The Election Commission is an autonomous constitutional authority of India which is responsible for administering Union and State election processes in India. It is established by the Constitution of India directly to ensure free and fair elections in the country.
Article 324 of the Constitution empowers the superintendence, direction and control of elections to be vested in an Election Commission. The code of conduct is released by the Election Commission to conduct free and fair elections in the country.
Therefore, we can say that the Election Commission is an all-India body that is common to both the Central government and the State governments.
Note: Election Commission is not concerned with the elections to panchayats and municipalities in the states. The constitution of India for this provides a separate State Election Commission.
What is Article 324?
Article 324 of the Constitution grant power of superintendence, direction and control of elections to parliament, state legislatures, the office of the president of India and therefore the office of vice-president of India shall be vested within the election commission.
We have seen that Election Commission in the past used the power of Article 324 in Bengal so that political violence could not escalate in the state. For the first time in the country Article 324 has been used to ban the election campaigns.
Composition of Election Commission of India
Article 324 of the Constitution provides the following provisions with regard to the composition of India:
- The election commission shall contain the Chief Election Commissioner and a such number of other election commissioners if any, because the president may periodically fix.
- President shall appoint the chief election commissioner and other election commissioners.
- When another election commissioner is so appointed that the chief election commissioner shall act as the chairman of the election commission.
- The president can also appoint such regional commissioners after consultation with the election commission to assist or help the election commission.
- The conditions of service and tenure of office of the election commissioners and therefore the regional commissioners shall be like as the President may by rule determine.
Therefore, the Election Commission has been functioning as a multi-member body consisting of three election commissioners. All the Chief Election Commissioner and the other two election commissioners have equal powers. They also receive equal salary, allowances and other perquisites, which is equal or similar to those of a judge of the Supreme Court.
Do you that in case of difference of opinion amongst the Chief Election Commissioner and or two other election commissioners, the matter is decided by the Commission by the majority.
Tenure of Election Commission of India
The Chief Election Commissioner and other election commissioners hold office for six years or till they attain the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier. They can resign at any time or can also be removed before the expiry of their term.
Power and Functions of the Election Commission of India
The Election Commission of India power and functions with regard to the elections to the Parliament, state legislatures and offices of President and Vice President can be classified into three categories namely: Administrative, Advisory and Quasi-Judicial.
- On the basis of the Delimitation Commission Act of the Parliament, it determines the territorial areas of the electoral constituencies throughout the country.
- It prepares the electoral rolls and revises them periodically. It also registers all the eligible voters.
- It notifies the date and prepares the schedules of elections.
- It also scrutinises the nomination papers.
- It grants recognition to the political parties and allots election symbols to them.
- For setting disputes it acts as a court. Disputes can be related to granting of recognition to political parties and allotment of election symbols to them.
- It also appoints officers for inquiring into disputes relating to electoral arrangements.
- It regulates the code of conduct that to be observed by the political parties and the candidates at the time of the election.
- At the time of the election, it prepares the roster or time table used for publicity of the policies of the political parties on radio and TV.
- It provides advice to the president on matters relating to the disqualification of the members of the parliament.
- It also provides advice to the governor of the state on matters relating to the disqualification of the members of the state legislature.
- It cancels polls in the event of booth capturing, violence, wrongdoing and other regularities.
- It requests the president or the governor for providing the staff necessary for conducting the elections.
- It acts as a supervisory body to ensure free and fair elections throughout the country.
- It provides advice to the president whether the elections can be held in a state under president’s rule.
- For the purpose of elections, it registers political parties and grants them the status of national or state parties on the basis of their poll performance.
Deputy Election Commissioners assist the Election Commission. They are drawn from the civil service and appointed by the commission with the tenure system. They, in turn, are assisted by the secretaries, joint secretaries, deputy secretaries and under secretaries posted in the secretariat of the commission.