Table of Contents
- Article 324 : Power of superintendence, direction and control of Elections to
- State legislatures
- Office of President of India
- Office of vice-president of India
shall be vested in the election commission.
- Note : Election commission is not concerned with the elections to panchayats and municipalities in states. For this, the Constitution of India provides for a separate State Election Commission.
Article 324 of the Constitution has made the following provisions
- There shall be Chief Election Commissioner & such number of election commissioners, as the President from time to time fix.
- Appointed by the President subject to the provisions of law made by Parliament
- When any other Election Commissioner is appointed, Chief Election Commissioner shall act as the chairman of Election Commission.
Composition of Election Commission (History)
|1950 to 15 Oct 1989
|Single Body Commission
|Oct 1989 to Jan 1990
|president appointed two more election commissioners to cope with the increased work of the election commission on account of lowering of the voting age from 21 to 18 years
|Jan 1993 to Oct 1993
|Again Single Member Body
|Oct 1993 to Present
|Again 3 Membered Body (Chief Election Commissioner + 2 Election Commissioner)
Terms of Service
- Chief Election Commissioner & two other Election Commissioners have equal powers , salary, allowances and other perquisites, which are similar to judge of the Supreme Court.
- In case of difference of opinion , matter is decided by the Commission by majority.
- They hold office for a
- term of six years or
- until they attain the age of 65 years,
whichever is earlier
- Chief Election Commissioner is provided with the Security of tenure. He cannot be removed from his office except in same manner and on the same grounds as a judge of the Supreme Court.
- Service conditions of the Chief Election Commissioner cannot be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment.
- Any other Election Commissioner or Regional Commissioner can’t be removed from office except on recommendation of Chief Election Commissioner
|Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) – Appointed by Chief Election Commissioner in consultation with state government
|District Collector acts as District Returning Officer
Issue regarding Process of selection of Election Commissioners
- Constitutional Assembly Debates : Prof Shibban Lal stressed that Election Commissioner should be appointed by 2/3rd majority of both the houses because of the importance of functions
- Article 324 (2) : Election Commissioner to be appointed by President subject to the provisions of law made by Parliament
- 1974 : VM Tarkunde Panel recommended that Election Commissioner should be appointed by President on advice of Panel consisting of Prime Minister & Leader of Opposition
- 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission reiterated the same recommendations
Presently, Act has not been made . As a result following issues come
- Chief Election Commissioner & Election Commissioner are appointed by President on advise of Council of Ministers
- Election Commissioners don’t enjoy security of tenure and can be removed just on recommendation of Chief Election Commissioner
- Constitution has not prescribed the qualifications (legal, educational, administrative or judicial) of the members
- Constitution has not debarred the retiring Election Commissioners from any further appointment by the government.
Two Public Interest Litigations in this regard
- Oct 2018 : Public Interest Litigation in Supreme Court regarding collegium-like system for the selection of the Chief Election Commissioner & Election Commissioner which has been referred to 5 judge bench.
- 2017 : PIL filed in Supreme Court contending that successive governments have failed in the constitutional obligation to set up a fair, just and transparent process for selection of Election Commissioners.
Powers and functions
The powers and functions of the Election Commission with regard to elections to the Parliament, state legislatures and offices of President and Vice-President can be classified into three categories, viz,
Powers and Functions of Election Commission as follows
- To determine the territorial areas of the electoral constituencies throughout the country on the basis of the Delimitation Commission Act of Parliament.
- To prepare and periodically revise electoral rolls and to register all eligible voters.
- To notify the dates and schedules of elections and to scrutinise nomination papers.
- To grant recognition to political parties and allot election symbols to them.
- To act as court for settling disputes related to granting recognition to political parties & allotment of election symbols to them.
- To appoint officers for inquiring into disputes relating to electoral arrangements
- To determine the code of conduct to be observed by the parties and the candidates at the time of elections.
- To prepare a roster for publicity of the policies of the political parties on radio and TV in times of elections.
- To advise the President on matters relating to the disqualifications of the members of Parliament.
- To advise the Governor on matters relating to the disqualifications of the members of state legislature.
- To cancel polls in the event of rigging, booth capturing, violence and other irregularities.
- To request the president or the governor for requisitioning the staff necessary for conducting elections.
- To supervise the machinery of elections throughout the country to ensure free and fair elections.
- To advise the President whether elections can be held in a state under president’s rule in order to extend the period of emergency after one year.
- To register political parties for the purpose of elections and grant them the status of national or state parties on the basis of their poll performance
Demands of Reforms by Election Commission
1 . Constitutional Protection
- It has demanded for constitutional protection for all three of its members as opposed to just one at present.
- Its two Election Commissioners can be removed by the government on the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner
2 . Contempt Powers
- Election Commission of India urged Law ministry to amend election laws to give Contempt powers to Election Commission against parties making unfounded allegations.
3 . Elevation to Chief Election Commissioner of seniormost Election Commissioner
- Provision either in law or by resolution that senior most Election Commissioner should be automatically elevated as Chief Election Commissioner
4 . Financial Freedom
- Like the CAG and UPSC, Election Commission of India wants its budget to be ‘charged’ on the Consolidated Fund
- Current practice – Voted and approved by Parliament.
5 . Independent Secretariat
- Election Commission of India should have independent secretariat so that it will not have to depend on Department of Personnel and Training to appoint its officers.
6 . More teeth to tackle new challenges
- Election Commission of India sought amendment to Representation of People Act to include specific powers to postpone or countermand polls on the grounds of use of money power.
- At present, there is no specific provision in the law to this effect and commission has to resort to extraordinary powers under Article 324 of constitution which, it feels should be used sparingly. Clause 58 A empowers the Election Commission to cancel polls only if there is an evidence of boothcapturing or use of muscle power. Thus, Election Commission seeks a new clause ‘58 B’ in the Act for dealing with use of money power in elections or amendment to this effect in the existing clause ‘58A’.
7 . Fair election
- The section 126 of Representation of People Act currently prohibits publication of ads by political parties in electronic media (TV, radio) and recently added social media, 48 hours before voting ends. Election Commission of India wants print media to be included in Section 126 of the RP Act.
- Disqualification of a candidate from contesting elections if a court has framed charges against him. Currently a candidate is disqualified if convicted for crime bearing sentence more than 2 years.
- Election Commission of India also supports making paid news an electoral offence punishable by two years of imprisonment.
8 . Voting Procedure
- Election Commission of India seeks to introduce totalizer machines for counting of votes.