Election Commission of India

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Commission Overview
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
Agency executives
Website Official Website

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 in India, and the offices of the President and Vice President in the country.[1][2] The Election Commission operates under the authority of Constitution per Article 324,[3] and subsequently enacted Representation of the People Act.[4] 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 and lately the UPSC.

Structure[edit]

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, ending on 1 January 1990. The Election Commissioner Amendment Act, 1989 made the Commission a multi-member body. The concept of a 3-member Commission has been in operation since then, with the decisions being made by a majority vote.[1] The Chief Election Commissioner and the two Election Commissioners who are usually retired IAS officers 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.[5]

The Commission is served by its Secretariat located in New Delhi.[1] The Election Commissioners are assisted by Deputy Election Commissioners, who are generally IAS officers. They are further assisted by Directors General, Principal Secretaries, and Secretaries and Under Secretaries.[1][6]

At the state level, Election Commission is assisted by 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.[1][6]

Removal from office[edit]

The Chief Election Commissioner of India can be removed from his office by the Parliament with a two-thirds majority in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha on the grounds of proved misbehavior or incapacity. Other Election Commissioners can be removed by the President of India 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, 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, citing his partisan behavior in favor of one political party.[7] The President opined that such a recommendation is not binding on the President, and hence rejected it.[8] Subsequently, after Gopalswami's retirement the next month, Chawla became the Chief Election Commissioner and supervised the 2009 Lok Sabha Elections.[9]

Functions[edit]

One of the most important features of the democratic polity is elections at regular intervals. Holding periodic free and fair elections are essentials of a democratic system and a part of the basic structure of the Constitution. The Election Commission is regarded as the guardian of elections in the country. 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 for the 5th Lok Sabha elections and revised it from time to time. It lays down guidelines for the conduct of political parties and candidates during an election period. However, there have been instances of violation of the code by various political parties with complaints being received for misuse of official machinery by the candidates.[10][11] The code does not have any specific statutory basis but only a persuasive effect.[10][11] It contains the rules of electoral morality.[10][11] However, this lack of statutory backing does not prevent the Commission from enforcing it.[10][11][12][13][14]

A law regarding the registration process for political parties was enacted in 1989 and a number of parties got registered with the Commission.[15] The registration helps avoid confusion ensures that the political parties are brought under the purview of the commission.

The election commission has the right to allow symbols to the political parties. It gives recognition to the national parties, state parties and regional parties. It set limits on poll expenses. The commission prepare electoral rolls and update the voter's list from time to time. Notifications of dates and schedules of election for filing nominations are issued by the commission. It is noteworthy that Election commission cannot allot same symbol to two regional political parties even if they are not in the same state.[16]

The Commission can issue an order for prohibition of publication and disseminating of results of opinion polls or exit polls to prevent influencing the voting trends in the electorate.[17][18][19]

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.[20][21] 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.[22][23]

In an attempt to decriminalise politics, the Election Commission has approached the Supreme Court to put a lifetime ban on convicted politicians from contesting elections.[24][25]

Modernisation[edit]

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.[26] 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.[27] 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.[28] 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.[29] and eventually in all elections from September 2013 onwards in various Legislative elections in the country.

NOTA symbol in India

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.[30][31] 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.[32][33] With the Bihar Legislative Assembly election, 2015 , the state became the first to have photo electoral rolls, with photographs of the candidates on the EVMs.[34][35]

Criticism[edit]

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.[36] There were many violations of the Supreme Court order from 2014 to enfranchise persons with disabilities.[37]

2017 Hackathon[edit]

Election Commission organised an open hackathon on 3 June at 10 am, to attempt hacking of Electronic Voting Machine used by the Commission in various Indian elections.[38][39] The NCP and CPI(M) were the only two parties that registered for the event but none of them participated.[40] Functioning of EVMs and VVPAT machines were demonstrated to the teams.[39][40]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "About ECI". Election Commission of India. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  2. ^ "The Presidential and Vice-Presidential Elections Act, 1952 (Act No. 31 of 1952)" (PDF). Election Commission of India. 14 March 1952. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  3. ^ "Part XV of the Constitution of India - Elections - Article 324" (PDF). Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  4. ^ "The Representation of the People Act, 1951" (PDF). Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  5. ^ "The Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991 (Act No. 11 of 1991)" (PDF). Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India. 25 January 1991. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  6. ^ a b Laxmikanth, M (2017). Indian Polity. McGraw Hill. p. 42.5. ISBN 9789352603633. 
  7. ^ Ram, N. (31 January 2009). "Chief Election Commissioner Gopalaswami 'recommends' removal of Navin Chawla". The Hindu. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  8. ^ "President rejects Gopalaswami's report against Navin Chawla". The Hindu. 2 March 2009. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  9. ^ "A job well done". The Hindu. 15 May 2009. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  10. ^ a b c d Chhibber, Maneesh (5 November 2015). "Model Code is only moral code, but carries weight". The Indian Express. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  11. ^ a b c d Joyita (14 April 2014). "Model Code of Conduct and the 2014 General Elections". PRS Legislative Research. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  12. ^ Iqbal, Aadil Ikram Zaki (4 January 2017). "UP poll dates announced, results on March 11". India. Essel Group. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  13. ^ "Election Commission enforces model code of conduct in Manipur". Hindustan Times. 5 January 2017. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  14. ^ Sharma, Test (10 October 2007). "Gujarat, Himachal get dates for Assembly polls". News18. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  15. ^ "Registration of political parties under section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951" (PDF). Election Commission of India. 23 March 1992. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  16. ^ "Handbook of Symbols, 2004" (PDF). Election Commission of India. 2004. Clause 9. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  17. ^ "Subject - Guidelines for Publication and Dissemination of Results of Opinion Polls/Exit Polls". Election Commission of India. 20 January 1998. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  18. ^ "Election Commission bans exit polls in election-bound states". The Times of India. 29 January 2017. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  19. ^ Chopra, Ritika (16 February 2017). "Exit polls and why they are restricted by the panel: All your questions answered". The Indian Express. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  20. ^ Kumar, Pradeep (23 March 2017). "RK Nagar byelection: Observers appointed". The Times of India. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  21. ^ "Deployment of observers in RK Nagar a new national record: Election Commission". The New Indian Express. 31 March 2017. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  22. ^ Chandrakant, Nagnath (29 April 2010). "Role Of Election Commission". Legal Services India. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  23. ^ "The Function (Electoral System)". Election Commission of India. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  24. ^ Anand, Utkarsh (21 March 2017). "Election Commission supports lifetime ban on convicts from contesting". The Indian Express. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  25. ^ Rautray, Samanwaya (15 September 2016). "Lifetime ban on convicted netas: Supreme Court seeks Center, Election Commission's views". The Economic Times. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  26. ^ "A Constitutional Body". Election Commission of India. 
  27. ^ "When using ration card as identity proof,entire family should vote". The Indian Express. 8 October 2009. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  28. ^ "India devises flawless ballot mechanism". The News International. 19 December 2013. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  29. ^ Singh, Bikash (4 September 2013). "VVPAT used or the first time in Noksen bypolls". The Economic Times. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  30. ^ Joshua, Anita (13 October 2013). "Election Commission okays NOTA option". The Hindu. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  31. ^ "NOTA to be provided in general elections". The Times of India. 5 March 2014. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  32. ^ "Now, 'NOTA' has an electoral symbol too". Daily News and Analysis. 18 September 2015. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  33. ^ 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 9 September 2017. 
  34. ^ Shivadekar, Sanjeev (30 March 2015). "Now, photos of candidates on EVMs to weed out 'dummies'". Times of India. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  35. ^ Virk, Aviral (21 September 2015). "Contesting the Bihar Polls? Dummy Candidates Beware". The Quint. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  36. ^ Gohain, Manash Pratim (27 January 2014). "Polls near, but no data of voters with disabilities". Times of India. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  37. ^ "विकलांगों के लिए गंभीर नहीं चुनाव आयोग" [Election Commission not serious about persons with disablities]. Punjab Kesari (in Hindi). 26 January 2014. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  38. ^ "AAP calls EC's EVM challenge 'farce', begins registration for its hackathon". The Economic Times. 3 June 2017. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  39. ^ a b Prabhu, Sunil (3 June 2017). Tikku, Aloke, ed. "The EVM (Vote Machine) 'Hackathons' That Weren't: 10 Points". NDTV. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  40. ^ a b "EVM 'hackathon' challenge: NCP, CPM didn't participate, but understood the process, says EC". Firstpost. 3 June 2017. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 

External links[edit]