Part XV of the Constitution deals with the subject ‘Elections’. In this part, Article 324 is the sole article dealing with the Election Commission. It is the most important constitutional body in terms of its crucial role in the conduct of all elections to Parliament and to the Legislature of every State in the country. Conduct of elections in a transparent and fair manner is very essential in strengthening democracy in the country and in imparting legitimacy to the institutions of parliament and State Legislatures and to the Governments.
Article 324 States that the superintendence, direction, and control of the preparation of the electoral rolls and the conduct of all elections to Parliament and State Legislature and of elections to the offices of President and Vice President shall be vested in the Election Commission.
COMPOSITION OF ELECTION COMMISSION:-
The Election Commission is a Constitutional body consisting of Cheif Election Commissioner and such number of other Election Commissioners as the President may from time determine.
Till 1989, there was only the Cheif Election Commissioner in the Election Commission. In 1989 two other Election Commissioners were appointed work-load on account of lowering of voting age to 18 years from 21. In 1990, the other two posts were abolished and it was again reverted to a single member body. In 1993, two members were appointed and since then it is continuing as a three-membered body till date, with the Cheif Election Commissioner functioning as Chairman. In case of any difference of opinion on any given issue in the Commission, a final decision is taken based on majority opinion among the three members.
Appointment: The President appoints the Cheif Elections Commissioner (CEC) and other Election Commissioner, subject to the provisions of any law made by Parliament.
When any other Election Commissioner is so appointed, the CEC shall act as the Chairman of the Commission.
The President may also appoint after consultation with the Election Commission such Regional Commissioners as he may consider necessary to assist the Election Commissioner in Performance of the functions conferred on the Commission. So far, regional Commissioners have not been appointed.
Thus, the constitution did not prescribe any qualifications for being appointed as Election Commissioners nor did it prescribe any procedure to be adopted before the President can appoint the Commissioners. It is left to the President and thereby to the ruling Government to decide on who should be appointed as the CEC or the other Election Commissioners.
Tenure of Office:- The Constitution left to the President to determine the conditions of service and tenure of Office of the Election Commissioners.
The tenure of CEC or other Election Commissioner is fixed for a term of six years or until they attain the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
The members can resign from office before the expiry of their tenure.
INDEPENDENCE OF ELECTION COMMISSION:–
An independent Election Commission is essential to ensure free and fair elections without which democracy cannot function successfully. To ensure the independence have been provided for in the Constitution.
- The Cheif Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners have been provided with the security of tenure as they can only be removed in the like manner and on the like grounds as a Judge of Supreme Court. Thus, they can be the basis of a resolution passed to that effect by both the Houses of Parliament with a special majority on the ground of proved misbehavior or incapacity. This provision ensures that the CEC and other Election Commissioners cannot be removed by the President at his pleasure. The CEC and other Election Commissioners cannot be removed by the President at his pleasure. The CEC can act independently and impartially in his duties in view of the security of his tenure.
They can continue in office for 6 years or up to 65 years of age, whichever is earlier.
- Conditions of their service cannot be altered to their disadvantage during their tenure.
FUNCTIONS OF THE ELECTION COMMISSIONER:-
1) Functions mandated by the Constitution:-
a) The superintendence, direction, and control of the preparation of electoral rolls for all elections to Parliament and State Legislature.
b) The superintendence, direction, and control of the conduct of all elections to Parliament and State Legislature and of elections to the Offices of President and Vice President.
c) To give the opinion to the President or Governor on matters relating to the disqualification of the members of Parliament or of State Legislature respectively.
d) In case the Proclamation of National Emergency is in force in any part of a State, and the State is also under President’s Rule for a period of one year, further extension of President’s Rule is possible only if the Election Commission certifies that extension of President’s Rule is necessary on account of difficulties in holding general elections to the Legislative Assembly of the State concerned.
2) Other Functions Mentioned in the Representation of People Act, 1950 and 1951 are to
a) grant registration to associations and bodies as political parties,
b) grant recognition to registered political parties as National or State parties based on their electoral performance.
c) allot election symbols to the recognized political parties.
d) allocate equitable sharing of time in electronic media for the contesting political parties for canvassing during the elections.
e) fix the limits of election expenditure by a contesting candidate in Parliamentary / Assembly Constituency,
f) make a code of conduct for compliance by the political and contesting candidates and the Governments during elections, and
g) determine the Constituencies to be reserved for STs in certain States.
The Election Commission has no separate staff. The President and State Governors shall make available such staff as may be required for discharging its functions. A Cheif Election Officer is designated for every state in consultation with the respective State Governments. The Cheif Election Officer functions under the control of Cheif Election Commissioner. A District Election Officer is designated for each district who functions under the control of the Cheif Election Officer of the concerned State.