This article on ‘ELECTION COMMISSION OF INDIA: Its Role, Issues and Challenges‘ is written by Kalpana, an intern at Legal Upanishad.
India is a democratic country where elections are conducted once every 5 years. Without proper management and organization, there would be a lot of chaos in conducting these elections. Everyone will do whatever they want, would opt any way through which they can win the elections. In that case, democracy would not have any value in the country. So this problem was already identified by the framers of the constitution of India. They knew there was a need for an independent body that can manage all the elections happening in the country fairly and free from any influence of the political parties.
So the constitutional framers of India included the “election commission of India” in the constitution of India under Article 324. So in this paper, we are going to analyze the role of the election commission. Also, we will focus on the issues and challenges faced by the election commission. We will analyze whether the election commission of India is working as expected by the constitutional framers or not.
WHAT IS THE ELECTION COMMISSION?
The election commission is an independent and permanent body in India that is mainly responsible for conducting free and fair elections in India. This commission is set up under the constitution directly under article 324 in 1950. So that’s why it has a huge amount of power in its pocket. The Election Commission of India is given the authority to conduct, supervise, and manage elections of parliament, state legislatures, the office of president of India, and the office of vice-president of India under the provisions of the Indian Constitution.
The election body is common to both the central and state government. But the election commission of India has no role in conducting the elections on local levels like panchayat and municipality. So for this reason a separate state election commission is provided by the constitution of India.
COMPOSITION OF ELECTION COMMISSION
Article 324 of the Indian constitution provides a detailed organization of the election commission. The organization is as follows:
- The election commission shall consist of the Election Commissioner and, if any, such additional election commissioner officials may be appointed by the president from time to time.
- The President appoints both the primary election commissioner and subordinate Election Commissioner Officers.
- When another political decision official is chosen, the primary political decision magistrate will serve as the head of the political race commission.
- After consulting with the political race panel, the President may also designate such local officials as he deems necessary to assist the political decision commission.
- The President shall determine the states of administration and the places of residence of the political decision magistrates and territory leaders.
So in present conditions, India has three election commissioners. One is the senior election commissioner and the other two are subordinate to him.
ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE ELECTION COMMISSION
The election commission is one of the major constitutional bodies. It is a permanent body and can’t be removed by any means by the parliament. Great powers lie in the hands of this commission. Let’s see the power, roles, and responsibility of the election commission of India. These powers, roles, and responsibilities are by the constitution of India.
- The Constitution has given this body superintendence, guidance, and control over the whole electoral process.
- The Commission’s tasks and powers concerning elections to the offices of President, Vice President, state lawmakers, and Parliament are classified into three categories:
. ADMINISTRATIVE POWER
The Commission has been given administrative powers such as deciding the regional areas of electoral constituencies, preparing voter lists, informing election dates and schedules, giving political party validation, allocating electoral emblems to parties, determining the code of ethics during elections, and so on.
. ADVISORY POWER
The advisory powers of the Election Commission of India are as follows:
- ECI is authorized to advise the President and Governor on disqualifications of parliament members and state legislatures, respectively.
- To advise the president on whether elections may be held in a state under the president’s rule to prolong the duration of emergency beyond one year.
- It advises the High Courts and Supreme Court on post-election issues between candidates and political parties.
. QUASI-JUDICIAL POWER
It also serves as a court for resolving disputes over the recognition of political parties and the allocation of electoral emblems to them.
Now that we have understood the election commission of India and its roles and responsibilities in various sectors now it’s time to understand the challenges and issues faced by the election commission of India.
ISSUES AND CHALLENGESFACED BY THE ECI
- Political criminality has emerged from increased violence and election malpractices under the influence of money, which ECI is powerless to arrest.
Political criminality is the major issue faced by the ECI in today’s India. The politicians want to win the election at any cost and for which they opt some illegal or unethical ways. Some of the practices are like distributing the money to people to vote for them only; some opt the way of force and threaten people to vote for them.
So criminality is increasing in politics at a very high rate and the ECI is powerless to arrest these kinds of politicians. They can’t anything in this matter as they don’t possess those powers and even sometimes if it wants to then those influential politicians make their way out of the situation through their connections and power. Hence this is one of the most critical issues in front of the election commission of India.
- The Election Commission lacks the necessary tools to govern political parties. It has no authority to impose inner-party democracy or regulate party funds.
The election commission has no power to interfere in the politics within the parties. They don’t have any monopoly on knowing the funds of the party. They could not ask a party about the funds it is getting and the advantage of this situation is taken by the political parties very efficiently. They get the funds from illegal institutions, from very influential persons, and use them in the wrong way. The high-class people invest their money in these political parties to evade the taxes and hence it affects the economy of India too. Therefore the election commission lacks the necessary powers to govern the inner politics of the political parties.
- ECI’s independence from the Executive is dwindling, which has harmed its reputation.
The overindulgence of the election commission has harmed the reputation of ECI to a great extent. It has raised questions on the efficiency of the election commission. The ECI has been set up as the independent body but now it seems like the executive is ruling over it. This is harming the reputation of the ECI which it used to have before. So there is a need that ECI to start working independently free from any influence of executive, legislature, or judiciary.
- Claims of EVMs malfunctioning, being hacked and failing to record votes erode the general public’s faith in ECI.
In every election whether state or central, we can see that at least one party (losing party) would claim that there is malfunctioning in the working of the EVM’S (electronic voting machines) which is not good for the reputation of the ECI. In the 2014 and 2019 elections, this claim was made by the Congress party. These claims are reducing the faith which the general public has over the ECI. The people don’t have much faith in EVMs and also in the ECI. The ECI should choose the other alternative for conducting elections like VVPATs. Maybe this could lead to a reduction in such claims.
SC’S GENERAL RULING IN BRIEF
- Election Commissioners should be appointed by independent individuals rather than government officials. Giving government employees further authority as Election Commissioners is a blatant violation of the Constitution.
- States were directed to follow the constitutional plan of independent and impartial operation of electoral commissions.
- If they hold any such job (under the state government), they must resign before taking over as election commissioner.
- All state governments have been directed to hire full-time election commissioners who will operate independently and equitably.
- There has been much discussion about whether the CEC ( Chief election commissioner) and election commissioners should be appointed by a three-member collegium. The Supreme Court is also considering a PIL on the subject.
- In its 255th report, the Law Commission proposed a collegium comprising of the PM, the LOP, and the CJI for the selection of Election Commissioners.
SC is trying to restore the independence of the ECI. In the various judgments, it has given the above guidelines to both the government and ECI to follow.
- Firstly, ECI is an independent body. Therefore it should be kept separated from the executive, legislature, and judiciary. No organ should interfere with the working of the ECI because it leads to a reduction in the faith of the public.
- Secondly, some powers should be given to the ECI to regulate the inner politics of the political parties, especially related to the funds. This would lead to fair elections.
- The ECI should take strict measures against political criminalization. If they found anyone indulging in such activities they should immediately disqualify that participant of the political party.
- The EVMs must be replaced with more authentic machines like VVPATs.
ECI is an independent body that is facing many issues in the present day. But we have seen that it is working as expected by the constitutional framers. It performs each responsibility efficiently with which the framers entitled it. Many questions have been raised on the efficiency though, it has proved itself time and again. Therefore we can put our faith in the ECI.
1- Economic and political weekly: https://www.epw.in/journal/2021/21/commentary/elections-pandemic.html
2- ECI: eci.gov.in/current-issues/
3- Constitution of India, 1950, Article 324.