The Election Commission

The Election Commission as an autonomous, quasi-judicial and a constitutional body, was established for purposes of fair and free elections on January 25, 1950, under Article 324 of the Constitution. It was a one-person institution until 1989, then was designated as the Chief Election Commissioner. In the year 1989, two additional members, were appointed, making, the Election Commission a three-official body. In January 1990, the two were relieved of their duties as Election Commissioners. Under a law of the Parliament of 1991, the Election Commission, consists of the Chief Election Commissioner and such other members as the President may, from time to time, fix.

At present, there are three members of the Election Commission: one Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners. Indian Polity and Governance?121 The President of India appoints the Chief Election Commissioner and the other two Election Commissioners (Article 324). The Election Commissioners have a term of six years or upto the age of 65 whichsoever is earlier. The Election Commissioners’ status is equivalent to that of the judge of the Supreme Court. The Chief Election Commissioner can be removed on grounds like that of the judge of the Supreme Court and the other Election Commissioners are/canbe/may be removed on the recommendations of the Chief Election Commissioner (Article 324(5)).

The Election Commission has completed more than 300 elections so far. It has its own secretariat which consists of over 300 officials. It functions through numerous divisions: planning, judicial administration, media, secretariat. The powers and functions of the Election Commission relate mainly to the conduct of elections in the country.

Its functions can be summed up as under:

  • Conduct of elections, bye-elections for Lok Sabha, State Assemblies, legislative councils, and office of the President and Vice-President;
  • Addresses complaints relating to elections;
  • Appoints tribunals if necessary to address complaints relating to elections;
  • Reviews returns filed by the candidates during elections in respect of the expenses made by them; v Addresses applications filed by candidates for elections, remove or disqualify candidates if necessary;
  • Passes orders on elections in case no rules or laws have been made;
  • Delimits constituencies as necessary;
  • Recognizes and registers political parties or derecognizes them;
  • Allots symbols to political parties and independent candidates;
  • Cancels polls in case of voting irregularities, violence, and rigging;
  • Advise the President on elections in a state that is under President’s rule.
  • Prepares and manages the electoral roll in all the constituencies;
  • Advises the President on disqualifications of a candidate; and
  • As a quasi-judiciary body, it helps manage disputes related to elections.
  • Issues model code for the political parties and the candidates from time to time;
  • Helps in checking criminalization of politics during elections;
  • Keeps check on poll expenses made by the political parties and candidates;
  • Brings improvement in election procedures: introducing and testing of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), for example;
  • Countermands an election during elections, in an area;
  • Orders a re-poll or a recount during elections, in an area.

The responsibility of conducting the elections thus is that of the Election Commission. During the elections, the entire central and state government machinery including para-military forces and the police is under the control of the Election Commission. It may however be stated that, the Election Commission is autonomous and independent in the sense that it is away from every kind of executive interference. It may be remembered here that its recommendations are usually binding on the governments. The Commission submits its annual report to the President. The Election Commission has done its task in most efficient manner which is a clear indication of our successful experiment with democracy.

Notwithstanding the political controversies surrounding the office and composition of the Election Commission in India, our election machinery, working under the direction of the Election Commission, has done its job fairly well. The Supreme Court held in Union of India v Association for Democratic Reforms and Others (1978) ‘The jurisdiction of the Election Commission is wide enough to include all powers necessary for smooth conduct of elections, and the words ‘elections’ is used in a wide sense to include the entire process of election which consists of several stages and embraces many steps.’

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