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Election Commission of India

Context:

In an interim order passed, the Election Commission of India (ECI) froze the well known ‘bow and arrow’ election symbol of the Shiv Sena until the competing claims for recognition by the two rival factions is decided.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Details
  2. How does the ECI decide who gets the symbol?
  3. What happened in such cases before 1968?
  4. About Election Commission of India

Details:

  • In the operative part of its order, the ECI said that
    • “neither of the two groups shall be permitted to use the name of the party ‘Shivsena’ simplicitor”;
    • “neither group shall be permitted to use the symbol ‘Bow & Arrow’, reserved for ‘Shivsena’”;
    • “both groups shall be known by such names as they may choose”.
  • This had been done in order to place both the rival groups on even keel and to protect their rights and interests, and going by the past precedence, to cover the purpose of the current Bye-elections and to continue till the final determination of the dispute in the matter.
  • “For the purposes of the current bye-elections”, the order said, the two groups “shall be allotted such different symbols as they may choose from the list of free symbols”.

How does the ECI decide who gets the symbol?

  • According to Symbols Order, 1968:
    • “When the Commission is satisfied that there are rival sections or groups of a recognised political party each of whom claims to be that party the Commission may, after taking into account all the available facts and circumstances of the case and hearing (their) representatives and other persons as desire to be heard decide that one such rival section or group or none of such rival sections or groups is that recognised political party and the decision of the Commission shall be binding on all such rival sections or groups.”
  • This applies to disputes in recognised national and state parties.
  • For splits in registered but unrecognised parties, the ECI usually advises the warring factions to resolve their differences internally or to approach the court.

What happened in such cases before 1968?

  • Before 1968, the EC issued notifications and executive orders under the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961.
  • The most high-profile split of a party before 1968 was that of the CPI in 1964.
  • A breakaway group approached the ECI in December 1964 urging it to recognise them as CPI(Marxist).
  • They provided a list of MPs and MLAs of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and West Bengal who supported them.
  • The ECI recognised the faction as CPI(M) after it found that the votes secured by the MPs and MLAs supporting the breakaway group added up to more than 4% in the 3 states.

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.
Some Powers:
  • 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.

-Source: Indian Express


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