Election Commission of India
The “superintendence, direction and control of elections” is vested with the Election Commission of India.
Article 324, Constitution of India
Breaking Down the Basics
The ECI is an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering Union and State election processes in India.
ECI administers elections to –
- Office of the President
- Office of the Vice President
- Lok Sabha
- Rajya Sabha
- State Legislative Assemblies
The ECI is a federal body – a permanent constitutional body – provided for in the Indian Constitution under Article 324 of the CoI:
“the power of superintendence, direction and control of elections to parliament, state legislatures, the office of president of India and the office of vice-president of India shall be vested in the election commission”
ECI was established (in accordance with CoI) on 25 January 1950, completing its Golden Jubilee in 2001.
Anniversary of its formation is celebrated as National Voters Day.
Its duty is to ensure –
Free and fair elections that are devoid of bias.
Conduct of members pre-elections, during elections and post-elections are as per statutory legislation.
Structure of the ECI
Originally, the ECI had only one Chief Election Commissioner, however, "The Election Commissioner Amendment Act, 1989" was adopted on 1 January 1990, turning ECI into a multi-member body.
Three Member Commission consisting of a Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners – who are usually retired IAS officers.
Decisions are made by majority vote - All Election Commissioners have equal say in the decision making of the Commission.
Some executive functions are delegated to its officers in its Secretariat.
ECI Secretariat is located in New Delhi, with around 300 employees.
Election Commissioners are assisted by Deputy Commissioners, who are further assisted by Directors General, Principal Secretaries, and Secretaries and Under Secretaries.
State level – assisted by Chief Electoral Officer of the State (IAS)
District level – Election work performed by District Magistrates, Electoral Registration Officers and Returning Officers.
According to the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Conditions of Service) Rules, 1992, salaries and allowances of Election Commissioners are at par with that of Judges of Supreme Court of India.
Appointment and Removal of Commissioners
A Chief Election Commissioner has never been impeached in India.
Before Lok Sabha elections of 2009, recommendation to remove Election Commissioner (and soon to be Chief Election Commissioner) Navin Chawla on grounds of party bias was sent to President Pratibha Patil by the CEC N. Gopalaswami, but was subsequently denied. Chawla went on to become CEC of India and supervise Lok Sabha Elections.
Powers and Functions of ECI
The main function of the ECI is to implement the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) and ensure free and fair elections. Due to this vital role in elections, the ECI is armed with powers to supervise political parties and candidates and take required action in case of violations.
Main duties of the Election Commission include –
To supervise, direct, control and conduct all elections to Parliament and State Legislatures as also to the office of the President and Vice- President of India.
Setting down general rules for election.
Determining constituencies and preparing electoral rolls.
To give credit to political parties.
Allotting election symbols to different political parties and individual contestants.
Appointment of tribunals for the decision of doubts and disputes arising out of or in connection with election to parliament and State Legislatures.
Some key functions are listed below –
Maintaining decorum of democracy by issuing the MCC for political parties and candidates in every election.
Regulating political parties and registering them for being eligible to contest elections.
Decides and monitors the limits of campaign expenditure per candidate for all political parties.
Parties cannot use Government resources for campaigning.
Campaigning must end by 6 pm, 2 days before polling day.
Candidates file their nomination papers with ECI after which a list of candidates is made.
Ensures that political parties submit their annual reports to the ECI to get tax benefit on contributions.
Also ensures that they regularly submit their audited financial reports.
The ECI is granted residuary power by the constitution.
The Supreme Court judgement in Mohinder Singh Gill & Anr. vs. The Chief Election Commissioner and Others (1977) held that Article 324 “operates in areas left unoccupied by legislation.”
“In case where law is silent, Article 324 is a reservoir of power to act for the avowed purpose of having free and fair election…” – Supreme Court of India.
Notable Initiatives by ECI
According to the ECI itself, some notable initiatives include –
Scheme for use of State-owned Electronic Media for broadcast/telecast by Political parties.
Checking criminalisation of politics.
Computerisation of electoral rolls.
The Election Commission has undertaken the computerisation of all electoral rolls throughout India, leading to improvements in the accuracy and speed with which the electoral roll can be updated.
Providing electors with Identity Cards
The Electoral Photo Identity Card (EPIC) is an identity document issued by the electoral registration officer.
Current Affairs POI – The present coverage of EPIC at the national level has been above 99%.
Simplifying the procedure for maintenance of accounts and filling of the same by candidates.
Inclusion of None Of The Above (NOTA) option in EVMs and Postal Ballots.
Celebration of National Voters Day to promote inclusion.
Newly eligible registered voters are handed over their EPICS.
A badge with the slogan “Proud to be a voter-Ready to Vote”.
Outreach measures such as folk-art programmes, competitions and mini-marathon races are undertaken to increase awareness and educate voters.
Introduction of Corona Code of Conduct, guidelines for conducting free and fair elections safely during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
ECI’s SVEEP programme engaged to make sure safe arrival and safe exit by voters in the recent Bihar Elections during the COVID-19 pandemic.
POI – Systematic Voters' Education and Electoral Participation Programme (SVEEP) was introduced in order to educate the voters.