Election Commission of India
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|भारत निर्वाचन आयोग|
Election Commission of India
|Formed||25 January 1950 (Later celebrated as National Voters Day)|
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The Election Commission of India is an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering election processes to Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, state legislatures, and the offices of the President and Vice President in India. The Election Commission operates under the authority of Constitution, and subsequently enacted Representation of the People Act. The Supreme Court of India has held that where the enacted laws are silent or make insufficient provision to deal with a given situation in the conduct of elections, the Election Commission has the residuary powers under the Constitution to act in an appropriate manner.
Originally in 1950, the commission had only a Chief Election Commissioner. Two additional Commissioners were appointed to the commission for the first time on 16 October 1989, but they had a very short tenure—until 1 January 1990. The Election Commissioner Amendment Act, 1993 made the Election Commission a multi-member body. The concept of a 3-member Commission has been in operation since then, with decision-making power by majority vote.
The Chief Election Commissioner of India can be removed from his office by Parliament with two-thirds majority in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on the grounds of proven misbehavior or incapacity. Other Election Commissioners can be removed by the President on the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner. A Chief Election Commissioner has never been impeached in India. In 2009, just before the 2009 Lok Sabha Elections, CEC N. Gopalaswami sent a recommendation to President Patil to remove Election Commissioner Navin Chawla, who was soon to take office as a Chief Election Commissioner and to subsequently supervise the Lok Sabha Election, citing his partisan behavior in favor of one political party. The President opined that such a recommendation is not binding on the President, and hence rejected it. Subsequently, after CEC Gopalaswami's retirement next month, Navin Chawla became the Chief Election Commissioner and supervised the bulk of 2009 Lok Sabha Elections. 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.
Functions and powers
One of the most important features of the democratic polity is elections at regular intervals. Holding periodic free and fair elections are essentials of democratic system. It is a part of the basic structure of the Constitution.<ref>AIR 1995 SC 852</ref> The Election Commission is regarded as the 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 a 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 and 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. 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.
A law regarding to the registration process for political parties was enacted in 1989 and number of parties got registered with the Commission.<ref name="eci.nic.in">Welcome to Election Commission of India. Eci.nic.in. Retrieved on 2014-05-21.</ref> It helps to avoid confusion of the administrative machinery and the electorate and ensures that political parties are brought under the purview of the election commission.
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 within 30 days of declaration of results. The campaign period was reduced by the Election Commission from 21 to 14 days for Lok Sabha and Assembly elections to trim down election expenditure. Moreover, Election Commission takes details of the candidate's assets on affidavit at the time of submitting nomination paper.
The Commission can issue an order for prohibition of publication and disseminating of results of opinion polls or exit polls.<ref name="photius.com">India Election Commission Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook</ref>
State Election Commission
The power of superintendence, direction and control of all elections to the local government bodies vest with the State Election Commissions as envisaged in Article 243K of the Constitution of India. The Constitutional (73rd Amendment) Act, passed in 1992 by the Narasimha Rao government, came into force on April 24, 1993. It was meant to provide constitutional sanction to establish "democracy at the grassroots level as it is at the state level or national level" The State Election Commissioner has several unique powers pertaining to the elections to Local Bodies, which include the following. SEC chairs the Delimitation Commission which delimits local government constituencies. He has full powers to conduct local government elections including disciplinary powers over staff who are on election duty and assigns reserved posts and constituencies. The SEC can disqualify candidates who do not submit election accounts, members found guilty of defection and elected representative who do not convene the Grama Sabha. 111
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. 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 program for the 'computerization' 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. But even ration cards and driving licenses is allowed to be used for election purposes. The introduction of Voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) in eight Lok Sabha constituencies in 2014 Indian General Elections was a big achievement after the Supreme Court judgement in October 2013. Voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) system was first used with EVMs in a by-poll in September 2013 in Noksen (Assembly Constituency) in Nagaland. VVPAT was used in gradual manner in all elections starting from September 2013- Mizoram Legislative Assembly election, 2013, Delhi Legislative Assembly election, 2013, Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly election, 2013, Rajasthan Legislative Assembly election, 2013, Chhattisgarh Legislative Assembly election, 2013, Indian general election, 2014, Maharashtra Legislative Assembly election, 2014, Haryana Legislative Assembly election, 2014, Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly election, 2014, Jharkhand Legislative Assembly election, 2014. NOTA was also an option on Indian voting machines in 2014 Lok Sabha elections and now it is a mandatory option in every subsequent elections.
The Election Commission of India came into severe criticism when a RTI by disability activist Dr Satendra Singh revealed its ill-preparedness to safeguard electors with disabilities in General Elections 2014. There were many violations of Supreme Court order from 2014 to enfranchise persons with disabilities.
- "A Constitutional Body". Election Commission of India.
- "A Constitutional Body". Election Commission of India.
- "India devises flawless ballot mechanism".
- "VVPAT used or the first time in Noksen bypolls".
- "Now, 'NOTA' has an electoral symbol too". dna. 18 September 2015. Retrieved 18 September 2015.
- Jain, Bharti (18 September 2015). "'None of the Above' option on EVMS to carry its own symbol from Bihar polls". The Times of India. Retrieved 18 September 2015.
- "Contesting the Bihar Polls? Dummy Candidates Beware".
- "Now, photos of candidates on EVMs to weed out 'dummies'".
- "Polls near, but no data of voters with disabilities". Times of India. 27 January 2014.
- "विकलांगों के लिए गंभीर नहीं चुनाव आयोग". Punjab Kesari. 26 January 2014.
- Official website
- Links to Official Web Sites of Chief Electoral Officers of 28 States and 7 UTs
- ECI's Online Voters List Options: 'Voter Name' search Parliamentary, Assembly constituency wise. Also one can get full Electoral Rolls 'Voting Booth' wise.