The Election Commission of India (ECI), India's electoral watchdog, is like the guardian of our democracy, ensuring that elections are fair and square. Just like a diligent referee in a big game, the ECI ensures that everyone plays by the rules when it comes to choosing our leaders.
It holds the reins for organizing Lok Sabha elections and and has big power over Parliament, state legislatures, the President, and Vice-President elections. But when it comes to town and village elections, there's another team called the State Election Commission that handles things.
Now, let's dive deeper into the fascinating world of the ECI and explore its vital role in upholding the democratic spirit of our nation!
What is Article 324 of Indian Constitution?
The Constitution provides the Election Commission of India with the power of direction, superintendence, and control of elections to Parliament, State legislatures, the office of President of India and the office of Vice-President of India. The Election Commission is an all-India body that is common to both the Central & state governments. Also, it is important to note that the commission does not deal with the elections to the Municipalities and Panchayats in the states. Hence, a separate State Election Commission is provided by the Constitution of India. Here are a list of provisions:
- Part XV (Article 324-329) of the Indian Constitution: It deals with elections and establishes a commission for these matters.
- Article 324: Superintendence, direction and control of elections to be vested in an Election Commission.
- Article 325: No person to be ineligible for inclusion in, or to claim to be included in a special, electoral roll-on grounds of religion, race, caste or sex.
- Article 326: Elections to the House of the People and to the Legislative Assemblies of States to be based on adult suffrage.
- Article 327: Power of Parliament to make provision with respect to elections to Legislatures.
- Article 328: Power of Legislature of a State to make provision with respect to elections to such Legislature.
- Article 329: Bar to interference by courts in electoral matters.
Composition & Structure of ECI
Since its inception in 1950 and till October 1989, the Election Commission was a one-member body with only the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) as its sole member.
- Team Expansion- In October 1989, when the voting age dropped to 18, they realized they needed more hands on deck. So, they added two more election commissioners.who were appointed by the President in order to comply with the increased work of the Election Commission (The ECI Amendment Act of 1989).
- Commission's Trio- Since then, the Election Commission was a multi-member body that consisted of 3 election commissioners.
- Counting Commissioners- In January 1990, the Election Commission went back to having only one commissioner, but in October 1993, it returned to having three commissioners, where it stands today.
- Perks & Salaries- The chief and the two other election commissioners have the same powers and emoluments including salaries, which are the same as a Supreme Court judge.
- Majority Rules- In case of a difference of opinion amongst the Chief Election Commissioner and/or two other election commissioners, the matter is decided by the Commission by a majority.
Tenure of the Commission
The office is held by them for a term of 6 years or until they attain 65 years, whichever happens first. They can also be removed or can resign at any time before the expiry of their term.
Functions of ECI
The Commission’s functions and powers with respect to elections are divided into three categories (Administrative, Advisory, and Quasi-judicial) under Article 324.
- Administrative powers- The Election Commission's job is like being the boss of elections. They handle all the behind-the-scenes stuff to make sure voting goes smoothly. The vital task of supervising, directing, and controlling the conduct of elections includes a wide range of authorities, responsibilities, and activities. Article 324 confers several tasks on the Commission, which could be powers or obligations, mostly administrative, but also judicial or legislative in nature.
- Advisory powers- If someone gets caught playing dirty in an election (like cheating or being unfair), it's the President's call to decide whether the same person must be disqualified from competing in upcoming elections or not, and, if so, for how long. Before making a judgment in the event of such an incident, the President obtains the advice of the ECI and may act accordingly with the advice based on the circumstances.
- Quasi-Judicial Powers- The Election Commission is also needed by law to exercise quasi- judicial powers. All organizations or group of people calling themselves political parties and prepared to run for office under the name and flag of a political party must register with ECI. The Supreme Court in a judgment had stated that the Election Commission’s job of registering political parties is a quasi-judicial function done by ECI.
Powers of ECI
1) The Commission determines the Electoral Constituencies’ territorial areas throughout India.
2) Preparing and periodically revising electoral rolls & registering all eligible voters.
3) Notifying the schedules and dates of elections & scrutinising nomination papers.
4) Granting recognition to several political parties & allocating them election symbols.
5) The Commission also has advisory jurisdiction in the matter of post-election disqualification of sitting members of Parliament & State Legislatures.
6) Issues the Model Code of Conduct in elections for political parties & candidates so that no one gets involved in unfair practice or there is no arbitrary abuse of powers by those in power.
Quasi-Judicial Functions explained
The Election Commission of India has several quasi-judicial functions, which means it performs roles that are similar to those of a judge but not as a part of the regular judicial system. Some of these functions include:
Registration of Political Parties: The Election Commission has the authority to register and recognize political parties. It evaluates whether a political group meets certain criteria to be considered a legitimate political party. This process involves quasi-judicial procedures as the Commission examines and decides on applications for party registration.
Allocation of Symbols: When multiple parties or candidates request the same election symbol, the Election Commission uses quasi-judicial methods to resolve conflicts and allocate symbols. This ensures that parties and candidates have unique symbols for elections, preventing confusion among voters.
Disqualification of Candidates: In cases where a candidate is accused of corrupt practices or electoral offenses, the Election Commission can conduct quasi-judicial proceedings to determine whether the candidate should be disqualified from running in future elections. It provides recommendations to the President for disqualification based on its findings.
Removal from office
- Removal Process: The Judges, the CEC, and the CAG can be taken out of their jobs by a resolution passed by the Parliament on the basis of “proven misbehavior or incapacity”.
- Use of the term "Impeachment": We don't use the fancy word "impeachment" for the Judges, CEC or CAG; it's only for the President.
- Removal of President: The word “Impeachment” is exclusively used to remove the President that requires a special majority of two-thirds of the entire strength of both chambers and is not used anywhere.
The voting is done by 3 methods according to the territory's condition & person’s disability.These are EVM, postal voting, and Electors with disabilities. EVM is nothing but Electronic Voting Machines which are now used to take benefits of voting on a large scale.
Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs): EVMs are like high-tech voting gadgets used in polling booths. They make voting quick and accurate. Each EVM has a list of candidates with buttons or symbols next to their names. Voters press the button next to their choice, and their vote gets recorded electronically.
Example: Imagine you go to a polling booth and see a machine with buttons next to candidate names. You press the button for your favorite candidate, and your vote is counted digitally. It's like using a fancy voting computer!
Postal Voting: This method is for people who can't make it to the polling booth because they're away from their hometown, like soldiers, government officials, or people who are sick. They can vote by post. They receive a ballot paper at their current location, mark their vote, and send it back by mail.
Example: If you're a soldier stationed in a different city, they'll send you a ballot paper by mail. You mark your vote and mail it back to the election authorities. It's like voting from far away.
Electors with Disabilities: This method ensures that people with disabilities can vote without any hassle. Special arrangements like ramps, braille ballots, and assistance from officials are provided to make voting accessible for all.
Example: A voter who uses a wheelchair can easily enter the polling booth using a ramp. A voter who is visually impaired can use a braille ballot to cast their vote. It's all about making voting fair and easy for everyone, regardless of their disabilities.
In conclusion, the Election Commission of India stands as a guardian of democracy, ensuring that the world's largest democracy operates smoothly. With its supervision of elections, impartial advice on disqualifications, and quasi-judicial roles, it acts as the vigilant custodian of India's electoral process. This constitutional body has played a pivotal role in upholding the principles of fairness, accountability, and transparency in the world of Indian elections, fostering the vitality of the nation's democratic spirit. As a beacon of democratic governance, the Election Commission remains committed to safeguarding the rights and voices of the Indian electorate, thereby perpetuating the strength and resilience of India's democratic framework.