President Pratibha Patil appointed senior-most Election Commissioner Veeravalli Sundaram Sampath as the 18th Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) of India. He replaced S.Y. Quraishi on the constitutional position, whose term as the CEC is coming to an end on 10 June 2012.
Born at Vellore in Tamil Nadu on 16 January 1950, VS Sampath joined the elite Indian Administrative Service in 1973 as the officer of Andhra Pradesh cadre. He took over as Election Commissioner on 21 April 2009. He will carry out his term till 16 January 2015. Election Commissioner is appointed either for six years in the Commission or till the age of 65, whichever comes earlier. H.S. Brahma is the other Election Commissioner.
Chief Election Commissioner is the head of the three-member election commission, which is a constitutional entity responsible for conducting free and fairs elections in the country. Article 324 of the Indian constitution provides for the institution of Election Commission of India. The commission was set up on 25 January 1950 with an aim to make electoral process in the world’s largest democracy more transparent and free from any external interference. Sukumar Sen was the first Election Commissioner of India.
The Election Commission was originally a one-member body when it started functioning but the number was later expanded to 3 on 16 October 1989. But the other two members in the body had a very short tenure as they left the office on 1 January 1990. Subsequently, on 1 October 1993 two additional Election Commissioners were appointed. The concept of multi-member Commission has been in operation since then, with decision making power by majority vote. The three-member body is headed by the Chief Election Commissioner who is appointed by the President of India.
The Chief Election Commissioner along with two other Election Commissioners enjoy the official status, salary and perks equivalent to judges of the Supreme Court of India. The Chief Election Commissioner can be removed only through impeachment by the Parliament. In order of precedence the Chief Election Commissioner stands at 9th position along with the judges of the Supreme Court of India, Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Chief Election Commissioner of India , Chairman of Union Public Service Commission.