Election Commission of India
The official logo Election Commission
|Formed||25 January 1950 (Later celebrated as National Voters Day)|
|Headquarters||Nirvachan Sadan, Ashoka Road, New Delhi|
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The Election Commission of India is an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering election processes in India. The body administers elections to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, state Legislative Assemblies, state legislative Councils, and the offices of the President and Vice President of the country. The Election Commission operates under the authority of Constitution per Article 324, and subsequently enacted Representation of the People Act. The commission has the powers under the Constitution, to act in an appropriate manner when the enacted laws make insufficient provisions to deal with a given situation in the conduct of an election. Being a constitutional authority, Election Commission is amongst the few institutions which function with both autonomy and freedom, along with the country’s higher judiciary, the Union Public Service Commission and the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.
The current commission was established in 1950 when it had a Chief Election Commissioner appointed. Membership increased on 16 October 1989 to three with the increase of two Commissioners were appointed to the commission. That commission ceased on 1 January 1990 when The Election Commissioner Amendment Act, 1989 superseded the earlier the commission; it continues in operation.. Decisions by the commission are by at least a majority vote. The Chief Election Commissioner and the two Election Commissioners who are usually retired IAS officers draw salaries and allowances as per 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.
The commission secretariat is based in New Delhi which includes the Election Commissioners, Deputy Election Commissioners (usually IAS officers) Directors General, Principal Secretaries, Secretaries and Under Secretaries.
Administration is generally by state with the Chief Electoral Officer of the State, who is an IAS officer of Principal Secretary rank. At the district and constituency levels, the District Magistrates (in their capacity as District Election Officers), Electoral Registration Officers and Returning Officers perform election work.
Removal from office
The Chief Election Commissioner of India can be removed from office as can be a judge of the Supreme Court of India: a two-thirds majority resolution passed by the Parliament of India (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha) outlining the grounds of misbehavior or incapacity. Other Election Commissioners can be removed by the President of India on the advice of the Chief Election Commissioner. A Chief Election Commissioner has yet to be impeached. In 2009, just before the 2009 Lok Sabha Elections, Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami sent a recommendation to President Prathibha Patil to remove Election Commissioner Navin Chawla, who was soon to take office as the chief election commissioner and to subsequently supervise the Lok Sabha Election, a potential conflict of interest considering his partisan political party behavior. The President rejected advisory recommendation. Subsequently, after Gopalswami's retirement the next month, Chawla became the chief election commissioner and supervised the 2009 Lok Sabha Elections.
The fundamental pursuit of democracy is elections at regular intervals. Holding periodic, free and fair elections are essentials of a democratic system and a part fundamental aspect of the Constitution. The Election Commission is regarded as India's guardian of elections. Starting with the 1971 5th Lok Sabha elections, the commission has issued for each election an advisory Model Code of Conduct guidelines to be adhered to by political parties and candidates although there is no constitutional statutory power or obligation to do so. Instances of violation of the code by various political parties with complaints being received for misuse of official machinery by the candidates has happened. The code does not have any specific statutory basis but only a persuasive effect. It contains the rules of electoral morality.
The commission has the power to designate political party insignia and is prohibited from allowing the same insignia by two different parties regardless of differing locations. It set limits on poll expenses. The commission is responsible for maintenance of the electoral rolls and establishing the schedules of elections.
To curb the growing influence of money during elections, the Election Commission has made many suggestions and changes in this regard. The commission has appointed IRS officers of the Income Tax Department as Election Observers (Expenditure) of all elections and has fixed the legal limits on the amount of money which a candidate can spend during election campaigns. These limits have been revised over time. The Election Commission, by appointing expenditure observers from the Indian Revenue Service, keeps an eye on the individual account of election expenditure. The commission takes details of the candidate's assets on affidavit at the time of submitting nomination paper, who are also required to give details of their expenditure within 30 days of the declaration of results. The campaign period has also been reduced by the commission from 21 to 14 days for Lok Sabha and Assembly elections to cut down election expenditure.
The Election Commission had tried to bring improvements in election procedures by the introduction of Electronic voting machines or EVMs. It was thought that these 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 a successful testing and the legal inquiries, the commission took the decision to begin the use of these voting machines. The Election Commission launched a web site of its own on 28 February 1998 in order to provide accurate information, management, administration and instant results of the elections. In an effort to prevent electoral fraud, in 1993, EPICs or Electors Photo Identity Cards were issued, which became mandatory by the 2004 elections. However ration cards have been allowed for election purposes in certain situations.
In 1998, the commission decided on a programme for the 'computerisation' of the electoral rolls. The introduction of Voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) in eight Lok Sabha constituencies in 2014 Indian General Elections was a big achievement for the Election Commission. This 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. and eventually in all elections from September 2013 onwards in various Legislative elections in the country.
In 2014, none of the above or NOTA was also added as an option on the voting machines which is now a mandatory option to be provided in any election. The specific symbol for NOTA, a ballot paper with a black cross across it, was introduced on 18 September 2015. The symbol has been designed by National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. With the 2015 Bihar Legislative Assembly election, the state became the first to have photo electoral rolls, with photographs of the candidates on the EVMs.
Electors with disabilities
The Election Commission of India came under severe criticism when an RTI application filed by activist Dr Satendra Singh revealed the commission's ill-preparedness to safeguard electors with disabilities in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. There were many violations of the Supreme Court order from 2014 to enfranchise persons with disabilities.
Election Commission organised an open hackathon on 3 June 2017, to attempt hacking of Electronic Voting Machine used by the commission in various Indian elections. The NCP and CPI(M) were the only two parties that registered for the event but none of them participated. Functioning of EVMs and VVPAT machines were demonstrated to the teams.
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- Election Commission of India Official Portal
- ECI's Online Voters List Options: 'Voter Name' search Parliamentary, Assembly constituency-wise. Also one can get full Electoral Rolls 'Voting Booth' wise.