Election Commission of India (ECI)
- The administration of India's Union and State elections is the purview of the Election Commission of India, an independent constitutional body.
- The organization oversees elections for the President and Vice President of India and the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, and State Legislative Assemblies.
What are constitutional provisions relevant to this?
- Part XV of the Indian Constitution addresses elections and establishes a commission to deal with these issues.
- In accordance with the Constitution, the Election Commission was established on January 25, 1950.
- The Constitution's Articles 324 to 329 deal with the Commission's and the member's authority, function, tenure, eligibility, etc.
Articles related to Elections
Bar to interference by courts in electoral matters.
Elections to the House of the People and the Legislative Assemblies of States are to be based on adult suffrage.
No person is ineligible for inclusion in or to claim to be included in a particular electoral roll on the grounds of religion, race, caste or sex.
Power of the Legislature of a State to make provisions with respect to elections to such Legislature.
Power of Parliament to make provisions with respect to elections to Legislatures.
Superintendence, direction, and control of elections to be vested in an Election Commission.
What is the Commission's organizational structure?
- The Election Commissioner Amendment Act of 1989 transformed the Commission from a single-member body to a multi-member one from its original configuration of one election commissioner.
- Two Election Commissioners and a Chief Election Commissioner make up the Commission.
- Rajiv Kumar is the 25th Chief Election Commissioner, a position the Indian President recently appointed.
- In New Delhi, there is a secretariat for the Commission.
- The Chief Electoral Officer, an officer with the IAS rank, assists the state election commission.
- The President chooses election commissioners and the chief election commissioner.
- Until they reach the age of 65, whichever comes first, they have a fixed tenure of six years.
- They have the same privileges and status as Indian Supreme Court judges, including the same pay and benefits.
Describe the removal process.
- Only through a procedure used by Parliament and resembling that of a Supreme Court judge can the Chief Election Commissioner be removed from their position.
- Through a motion approved by Parliament and based on "Proven misbehaviour or incapacity," judges of the High Courts and Supreme Court, the CEC, and the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) may be removed from their positions.
- A special majority of 2/3 of the members present and voting, supported by more than 50% of the total number of members in the house, is required for removal.
- The term "impeachment" is not used in the Constitution to describe the removal of judges, CAGs, or CECs.
- The removal of the President is the only situation in which the term "impeachment" is used, and it calls for a special majority of 2/3 of the members of both houses combined.
What are ECI's Primary Purposes?
- The entire election process for India's President and Vice-President, as well as the Parliament and Legislature of each State, is supervised, directed, and controlled by the Superintendents of the Election Commission of India.
- The Commission's primary responsibility is setting the election dates for the timely and periodic conduct of general or bye-elections.
- Additionally, it creates electronic photo identity cards (EPIC) and electoral rolls.
- It makes decisions regarding the placement of polling places, the distribution of voters among them, the location of counting centres, the preparations to be made in and around polling places and counting centres, and all related issues.
- Along with recognizing political parties and assigning them election symbols, it also resolves conflicts about them.
- Additionally, the Commission has advisory authority over the post-election disqualification of lawmakers and members of the state legislature who are currently in office.
- In order to prevent unfair practices or arbitrary power abuse by those in authority, it issues the Model Code of Conduct for political parties and candidates during elections.
- For all political parties, it establishes and regulates spending caps on each candidate's campaign.
What is ECI's significance to India?
- Since 1952, the ECI has successfully run both national and state elections. To ensure greater public participation, the Commission has begun to take a more active role in recent years.
- If political parties fail to uphold inner-party democracy, the Commission has gone so far as to threaten them with de-recognition.
- In overseeing, directing, and controlling electoral governance, it upholds the values enshrined in the Constitution: equality, equity, impartiality, independence, and the rule of law.
- Elections are conducted in accordance with the highest standards of professionalism, independence, accountability, fairness, and transparency.
- It ensures that all eligible citizens participate in the electoral process in a welcoming and inclusive environment focused on voters' needs.
- In the interest of the electoral process, it interacts with political parties and all stakeholders.
- It raises and strengthens confidence and trust in the nation's electoral system by increasing and strengthening awareness of the electoral process and governance among key stakeholders, including voters, political parties, election officials, candidates, and the general public.
Procedure for voting:
India uses electronic voting machines, or EVMs, to cast votes and provides postal voting in addition to special accommodations for voters with disabilities.
Electronic voting machines (EVM)
Electronic voting has only recently been widely adopted in India. The Election Commission introduced electronic voting machines (EVM) to cut down on fraud and boost efficiency. During the 1982 Kerala State Legislative Assembly Elections, they were used for the first time on a trial basis.
Only the Election Commission of India's "Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot Papers (ETPB)" system, which distributes ballots to registered eligible voters who return them by mail, allows for postal voting in India. Before counting the votes from the EVM, the postal votes are counted first.
Electors with disabilities
Following the revelation that the Election Commission of India was not ready to protect voters with disabilities in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Dr Satendra Singh, an activist, filed an RTI request. This led to harsh criticism of the Commission.
What do you think of the Electoral Reform Recommendations from ECI?
Election reforms will be implemented in 2020 according to the recommendations of nine working groups of ECI representatives and state chief electoral officers. Following are some suggestions:
- The creation of a single form to replace all the existing forms for various voter services, such as address changes and voter registration for new voters.
- Having too many forms complicates the process and reduces its effectiveness.
- There should be some facilities for online registration at the college or school level for students arriving at 17 years of age so they can be enrolled in the electoral roll at 18.
- The ECI additionally suggested four deadlines per year for voter registration.
- For the convenience of voters, it was also suggested to distribute electronic versions of the voter ID card, or EPIC.
- Examining the "possibility and feasibility of different voting methods" was another of the recommendations.
- An Aadhaar-linked remote voting system for the ECI was the subject of a prototype being developed by IIT-Madras.
- The recommendations for political parties included a spending limit for parties and online nominations of candidates.
- The amount of money that can be spent on campaigning by a single candidate is currently limited.
- A "silence period of 48 hours" was suggested as a further recommendation before polling in print and digital media.
- Currently, it is against the law to campaign on electronic media within 48 hours of a vote.
What changes are proposed by the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill 2021?
- The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill 2021 was approved by the Lok Sabha in December 2021. The Aadhaar ecosystem is intended to be connected to voter identification cards and electoral roll data.
Key Elements of the Bill:
- De-Duplication of the Electoral Roll: It enables the linking of electoral roll data with the Aadhaar ecosystem by amending section 23 of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1950.
- By doing this, the threat of a single person being enrolled multiple times in various locations is curbed.
- Multiple Eligibility Dates: Citizens become eligible to vote when they turn 18. Even after turning 18, many people are not included on the electoral rolls. This is because the system uses January 1 as the qualifying date.
- The first day of January, April, July, and October are the four qualifying dates for updating the voting rolls to include people who have turned 18 in the legislation.
- The term "spouse" will now be used instead of "wives of service voters" when registering voters. By doing this, the laws will become more "gender-neutral."
- Armed police from a state operating outside its borders, members of the armed forces, and government workers stationed outside of India are all considered service voters.
What are ECI's Main Obstacles?
- Politics has become more criminalized due to the growing influence of money, criminal elements, violence, and electoral fraud over the years. This deterioration has continued despite efforts by the ECI to stop it.
- The state government has routinely violated the ECI's model code of conduct by making significant personnel changes right before elections, appointing opportunistic officials to important positions, and using official vehicles and facilities for campaigning.
- The ECI lacks the necessary tools to control political parties. When enforcing internal party democracy and controlling party finances, the ECI has no authority.
- The Election Commission's reputation has suffered recently due to the perception that it has been losing its independence from the Executive in recent years.
- One significant institutional flaw is the lack of transparency in the election of the CEC and the other two commissioners based on the presiding government's selection.
- EVMs allegedly malfunctioning, being hacked, or failing to register votes undermines the public's confidence in the institution.
What should be the next step?
- The Commission's task is to guard against collusion between lower-level civil and police bureaucracies that work in the interests of the current ruling party.
- The Commission must build public trust by installing (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail System) VVPATS in increasing constituencies until the controversy over EVM flaws dies down.
- The Commission's mandate, as well as the procedures that support it, need more legal backing.
- Our public institutions suffer from poor leadership, as history demonstrates. It is essential to put in place safeguards to make sure that morally upright and competent individuals are in charge.
- In accordance with the 2nd ARC report, the President should consider recommendations made by a collegium consisting of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Law Minister, and the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha for the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commissioners.