The Election Commission of India is an autonomous, constitutionally established federal authority responsible for administering all the electoral processes in the Republic of India. Under the supervision of the commission, free and fair elections have been held in India at regular intervals as per the principles enshrined in the Constitution. The Election Commission has the power of superintendence, direction and control of all elections to the Parliament of India and the state legislatures and of elections to the office of the President of India and the Vice-President of India The commission consists of a Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and two Election Commissioners (EC), appointed by thePresident of India. The Chief Election Commissioner can be removed from his office by Parliament with two-thirds majority in LokSabha and RajyaSabha on the grounds of proven misbehaviour or incapacity. Other Election Commissioners can be removed by the President on the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner. The Chief Election Commissioner and the two Election Commissioners draw salaries and allowances at par with those of the Judges of the Supreme Court of India as per the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Conditions of Service) Rules, 1992.The current CEC is V.SundaramSampath.
Over the years, the Election Commission’s enforcement of India’s remarkably strict election laws grew increasingly lax. As a consequence, candidates flagrantly violated laws limiting campaign expenditures. Elections became increasingly violent (350 persons were killed during the 1991 campaign, including five LokSabha and twenty-one state assembly candidates), and voter intimidation and fraud proliferated.[ The appointment of T.N. Seshan as chief election commissioner in 1991 reinvigorated the Election Commission and curbed the illegal manipulation of India’s electoral system. By cancelling or repolling elections where improprieties had occurred, disciplining errant poll officers, and fighting for the right to deploy paramilitary forces in sensitive areas, Seshan forced candidates to take the Election Commission’s code of conduct seriously and strengthened its supervisory machinery. In Uttar Pradesh, where more than 100 persons were killed in the 1991 elections, Seshan succeeded in reducing the number killed to two in the November 1993 assembly elections by enforcing compulsory deposit of all licensed firearms, banning unauthorised vehicular traffic, and supplementing local police with paramilitary units. In state assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka, and Sikkim, after raising ceilings for campaign expenditures to realistic levels, Seshan succeeded in getting candidates to comply with these limits by deploying 337 audit officers to keep daily accounts of the candidates’ election expenditures. Although Seshan has received enthusiastic support from the public, he has stirred great controversy among the country’s politicians. In October 1993, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that confirmed the supremacy of the chief election commissioner, thereby deflecting an effort to rein in Seshan by appointing an additional two election commissioners. Congress (I)’s attempt to curb Seshan’s powers through a constitutional amendment was foiled after a public outcry weakened its support in Parliament.
Use of Scientific and Technological Advancements
The Election Commission had tried to bring improvements in election procedures by introduction of EVM – Electronic Voting Machines. It was used with view to reducing malpractices and also improving the efficiency. On experimental basis it was firstly tried in the State of Kerala in 1982 for Legislative Assembly Elections. After successful testing and legal inquires the commission took historic decision to go ahead and start use of EVMs. The Election Commission making use of Information Technology launched a web site of its own on 28 February 1998. It helps to provide accurate information, management, administration and instant results of the elections. In 1998, Election Commission decided programme for ‘computerisations’ of the electoral rolls. To prevent electoral fraud, in 1993 EPICs – Electorals Photo Identity Cards were issued. In 2004 elections, it was mandatory to possess card.
Multi Member Commission
Originally the commission had only a Chief Election Commissioner. But, two additional Commissioners were appointed to the commission for the first time on 16 October 1989 but they had a very short tenure till 1 January 1990. The Constitution Amendment Act, 1993 made Election Commission to be multi member body. Later, 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. Functions and powers
Guardian of Free and Fair Elections
One of the most important features of the democratic polity is elections at regular intervals. Democracy is the “Government of the people, By the people, And for the people”. Holding periodic free & fair elections are essentials of democratic system. It is part of basic structure of the Constitution which has been held in T. N. Sheshan V/s Union of India.The Commission has taken many efforts for the success of elections and thereby democracy.
Prohibition on Publication
The Commission can issue an order for prohibition of publication and disseminating of results of opinion polls (Exit Polls).
The Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners have a 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 by Parliament. Vice-President, such petitions can only be filed before the Supreme Court.[