The Election Commission is a permanent and an independent body established by the Constitution of India directly to ensure free and fair elections in the country. Article 324 in the Constitution of India states that the Superintendence, direction and control of elections to be vested in an Election Commission.
The clause (1) of the article says that the superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of the electoral rolls for, and the conduct of, all elections to Parliament and to the Legislature of every State and of elections to the offices of President and Vice President held under this Constitution shall be vested in Election Commission.
The clause (2) of the article says that the Election Commission shall consist of the Chief Election Commissioner and such number of other Election Commissioners, if any, as the President may from time to time fix and the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners shall, subject to the provisions of any law made in that behalf by Parliament, be made by the President.
The clause (3) of the article says that when any other Election Commissioner is so appointed the Chief Election Commissioner shall act as the Chairman of the Election Commission.
The Election Commission is not concerned with the elections to panchayats and municipalities in the states. For, this the Constitution of India provides for a separate State Election Commission.
According to Article 324, the Constitution has made the following provisions with regard to the composition of election commission.
- The Election Commission shall consist of the chief election commissioner and such manner of other election commissioners, if any, as the president may from time to time fix.
- The appointment of the chief election commissioner and other election commissioners shall be made by the president.
- When any other election commissioner is so appointed, the chief election commissioner shall act as the chairman of the election commission.
- The president may also appoint after consultation with the election commission such regional commissioners as he may consider necessary to assist the election commission.
- The conditions of service and tenure of office of the election commissioners and the regional commissioners shall be determined by the president.
For the first time two additional Commissioners were appointed by the president on 16th October 1989 to cope up the increased work of election commission by lowering the age from 21 to 18 years but they had a very short tenure till 1st January 1990. Again, on 1st October 1993 two Election Commissioners were appointed in addition. Since then and till today, the Election Commission has been functioning as a multi-member body consisting of three election commissioners.
Appointment & Tenure of Election Commissioners
The Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners are appointed by the President. They have 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 impeachment process by Parliament.
Power and Functions of Election Commission
The powers and functions of the Election Commission with regard to elections to the Parliament, state legislatures and offices of President and Vice-President can be classified into three categories:
Details are as follows:
• To prepare electoral rolls for election to the Parliament, State Legislatures, Local Bodies and to the offices of the President and the Vice-President.
• Delimiting constituencies for election to the Parliament and to State Legislatures.
• Establishing and enforcing code of conduct.
• Scrutinizing the nomination papers of candidates.
• Scrutinizing election expenses.
• Allotment of symbols and according recognition to political parties.
• Giving advice to the President and Governors on disqualification of MPs and MLAs.
• Granting exemptions to persons from disqualifications imposed by judicial decision.
• Declaring election results after proper counting and to cancel elections in a constituency if the need arises.
• Advising the President or the Governor regarding all electoral matters including disqualification of members.
• Preparing guidelines for model code of conduct for political parties, voters and candidates during election campaign.
• Performing quasi-judicial functions.
Advisory Jurisdiction & Quasi-Judicial Functions
Under the Constitution of India, the Election Commission also has advisory jurisdiction in the matter of post election disqualification of sitting members of Parliament and State Legislatures. Moreover, the cases of corrupt practices at elections which come before the Supreme Court and High Courts are also referred to the Commission for its opinion on the question as to whether such person shall be disqualified and, if so, for what period. The opinion of the Commission in all such matters is binding on the President or on the Governor as applicable, to whom such opinion is given.
The Commission has the power to disqualify a candidate who has failed to lodge an account of his election expenses within the time and in the manner prescribed by law. The Commission also enjoys the power to remove or reduce the period of such disqualification as other disqualification under the law.
The decisions of the Commission can be challenged in the High Court and the Supreme Court of the India by appropriate petitions. Once the polls are completed and result declared, the Commission does not have the power to review any result on its own. This can only be done through the process of an election petition, which can be lodged in the High Court, regarding elections to the Parliament and State Legislatures. While in case of elections for the offices of the President and Vice President, the petitions can only be filed before the Supreme Court of India.
Things to Remember
• Article 324 in the Constitution of India 1949 states that the Superintendence, direction and control of elections to be vested in an Election Commission.
• The Election Commission was set up in accordance with the Constitution on 25th January 1950.
• The Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners are appointed by the President. They have tenure of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
• The Chief Election Commissioner can be removed from office only through impeachment process by the Parliament.