The Election Commission of India (ECI) is an autonomous and permanent constitutional authority responsible for organising free and fair elections in the country. The Constitution grants the ECI with the power of direction, superintendence as the body conducts elections to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, and State Legislative Assemblies in India, and the offices of the President and Vice President in the country. The ECI does not manage the elections to the urban bodies, namely Municipalities and Panchayats in the states and that is why a separate State Election Commission is there for that across the country.
The ECI was set up in accordance with the Constitution on January 25, 1950. Its secretariat is located in India’s national capital New Delhi. Since 1952, it has been conducting national as well as state elections. It has started various campaigns on its social media handles to urge more voters to cast votes in their respective constituencies leading to a greater participation of citizens in a democratic country. It upholds the values enshrined in the constitution such as equality, equity, impartiality, independence and rule of law in superintendence, direction, and control over electoral governance. From Article 324 to 329 of the constitution deals with powers, tenure, function, eligibility, etc of the commission.
What is the structure of the ECI?
Earlier, the commission had only one election commissioner and it is now a multi-member body post the Election Commissioner Amendment Act 1989. It comprises one Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners. Chief Electoral Officer has a rank of an IAS officer who assists at the state level election. The President of India appoints Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners. Sushil Chandra heads the Election Commission as its chief and the predecessor is Sunil Arora who demitted office recently.
They have a fixed tenure period of six years or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier. They enjoy the same status or facilities and receive salary and perks as provided to judges of the Apex court of India.
How does ECI function?
The commission decides the election time-table and dates to hold periodic and timely general or bye-elections across the country. It readies electoral roll, issues Electronic Photo Identity Card (EPIC). It also works on the location of polling stations, assignment of voters to the polling stations, location of counting centres, and other required arrangements to be made in and around polling stations and counting centres and all allied matters in a careful manner.
ECI provides recognition to political parties & directs election symbols to them besides resolving issues related to it. It has advisory jurisdiction in the cases of post election disqualification of sitting members of Parliament and State Legislatures. It mandates the Model Code of Conduct in elections for political parties and candidates so that no party gets involved in unethical practice or there is no arbitrary abuse of powers by those sitting in power. It decides the range of campaign expenditure per candidate to all the political parties, and supervises the same.
What challenges does ECI faces?
The ECI needs to be vigilant and should make malpractices like the influence of money and criminalisation during elections. It needs to put claims such as EVMs malfunctioning, getting hacked and not recording votes to rest otherwise it breaks the trust of citizens from the institution. It needs to enforce strict penalties on politicians and members of political parties who violate the model code of conduct. There should be legal aid to the commission’s mandate which could act as their safeguard. The regulation of political parties is required at all levels. There should be more installation of VVPATS (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail System ) in more constituencies.