination paper.

In order to bring down the election expenses, the Commission reduced the campaign period by a week from 21 to 14 days for both Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. Moreover, it is incumbent upon the Commission to prohibit publication and dissemination of results of opinion polls. All these functions are in addition to the fundamental roles including preparation of electoral rolls and announcement of election dates.

Criticism of Election Commission of India

Questions have been asked on the effectiveness of the Election Commission and the entity has often come under heavy criticism for not acting against the political parties who violated poll code and misused official machinery. Although the poll panel puts a limit on poll expenses, political parties hardly adhere to the “financial Lakshman Rekha”. It did vitiate the political atmosphere with large-scale corruption.

Sometimes, the Commission lacks enough teeth to enforce discipline in the electoral processes. Since the model code of conduct doesn’t have any statutory backing, it is not strictly enforced. The Commission has faced criticism for being unable to put an end to corruption in the electoral process.