Election Commission of India: Powers & Functions



Gaining freedom from the British colonial rule after 150 years that involved a number of rebellions and protests and lakhs of martyrs who sacrificed their life for their country was just the beginning. The real test was yet to begin as India chose to establish democracy in the nation. Democracy refers to the form of administrative structure where the people belonging to the country have the ultimate right to choose and elect their representatives. Putting it into simpler terms, the people of the country decide who should be in power and govern the nation for a particular period of time. This serves as the basic principle of democracy. The existence and following of these Democratic principles is considered necessary for efficient and effective administration.

As per these Democratic principles India follows a multi party structure and conducts elections every five years for separate legislative assemblies and houses. The minimum age for voting is 18 and every Indian citizen above the age of 18 is eligible to vote for the candidate. Every five years the voters are allowed to cast their vote in election for Legislative assembly and Parliament. Thus in a democracy elections are indispensable and carry primal importance. Hence the whole election process demands the governance of an individual body that led to formation of Election Commission in India who has complete authority and responsibility over elections.


Establishment 

Election Commission can be called the caretakers of Indian elections as they regulate the political parties, candidates and government officials during election period.

Election Commission (EC) was formed on 25 January 1950 under Representation of the People’s act article 324. This gave the election commission complete authority over the elections conducted for the following honorary positions; President and Vice President, Legislative Councils, State Legislative assemblies, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Election Commission during election period gained complete access and authority over all government institutions, political parties and candidates.


Members 

Upon formation, the Election Commission was headed by an individual who assumes the position of the Election Commissioner. In 1989, two more ranks were added and along with one Chief Election Commissioner., retired judges and IAS officers who are found eligible for the position are chosen to be Election Commissioners.

Election commission as a whole consisted of more than 300 staffs including deputy election commissioners, Principal secretaries and other secretaries who were chosen most probably from eligible IAS officers, district magistrates etc.
Just like any other bill or policy, removing or dismissal of a Chief election commissioner from his position requires at least ⅔ votes to be casted against him in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Even removing or dismissal of other Election commissioners is a decision remains with the President of the nation with consent from the Chief election commissioner.


Functions 

The authority and functions of election commission is not limited to mere administration and management of the process of elections. The Election Commission is responsible for fixing the election schedule and laying down the code of conduct to competing parties and candidates. The competing parties and candidates are ordered to follow the rules and restrictions laid down by the election commission and it even has the power to put a lifetime ban on those who violate the rules of election. The election commission decides the symbols of the various political parties and assure that it doesn’t offend a community or creed. They are also responsible for the modification and preparation of voter’s list that includes every citizen of India above the age of 18 who is eligible to cast his/her vote.

In cooperation with Income tax department, the election commission analyses the wealth and properties of the candidate and the source of income and source of funds through which the individual or the party is financing the election campaign. The individual or party is required to submit details of every rupee spent on the election campaign while the election commission makes sure the restrictions are not breached. The campaign period is also decided by election commission which is now reduced to 14 days.

The election commission possess nearly unlimited power and authority over government bodies, election mechanism, political parties and candidates. From fixing the schedule of election to the declaration and announcement of results the election commission will be in power over all important issues related to elections . Election Commission can regulate the various exit polls and are also responsible for preventing the ruling party from extending their authority and use it to win elections. They can also take action on government employees and staff as they are directly in charge during election period and can also reject nominations and suspend candidates in case they fail to meet up the conditions put forward by the election commission. Above all the election commission has the power and authority to cancel the election and dissolve the results even after the election is conducted if they find any instances of malpractice or fraud which can’t be undone. In such cases, election commission announces a re-election which is also applicable when a politician in power resigns or upon his demise.


Criticism 

There were a lot of questions being raised about providing the election commission with excessive authority and administrative power. But it is found that the election commission has to be powered with enough authority so that the electoral activities of politicians does not challenge the democracy of the nation. If politicians could use unlimited funds, the ones with greater wealth will dominate over other candidates and the regulatory functions of the Election Commission will prevent or control the entry of candidates with a criminal record into elections.

Thus election commission is not an institution with arbitrary power . Without proper regulations, the execution of the electoral process will be threatened .


Innovation 

Moreover election commission has made some remarkable advancements into election process that made polling easier and reduced the chances of fraud and malpractices during elections. It includes introduction of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) from 1982. In 1993, a unique identity card was issued to all voters of the country which also served as a proof of citizenship and it became mandatory by 2004. The introduction of NOTA or None Of The Above in the electronic voting machines was another significant move from the part of election commission which offered a choice to the voters to not vote for any particular candidate.


Hence the Election Commission plays a pivotal role in conducting elections and acts as a major instrument of democracy in the country. It safeguards the integrity of the democratic process and makes sure that the voice of the people is what truly prevails in the event of a democratic election in India.


- Ajay Sreeram



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Election Commission of India: Powers & Functions Election Commission of India: Powers & Functions Reviewed by EMN on March 19, 2019 Rating: 5

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