Highlight the institutional challenges faced by the Election Commission of India in dealing with the use of money and muscle power in electoral politics and ensuring free and fair elections.

The Election Commission of India is a premier constitutional body enshrined with conduct of free and fair elections throughout the nation. However, there are several institutional challenges present within the institution which hampers its functioning.

Institutional Challenges:

  • Lack of permanent reserve of officer cadre.
  • Government majority in selection panel for Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners.
  • Election commissioners can be removed on the advice of Chief Election Commissioner.
  • CEC is not debarred from holding public offices after retirement.
  • All decision making is through majority – even a dissent of EC cannot seek review.

Threats of Muscle and Money in Elections:

  • EC does not have resident officers and personnel at ground to validate muscle power.
  • Rampant cases of money roll outs prior to election go unchecked.
  • Electronic ballot has reduced booth capturing but can’t check undue influence or kidnapping.
  • Reports of violence and political vendetta post elections.
  • EC cannot suo-moto legislate to bring electoral finance transparency.
  • Criminalization of politics – over 30% elected MPs have serious allegations.

Addressing the issues:

  • Exploring possibility of state-sponsored election funds to curb role of money.
  • Making search committees more broad based with a plurality of judges as majority for EC.
  • Curbing reappointment for ECs.
  • Bringing in a dedicated election management cadre and personnel system.
  • Fast track courts to expedite trials against elected officials.

Free and fair elections are the bedrock of any democracy and empowering reforms in EC are the need of the hour.

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