Election Commissioner Resigns Ahead of 2024 Lok Sabha Elections

Election Commissioner Resigns Ahead of 2024 Lok Sabha Elections


In the news

Just ahead of the anticipated announcement of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, Election Commissioner Arun Goel has tendered his resignation, leaving the Election Commission with only one remaining member out of the usual three.

This sudden development raises concerns about the Commission's operational capacity and readiness for the upcoming elections.

Impact on the Election Commission

  • Post resignation, the Election Commission is left with only one member, potentially affecting its decision-making capabilities and operational efficiency.
  • The absence of a full complement of Commissioners could pose challenges in overseeing the electoral process, ensuring fairness, and maintaining public trust.

Unprecedented Circumstances

  • Goel's departure underscores the rarity of such events within the Election Commission's history, highlighting the significance and gravity of the situation.
  • The circumstances surrounding his resignation may prompt further scrutiny and analysis, both within the Commission and among political stakeholders.

Historical Precedents

  • The first such resignation occurred in 1973 when Chief Election Commissioner Nagender Singh stepped down prematurely to assume a position as a judge at the International Court of Justice.
  • In August 2020, Ashok Lavasa resigned from the Election Commission to take up the role of Vice President at the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Impact on Lok Sabha Elections

Legal Perspective

  • Despite Arun Goel's resignation leaving the Election Commission with only one member, the Lok Sabha elections can proceed legally even with a single Commissioner if new appointments are not made before the Model Code of Conduct comes into effect.
  • However, this situation raises concerns about propriety and fairness in the electoral process.

Centralization of Power

  • With all powers centralized in one individual, including crucial decisions on complaints of poll code violations and ensuring a fair electoral environment during the Lok Sabha elections, questions regarding fairness and transparency may arise.
  • The concentration of authority in a single person may lead to perceptions of bias or partiality, potentially undermining public trust in the electoral process.

Appointment Process of Election Commissioner

  • Election Commissioners are appointed by the President based on the recommendation of a search committee.
  • The search committee consists of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, and a Cabinet Minister.
  • Similar committees are responsible for selecting other key positions such as the Lokpal and the Central Vigilance Commissioner.

Previous Appointment Process of Election Commissioners

  • The power to appoint Election Commissioners rested solely with the Executive branch of the government.
  • The government maintained a database of serving and retired officers, primarily Secretaries to the Government of India and Chief Secretaries, from which the Law Ministry would create a shortlist.
  • The Prime Minister held the authority to finalize the appointment, with the President formally appointing the chosen candidate.

Reasons for Change

  • In 2022, a five-judge Constitution bench began hearing petitions advocating for a fair and transparent system for selecting Election Commissioners.
  • Petitioners highlighted Article 324(2), which specifies the President's role in appointing Election Commissioners, subject to any law passed by Parliament.
  • Criticism of the opaque appointment process raised doubts about the institution's independence, prompting calls for a consultative process to select Election Commissioners.

Judicial Intervention

  • In 2023, the Supreme Court ruled on the matter, emphasizing the need for Parliament to legislate on the appointment process.
  • The Court mandated that the President appoint the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners based on the advice of a committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition of the Lok Sabha, and the Chief Justice of India.
  • Parliament was granted the authority to enact legislation on the appointment process in the future.

Legislative Action

  • Responding to the Supreme Court's ruling, the Union Government introduced The Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023.
  • This bill outlined the appointment procedure, establishing a committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and a Cabinet Minister nominated by the PM.
  • The bill also established a screening panel headed by the Law Minister to shortlist candidates.

Election Commission of India

The Election Commission of India operates as an independent constitutional entity tasked with overseeing electoral procedures at both the Union and State levels throughout India. It manages elections for the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, State Legislative Assemblies, as well as for the President and Vice President of the nation.

Constitutional Framework

  • The Constitution grants the Election Commission of India the authority of direction, superintendence, and control over elections to Parliament, state legislatures, the offices of President and Vice-President of India.
  • It's a national body with jurisdiction over both Central and State government elections, while Municipalities and Panchayats elections are overseen by separate State Election Commissions.

Evolution of Composition

  • Initially, from 1950 to October 15, 1989, the Election Commission comprised only the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC).
  • With the reduction of voting age to 18 in 1989, two additional Election Commissioners were appointed to manage increased workload.
  • The Commission reverted to a single-member body in January 1990, but was again expanded to three members in October 1993.
  • The Chief Election Commissioner and two other Election Commissioners possess equal powers, emoluments, and salaries akin to Supreme Court judges.
  • The Election Commission commemorated its fiftieth anniversary with a Golden Jubilee celebration in the year 2001.

Independence Safeguards

  • Article 324 ensures the independence of the Chief Election Commissioner, providing security of tenure similar to a Supreme Court judge.
  • Removal requires a resolution passed by both Houses of Parliament with a special majority, based on proven misbehaviour or incapacity.
  • Service conditions of the CEC cannot be altered to their disadvantage after appointment.
  • Removal of other Election Commissioners requires the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner.

Powers and Functions

  • The Election Commission holds administrative, advisory, and quasi-judicial powers.
  • It determines electoral constituencies, revises electoral rolls, and registers voters.
  • Responsibilities include notifying election schedules, scrutinizing nomination papers, and granting recognition to political parties.
  • It adjudicates disputes, sets codes of conduct, and supervises the electoral machinery nationwide.
  • Advises on disqualification matters for MPs and MLAs, and cancels polls in case of irregularities.
  • The Commission also oversees campaign expenditure, issues the Model Code of Conduct, and registers political parties.

Composition and Appointment

  • The President appoints the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners.
  • When other Commissioners are appointed, the CEC acts as the Commission's Chairman.
  • Regional Commissioners may be appointed by the President, upon consultation with the Election Commission.
  • Tenure and service conditions are determined by the President.

Importance and Role

  • The Election Commission ensures fair, transparent, and inclusive electoral processes, maintaining democratic values.
  • It fosters participation and discipline among political parties, upholding equality, impartiality, and rule of law.
  • Conducting elections with credibility, professionalism, and autonomy enhances public trust and confidence.
  • The Commission engages with stakeholders, creates awareness, and strengthens electoral governance.

Way Forward

  • Immediate Appointment of New Commissioners: The government should expedite the appointment process to fill the vacant positions in the Election Commission. This will ensure a full complement of Commissioners and bolster the Commission's decision-making capacity ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
  • Ensuring Transparency and Accountability: Parliament should enact legislation based on the Supreme Court's ruling to establish a transparent and consultative process for appointing Election Commissioners. This will enhance the credibility and independence of the Commission, ensuring public trust in the electoral process.
  • Building Institutional Capacity: The Election Commission should focus on strengthening its institutional capacity by investing in training programs, technology upgrades, and infrastructure development. This will enable the Commission to effectively manage the electoral process and uphold its constitutional mandate.
  • Public Awareness Campaigns: The Commission should launch comprehensive public awareness campaigns to educate voters about their rights, responsibilities, and the importance of participating in the electoral process. This will promote electoral literacy and encourage greater voter turnout.
  • Engaging with Stakeholders: The Election Commission should engage with political parties, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders to foster dialogue, address concerns, and build consensus on electoral reforms. Collaborative efforts will enhance the inclusivity and credibility of the electoral process.


The resignation of Election Commissioner Arun Goel ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections underscores the need for urgent action to ensure the integrity and effectiveness of India's electoral system. While his departure poses challenges, it also presents an opportunity to strengthen the Election Commission and enhance its capacity to conduct free, fair, and transparent elections. By prioritizing the appointment of new Commissioners, promoting transparency and accountability, building institutional capacity, conducting public awareness campaigns, and engaging with stakeholders, India can reaffirm its commitment to democracy and uphold the principles of electoral governance. It is imperative that all stakeholders work together to safeguard the integrity of the electoral process and uphold the trust and confidence of the Indian electorate.