Election Commission of India
For the conduct of free and fair elections an independent Election Commission has been provided for in Article 324. Constitution of India has provided a separate chapter for elections and has not left the elections to jurisdiction of the executive and legislative departments of the government. This is mainly because the makers of the constitution had been very serious to safeguard this political right as an integral part of the constitution itself. Election commission of India is a permanent body entrusted for the following matters:
- Election of President
- Election of Vice-President
- Election of Lok Sabha as well as Rajya Sabha
- Elections to State Legislatures as well as Legislative Councils
- Reservation of Seats in Lok Sabha and State Legislatures
- Qualifications of the MPs and MLAs
- Determination of population for purposes of election
The powers of the election Commission are as follows
- Superintendence , direction and control of all the elections mentioned above
- Power of appointing election tribunals for the decisions of doubts and disputes in connection with the elections.
Appointment of Election Commissioners
India has a three member election commission. These all are appointed by the President for a term which is fixed by the President. However, conditions of service and tenure of office of the chief election commissioner and other election commissioner are determined by an act of parliament titled The Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Conditions of Service) Act, 1991. This act has fixed the following:
- The chief election commissioner or an election commissioner shall hold office for a term of 6 years or age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
- The chief election commissioner and other commissioners are paid a salary equal to the salary of a judge of the Supreme Court. On retirement they are entitled to a pension payable to a judge of the Supreme Court.
- All business of the election commission shall, as far as possible, be transacted unanimously. If the chief election commissioner and other election commissioners differ in opinion on any matter, such matter shall be decided according to the opinion of the majority.
Independence of ECI
The constitution of India has ensured that the commission shall act as an independent body. Independence is secured by some of these provisions:
- The chief election commissioner shall not be removed from office except in like manner and on like grounds as a judge of the Supreme Court. A judge of supreme court can be removed only by an order of the President passed after an address by each House of Parliament supported by a majority of the total membership of that House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of that House present and voting has been presented to the President in the same session for such removal on the ground of proved misbehavior or incapacity.
- The other election commissioners cannot be removed from office without recommendation of the CEC.
- Their conditions of service shall not be varied to their disadvantage after their appointment.
- It is the duty of the president or the governor of a state to make available to the commission , when so requested, such staff as may be necessary for the conduct of its functions.
Other functions of Election Commission
Preparation of Electoral rolls
One of the most important functions of the election commission is to prepare for identification the up-to-date list of all the persons who are entitle for voting at the poll.
Recognition of political parties and allotment of symbols
Election commission gives recognition of parties and allotment of symbols via the authority vested in it via the Representation of The People (Amendment) Act, 1951. Section 29A of this act provides for registration of the political parties with the commission, of associations and bodies of individual citizens of India as political parties for purpose of recognized political party has been classified either as a national party or a state party under paragraph 7 of the elections symbol order, 1968.
Scrutiny of the nomination papers:
The election Commission of India examines the nomination papers of the candidates. These papers are accepted if found in order, but rejected otherwise. This duty is performed by the returning officer who notifies to all the contesting candidates the date, time and place for the formal scrutiny of nomination papers.
Monitoring of Election Expenses
Scrutinizing the accounts of election expenses submitted by contestants in elections. In India every contesting candidate is required to maintain and file the accounts of his election expenses within a prescribed period after publication of the result of his election.