The Election Commission of India (ECI) is a self-governing constitutional body which oversees the election process in India as per the Constitution of India. The ECI was set up on January 25 1950, with the aim of defining and controlling the multi-tiered election process in our country. The Election Commission of India administers the election process from the President of India to the State Legislative Assembly.
As per Article 324 of the Indian Constitution, ECI has the supervisory and directional control of the complete process election to Parliament and Legislature of every State and to the office of the President and the Vice-President of India.
The ECI consists of a Chief Election Commissioner and 2 other Election Commissioners. The multi-member ECI works on the power of majority vote.
2. Appointment & Tenure of Commissioners
- The Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commissioner are appointed by the President of India.
- Each of them holds their offices for a period of 6 years or up to the age of 65 years, whichever comes first.
- They receive the same perks and pay as Supreme Court Judges.
- The only way a Chief Election Commissioner can be removed from office is upon an order of the President supported by the Parliament.
- The Election Commissioner or Regional Commissioner can only be removed from office by the Chief Election Commissioner.
3. Advisory and Quasi-Judiciary Powers
- The Election Commission of India has advisory jurisdiction in terms of post-election ineligibility of sitting members of the Parliament and State Legislature.
- Cases where an individual is found guilty of malpractice at elections by the Supreme Court or High Courts are referred to the ECI for its opinion of the said person’s disqualification. In such cases, the judgement passed by the ECI is final and binding on the President of India or the Governor as per jurisdiction.
- The Election Commission of India also has the power to ban any candidate who has not lodged an account of election expenses by the deadline and as per the law.
- ECI can also remove or reduce the period of disqualification as per the law.
4. Administrative Powers
- Allotting territorial areas for electoral constituencies in the country
- Organise and amend electoral rolls and register eligible voters
- Inform dates and schedule of elections and scrutinize nomination papers
- Give recognition to political parties and assign election symbols to them.
- ECI appoints the following seats:
- Chief Electoral Officer
- District Election Officer
- Returning Officer
- Electoral Registration Officer
5. Role of Election Commission of India
ECI plays a crucial role in organising elections. The most significant role of the Election Commission of India is to ensure free and fair elections as per the norms and the Model Code of Conduct. It is in charge of monitoring the actions and activities of the political parties and candidates.
6. Functions of the Election Commission of India
- ECI is responsible for a free and reasonable election
- It ensures that political parties and candidates adhere to the Model Code of Conduct
- Regulates parties and registers them as per eligibility to contest in elections
- Proposes the limit of campaign expenditure per candidate to all parties and monitors the same.
- It is mandatory for all political parties to submit annual reports to the ECI in order to be able to claim the tax benefit on the contributions.
- Guarantees that all political parties regularly submit audited financial reports.
The main duties of the Election Commission are:
- Supervise, control and conduct all elections to Parliament and State Legislatures
- Set general rules for election.
- Prepare electoral rolls
- Determine territorial distribution of constituencies
- Give credit to political parties.
- Allot election symbols to political parties or candidates
- Appoint tribunals for the decision of doubts and disputes arising out of an election to Parliament and State Legislatures.
7. Model Code of Conduct
EC first issued a Model Code of Conduct for political parties at the time of the fifth general elections, held in 1971. Since then, the Code has been revised from time to time and lays down guidelines as to how political parties and candidates should conduct themselves during elections.
A provision was made under the Code that from the time the elections are announced by the Commission, Ministers and other authorities cannot announce any financial grant, make promises of construction of roads, carry out any appointments in government and public undertakings which may have the effect of influencing the voters in favor of the ruling party.
Despite the acceptance of the Code of Conduct by political parties, cases of its violation have been on the rise. It is a general complaint that the party in power at the time of elections misuses the official machinery to further the electoral prospects of its candidates.
The misuse of official machinery takes different forms, such as issue of advertisements at the cost of public exchequer, misuse of official mass media during election period for partisan coverage of political news and publicity regarding their achievements, misuse of government transport including aircraft/helicopter, vehicles.