- The Election Commission of India (ECI) is an autonomous and permanent constitutional body responsible for organising free and fair elections in the Union and States of India.
- The Constitution grants the ECI with the power of direction, superintendence, and control of elections to Parliament, state legislatures, the office of president of India and the office of vice-president of India.
- The ECI does not deal with the elections to the urban bodies such as Municipalities and Panchayats in the states and hence, a separate State Election Commission.
Powers and responsibilities
- The Commission’s functions and powers with respect to elections are divided into three categories (Administrative, Advisory, and Quasi-judicial). In detail, these powers include
- Determining the Electoral Constituencies’ territorial areas throughout the country.
- Preparing and periodically revising electoral rolls and registering all eligible voters.
- Notifying the schedules and dates of elections and scrutinising nomination papers.
- Granting recognition to the various political parties and allocating them election symbols.
- The Commission also has advisory jurisdiction in the matter of post-election disqualification of sitting members of Parliament and State Legislatures.
- It issues the Model Code of Conduct in elections for political parties and candidates so that no one indulges in unfair practice or there is no arbitrary abuse of powers by those in power.
Composition of Election Commission
- Since its inception in 1950, the election commission had been a one-member body with only the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) as its sole member.
- Later, two more election commissioners were appointed to the body and the Election Commission became a multi-member body with 3 election commissioners.
- The President appoints the Chief Election Commissioner and other election commissioners.
- They have tenure of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
- The chief and the two other election commissioners have the same powers and emoluments including salaries, which are the same as a Supreme Court judge.
- In case of a difference of opinion amongst the three members, the matter is decided by the Commission by a majority.
- Article 324 of The Constitution of India mentions the provisions to safeguard and ensure the independent and impartial functioning of the Election Commission.
- The chief election commissioner is provided with security of tenure. He cannot be removed from his office except in the same manner and on the same grounds as a judge of the Supreme Court.
- In other words, he can be removed by the President on the basis of a resolution passed to that effect by both the Houses of Parliament with a special majority, either on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity.
- Any other election commissioner or a regional commissioner cannot be removed from office except on the recommendation of the chief election commissioner.
Why in News?
- The Supreme Court has ruled that any persons employed with the central or state governments could not be appointed as election commissioners across the length and breadth of the country.
- The Court held that election commissioners have to be “independent persons” and that nobody, who has been employed or holds an office of profit under the central or any state government, could be appointed as election commissioners.
- The ruling aims at ensuring independence of the election commissions.
- The judgment came as the top court censured the Goa government for appointing its law secretary as the state election commissioner for conducting municipal council elections in the state. The law secretary was given the additional charge as the state election commissioner.
- The Court issued the direction exercising its powers under Articles 142 and 144 of the Constitution.
- Under Article 142, the apex court is empowered to issue directives to do “complete justice” whereas Article 144 obligates all authorities to act in aid of the Supreme Court.