Focus: GS II- Polity and Governance
Why in News?
Recently, the President appointed Rajiv Kumar as the Chief Election Commissioner (25th CEC).
About Election Commission of India
- The Election Commission of India is an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering Union and State election processes in India.
- The body administers elections to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, and State Legislative Assemblies in India, and the offices of the President and Vice President in the country.
- It is the Commission that decides the election schedules for the conduct of elections, whether general elections or by-elections.
- ECI decides on the location of polling stations, assignment of voters to the polling stations, location of counting centers, arrangements to be made in and around polling stations and counting centres and all allied matters.
- In the performance of its functions, the Election Commission is insulated from executive interference.
- Part XV of the Indian constitution deals with elections, and establishes a commission for these matters.
- The Election Commission was established in accordance with the Constitution on 25th January 1950, hence it is a constitutional body. Article 324 to 329 of the constitution deals with powers, function, tenure, eligibility, etc., of the commission and the member.
Litigations against EC
- The decisions of the Commission can be challenged in the High Court and the Supreme Court of India by appropriate petitions.
- By long-standing convention and several judicial pronouncements, once the actual process of elections has started, the judiciary does not intervene in the actual conduct of the polls.
Structure of the Election Commission
- Originally the commission had only one election commissioner but after the Election Commissioner Amendment Act 1989, it has been made a multi-member body.
- The commission consists of one Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners.
- The secretariat of the commission is located in New Delhi.
- At the state level election commission is helped by Chief Electoral Officer who is an IAS rank Officer.
- The President appoints Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners.
- They have a fixed tenure of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
- They enjoy the same status and receive salary and perks as available to Judges of the Supreme Court of India.
- The Chief Election Commissioner can be removed from office only through a process of removal similar to that of a Supreme Court judge for by Parliament.
Issues with ECI
- Flaws in the composition: The Constitution doesn’t prescribe qualifications for members of the EC. They are not debarred from future appointments after retiring or resigning.
- No security of tenure: Election commissioners aren’t constitutionally protected with security of tenure.
- Partisan role: The EC has come under the scanner like never before, with increasing incidents of breach of the Model Code of Conduct in the 2019 general elections.
- Political favor: The opposition alleged that the ECI was favoring the ruling party by giving clean chit to the model code of conduct violations made by the PM.
- Non-competence: Increased violence and electoral malpractices under influence of money have resulted in political criminalization, which ECI is unable to arrest.
- The Election Commission of India is considered the guardian of free and reasonable elections.
- It issues the Model Code of Conduct in every election for political parties and candidates so that the decorum of democracy is maintained.
- It regulates political parties and registers them for being eligible to contest elections.
- It publishes the allowed limits of campaign expenditure per candidate to all the political parties, and also monitors the same.
- The political parties must submit their annual reports to the ECI for getting tax benefit on contributions.
- It guarantees that all the political parties regularly submit their audited financial reports.
Other powers handled by the Election Commission of India are as follows:
- The Commission can repress the results of opinion polls if it deems such an action fit for the cause of democracy.
- The Commission can recommend for disqualification of members after the elections if it thinks they have violated certain guidelines.
- In case, a candidate is found guilty of dishonest practices during the elections, the Supreme Court and High Courts consult the Commission.
- The Commission can postpone candidates who fail to submit their election expense accounts timely.