Election Commission of India

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Election Commission of India

भारत निर्वाचन आयोग
Election Commission of India Logo.png
Election Commission of India
Agency overview
Formed 25 January 1950 (Later celebrated as National Voters Day)
Jurisdiction India
Headquarters New Delhi
28°36′50″N 77°12′32″E / 28.61389°N 77.20889°E / 28.61389; 77.20889
Agency executives V. S. Sampath, Chief Election Commissioner
Harishankar Brahma, Election Commissioner
Syed Nasim Ahmad Zaidi, Election Commissioner[1]
Website eci.nic.in

The Election Commission of India(Hindi:भारत निर्वाचन आयोग) is an autonomous, constitutionally established federal authority responsible for administering all the electoral processes in the Republic of India. Under the supervision of the commission, free and fair elections have been held in India at regular intervals as per the principles enshrined in the Constitution. The Election Commission has the power of superintendence, direction and control of all elections to the Parliament of India and the state legislatures and of elections to the office of the President of India and the Vice-President of India.[2]

The power of superintendence, direction and control of all elections to the Local Government/Municiple Corporation by the State Election Commission.

The Chief Election Commissioner can be removed from his office by Parliament with two-thirds majority in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on the grounds of proven misbehaviour or incapacity. Other Election Commissioners can be removed by the President on the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner. The Chief Election Commissioner and the two Election Commissioners draw salaries and allowances at par with those of the Judges of the Supreme Court of India as per the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Conditions of Service) Rules, 1992.[3] The current CEC is V.Sundaram Sampath.

History[edit]

T.N. Seshan[edit]

Over the years, the Election Commission's enforcement of India's remarkably strict election laws grew increasingly lax. As a consequence, candidates flagrantly violated laws limiting campaign expenditures. Elections became increasingly violent (350 persons were killed during the 1991 campaign, including five Lok Sabha and twenty-one state assembly candidates), and voter intimidation and fraud proliferated.[4]

The appointment of T.N. Seshan as chief election commissioner in 1991 reinvigorated the Election Commission and curbed the illegal manipulation of India's electoral system. By cancelling or repolling elections where improprieties had occurred, disciplining errant poll officers, and fighting for the right to deploy paramilitary forces in sensitive areas, Seshan forced candidates to take the Election Commission's code of conduct seriously and strengthened its supervisory machinery. In Uttar Pradesh, where more than 100 persons were killed in the 1991 elections, Seshan succeeded in reducing the number killed to two in the November 1993 assembly elections by enforcing compulsory deposit of all licensed firearms, banning unauthorised vehicular traffic, and supplementing local police with paramilitary units. In state assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka, and Sikkim, after raising ceilings for campaign expenditures to realistic levels, Seshan succeeded in getting candidates to comply with these limits by deploying 337 audit officers to keep daily accounts of the candidates' election expenditures. Although Seshan has received enthusiastic support from the public, he has stirred great controversy among the country's politicians. In October 1993, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that confirmed the supremacy of the chief election commissioner, thereby deflecting an effort to rein in Seshan by appointing an additional two election commissioners. Congress (I)'s attempt to curb Seshan's powers through a constitutional amendment was foiled after a public outcry weakened its support in Parliament.

Use of Scientific and Technological Advancements[edit]

The Election Commission had tried to bring improvements in election procedures by introduction of EVM – Electronic Voting Machines. It was thought that EVMs would reduce malpractices and improve efficiency.It was first tried out on an experimental basis in the state of Kerala for the 1982 Legislative Assembly Elections. After successful testing and legal inquires, the Commission took the decision to begin the use of EVMs.[5]

The Election Commission launched a web site of its own on 28 February 1998. It helps to provide accurate information, management, administration and also instant results of the elections. In 1998, Election Commission decided on a programme for the 'computerisation' of the electoral rolls.

In an effort to prevent electoral fraud, in 1993 EPICs – Electorals Photo Identity Cards were issued. In the 2004 elections, it was mandatory to possess the card.

Multi Member Commission[edit]

Originally the commission had only a Chief Election Commissioner. But, two additional Commissioners were appointed to the commission for the first time on 16 October 1989 but they had a very short tenure till 1 January 1990. The Election Commissioner Amendment Act, 1993 made Election Commission to be multi member body. Later, on 1 October 1993, two additional Election Commissioners were appointed. The concept of multi-member Commission has been in operation since then, with decision making power by majority vote.[5]

Functions and powers[edit]

Guardian of Free and Fair Elections[edit]

One of the most important features of the democratic polity is elections at regular intervals.

Democracy is the

“Government of the people, By the people, And for the people".

Holding periodic free & fair elections are essentials of democratic system. It is part of basic structure of the Constitution which has been held in T. N. Sheshan V/s Union of India.[6] The Commission has taken many efforts for the success of elections and thereby democracy.

Model Code of Conduct[edit]

The Election Commission is regarded as guardian of free and fair elections. In every election, it issues a Model code of Conduct for political parties and candidates to conduct elections in free and fair manner. The Commission issued the code for the first time in 1971 (5th Election) and revised it from time to time. It lay down guidelines for conduct of political parties & candidates during elections. However, there are instances of violation of code by the political parties and complaints are received for misuse of official machinery by the candidates.

In I.D. Systems (India) Pvt. Ltd. v/s. Chief Election Commissioner,[7] the Kerala High Court held that the object of model code of conduct is not to stop all governmental activities but only those actions which may directly influence a section of electors need to be prevented.

The need for such code is in the interest of free and fair elections. However, the code does not have any specific statutory basis. It has only a persuasive effect. It contains what, known as "rules of electoral morality". But this lack of statutory backing does not prevent the Commission from enforcing it.

Registration of Political Parties[edit]

A law regarding to this registration process was enacted in 1989 and number of parties got registered with Commission.[8] It helps to avoid confusion and headache of the administrative machinery as well as confusion of the electorate. It ensures that political parties can practice democracy only by their registration.

Limits on Poll Expenses[edit]

To get rid of the growing influences and vulgar show of money during elections the Election Commission has made many suggestions in this regard. The Election Commission has fixed the legal limits on the amount of money which a candidate can spend during election campaigns. These limits have been revised from time to time. The Election Commission by appointing observers keeps an eye on the individual account of election expenditure. The contestants are also required to give details of expenditure with 30 days of declaration of results. However, political parties do not adhere to the financial ‘Lakshman Rekha’ as huge amount are spent by parties under the garb of their supporters.

The campaign period was reduced by the Election Commission from 21 to 14 days for Lok Sabha and Assembly elections; it is for to trim down election expenditure. The Election Commission’s this attempt to impose these measures has been a move in the right direction. Moreover, Election Commission takes details of the candidate's asset on affidavit at the time of submitting nomination paper.

In Common Cause v/s. Union of India, it was pointed out that, in India elections are fought on the basis of money. The Court ruled that, purity of election is fundamental to the democracy and Commission can ask the candidates about the expenditure incurred by them and political party for this purpose.

Prohibition on Publication[edit]

The Commission can issue an order for prohibition of publication and disseminating of results of opinion polls (Exit Polls).[4]

Quasi judicial powers[edit]

Under the Constitution, the Commission also has advisory jurisdiction in the matter of post election disqualification of sitting members of Parliament found guilty of corrupt practices at elections which come before the Supreme Court and High Courts.The Courts refer to the Commission for its opinion on the question as to whether such person shall be disqualified and, if so, for what period. The opinion of the Commission in all such matters is binding on the President or, as the case may be, the Governor to whom such opinion is tendered. The Commission has the power to disqualify a candidate who has failed to lodge an account of his election expenses within the time and in the manner prescribed by law. The Commission has also the power for removing or reducing the period of such disqualification as also other disqualification under the law.

Booth Level Officer[edit]

Booth Level Officer (BLO) is a local Government/Semi-Government official, familiar with the local electors and generally a voter in the same polling area who assists in updating the roll using his local knowledge. BLO is a representative of Election Commission of India (ECI) at the grass-root level who plays a pivotal role in the process of roll revision and collecting actual field information with regard to the roll corresponding to the polling area assigned to him.Under Section 13B (2) of Representation of People Act, 1950, BLOs are appointed from amongst the officers of the Govt. /Semi Govt. /Local Bodies. Generally, one BLO is responsible for one part of the electoral roll. From August 2006 the Commission has decided to introduce the concept of appointing BLOs who would be accountable for ensuring the fidelity of electoral roll. [9]

Secretariat[edit]

The Commission has a separate Secretariat at New Delhi, consisting of about 300 officials, in a hierarchical set up.[8] Two or three Deputy Election Commissioners and Director Generals who are the senior most officers in the Secretariat assist the Commission. They are generally appointed from the national civil service of the country and are selected and appointed by the Commission with tenure. Directors, Principal Secretaries, and Secretaries, Under Secretaries and Deputy Directors support the Deputy Election Commissioners and Director Generals in turn. There is functional and territorial distribution of work in the Commission. The work is organised in Divisions, Branches and sections; each of the last mentioned units is in charge of a Section Officer. The main functional divisions are Planning, Judicial, Administration, Systematic Voters' Education and Electoral Participation, SVEEP, Information Systems, Media and Secretariat Co-ordination. The territorial work is distributed among separate units responsible for different Zones into which the 35 constituent States and Union Territories of the country are grouped for convenience of management.

At the state level, the election work is supervised, subject to overall superintendence, direction and control of the Commission, by the Chief Electoral Officer of the State, who is appointed by the Commission from amongst senior civil servants proposed by the concerned state government. He is, in most of the States, a full-time officer and has a small team of supporting staff.

At the district and constituency levels, the District Election Officers, Electoral Registration Officers and Returning Officers, who are assisted by a large number of junior functionaries, perform election work. They all perform their functions relating to elections in addition to their other responsibilities. During election time, however, they are available to the Commission, more or less, on a full-time basis. The gigantic task force for conducting a countrywide general election consists of nearly five million polling personnel and civil police forces. This huge election machinery is deemed to be on deputation to the Election Commission and is subject to its control, superintendence and discipline during the election period, extending over a period of one and a half to two months.

Budget and Expenditure[edit]

Secretariat of the Commission has an independent budget, which is finalised directly in consultation between the Commission and the Finance Ministry of the Union Government. The latter generally accepts the recommendations of the Commission for its budgets. The major expenditure on actual conduct of elections is, however, reflected in the budgets of the concerned constituent units of the Union – States and Union Territories. If elections are being held only for the Parliament, the expenditure is borne entirely by the Union Government while for the elections being held only for the State Legislature, the expenditure are borne entirely by the concerned State. In case of simultaneous elections to the Parliament and State Legislature, the expenditure is shared equally between the Union and the State Governments. For Capital equipment, expenditure related to preparation for electoral rolls and the scheme for Electors' Identity Cards too, the expenditure is shared equally.[10]

Tenure[edit]

The Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners have a tenure of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier. The Chief Election Commissioner can be removed from office only through impeachment by Parliament.[5]

Judicial Review[edit]

The decisions of the Commission can be challenged in the High Court and the Supreme Court by appropriate petitions called as "Election petition". By long standing convention and several judicial pronouncements, once the actual process of elections has started, the judiciary does not intervene in the actual conduct of the polls. Once the polls are completed and result declared, the Commission cannot review any result on its own. This can only be reviewed through the process of an election petition, which can be filed before the High Court, in respect of elections to the Parliament and State Legislatures. In respect of elections for the offices of the President and Vice-President, such petitions can only be filed before the Supreme Court.[5]

National Voters' Day[edit]

25 January is the foundation day of the Commission, which came into being on this day in 1950. It is also celebrated as National Voters' Day by ECI . The Commission's objective through National Voters' Day is to increase enrolment of voters, especially of the newly eligible ones, to make universal adult suffrage a complete reality. The National Voters' Day is also utilised to spread awareness among voters regarding effective participation in the electoral process.[11]

4th National Voters' Day[edit]

The Election Commission of India celebrated the 4th National Voters' Day across the country on 25 January 2014 . The theme for the 4th NVD was 'Ethical Voting'. NVD functions were held at more than 656,000 locations across the country covering nearly all 900,000 Polling Stations. 39.1 million new electors were added in the run up to the fourth National Voters' Day, among which 12.7 million are the newly eligible 18-19yrs old.[11]

New Initiatives[edit]

The Commission has taken several new initiatives in the recent past. Notable among these are: a scheme for use of State owned Electronic Media for broadcast/telecast by Political parties, checking criminalisation of politics, computerisation of electoral rolls, providing electors with Identity Cards, simplifying the procedure for maintenance of accounts and filling of the same by candidates and a variety of measures for strict compliance of Model Code of Conduct, for providing a level playing field to contestants during the elections.[5]

Criticism[edit]

The Election Commission of India came into severe criticism when a RTI by disability activist Dr Satendra Singh revealed it's ill-preparedness to safeguard electors with disabilities in General Elections 2014.[12] There were many violations of Supreme Court order from 2014 to enfranchise persons with disabilities.[13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Balaji, J (4 August 2012). "Zaidi is new Election Commissioner". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 
  2. ^ "A Constitutional Body". Election Commission of India. 
  3. ^ "Q 7. What is the status Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commissioners in terms of salaries and allowances etc.?". Election Commission of India. 
  4. ^ a b India Election Commission Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
  5. ^ a b c d e "A Constitutional Body". Election Commission of India. 
  6. ^ AIR 1995 SC 852
  7. ^ AIR 2006 Ker 229
  8. ^ a b http://eci.nic.in/eci_main1/the_setup.aspx
  9. ^ "Booth Level Officer; A Representative of Election Commission at the Grass-Root Level". PIB. 9 March 2014. Retrieved 12 March 2014. 
  10. ^ "About ECI". Election Commission of India. 
  11. ^ a b "4th National Voters' Day celebrated across the country". Press Information Bureau Government of India Election Commission. 25 January 2014. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  12. ^ "Polls near, but no data of voters with disabilities". Times of India. 27 January 2014. 
  13. ^ "विकलांगों के लिए गंभीर नहीं चुनाव आयोग". Punjab Kesari. 26 January 2014. 

External links[edit]