Election commission

Election commission is a constitutional body established under article 324 which is responsible for holding free and fair elections in the country at the level of the centre and state as well as elections to the post of president and vice president. It was first established on 26 January, 1950.

Election Commission of India: Composition

  • At present it constitutes of one Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners who are appointed by the President.
  • The mandate of election commission is to conduct free and fair elections.
  • Constitution of India does not prescribe qualification of members and it does not bar retiring member for other government posts.
  • The term of members is not specified in the constitution. Government has decided tenure of 6 years/65 years of age whichever is earlier.
  • Expenditure of ECI not charged on consolidated fund of India.
  • Removal of Chief Election Commissioner is done by President on proved misbehaviour/ incapacity. This is subject to resolution passed by both houses by a special majority.
  • The Election Commissioners are removed by President on recommendation of Chief election commissioner

Election Commission of India: Role

  • To notify and administer elections to Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, State Legislative Assemblies, President and Vice President.
  • To prepare and periodically revise electoral rolls and register all eligible voters under Art 325.
  • To determine territorial constituencies based on delimitation act.
  • To regulate the political parties, their registrations, recognition and prescribe limits on campaign expenditure of parties and candidates.
  • To decide symbol allotment in case of party split/merger.
  • To disqualify a member under Representation of Peoples Act.
  • To cancel/re-conduct election in case of booth capture/rigging/malpractice.
  • To enforce the Model code of conduct.

Election Commission of India: Challenges

Political parties:

  • Funding of political parties.
  • Media advertisements including fake news, paid news and misinformation.
  • Criminal-politician nexus.
  • No power to regulate inner party democracy.

Operational challenges:

  • Credibility of EVM/VVPAT machines.
  • Violation of MCC as ECI has no power to enforce it.
  • Less staff to carry huge work load of electoral process.

Structural challenges:

  • Independence of Election commissioners is a concern as qualifications are not present in Constitution
  • Further, the Constitution mentions only CEC and the other two members are not on par with CEC.

Procedural challenges:

  • Rise in use of money and muscle power.
  • Abuse of religion and caste.
  • Exceeding legal limit of expenditure for elections.
  • Suppressing information about assets, and criminal antecedents in nomination papers.
  • Horse trading on the floor of the Parliament to capture power.

Election Commission of India: Reforms

  • Non-partisan functioning of ECI by setting up a collegium system as suggested by Tarkunde Committee, 1975 and the Goswami Committee, 1990.
  • Increase staff and operational efficiency for ECI.
  • MCC to be made legal.
  • Deregister parties for grave violations.
  • Section 126 of RPA act prohibits election campaign through public meetings, processions, etc., by television and similar apparatus, however this section do not apply to print media, it should be included.
  • Dinesh Goswami committee recommended proportional representation system instead of FPTP; and each member not to contest from more than 2 constituencies; to ensure speedy trail of election disputes by ad-hoc judges and introduce proxy voting for army, paramilitary, diplomats.
  • To adopt Proportional representation system where the vote share is proportion to seat share.
  • Jeevan Reddy Committee recommended ban on split and mergers of parties during term of Lok sabha; hike in security deposits for independent and non-recognised party candidates; to disqualify member if court orders to frame charges according to RPA 1951.
  • Vohra committee recommended to setup parliamentary committee on Ethics; code of conduct for political parties; to publish audited annual reports of political parties publicly.
  • Indrajeet gupta committee recommended state funding of elections (600 crores from state and centre every year for election corpus fund); compulsory submission of audited reports of parties to income tax dept.
  • Law commission said that no confidence motion once defeated should be introduced only after 2 years; false affidavit submission to be made an offence under section [125] of RPA; Election expenses to be counted from date of notification instead of nomination.

Election Commission of India: Supreme Court Judgements

  1. ADR Vs Union of India (2002); Contesting candidate should disclose assets and criminal cases in nomination papers.
  2. Lilly Thomas Vs Union of India & ors (2013)member should be disqualified automatically when convicted by court.
  3. PUCL Vs Union of India (2013) upheld the right to negative vote (NOTA)
  4. Subramanian swami VS ECI [2013] clarified VVPAT is indispensable for free and fair elections.
  5. Abhiram singh Vs CD Commachen (2017) ruled that election will be annulled if votes sought in the name of religion.
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