The Election Commission is established as an autonomous body in order to ensure free, fair and impartial elections which is even insulated from political pressures and executive influence. Under Article 324(1) of Indian Constitution the Commission is setup as a permanent body. The Commission has got the jurisdiction throughout India over elections to Parliament, State legislature, Offices of President and Vice President.
The Election Commission is made as an all India body rather than separate bodies to supervise and conduct elections in each state is that some states in India consists of mixed population which in itself includes both the native people and well as other people who may be culturally, racially, linguistically different from that of native people. With a view to prevent any kind of injustice being done to any section of people, it was made as a single central body which would be free from local influences and pressures and have control over entire election machinery in the country.
COMPOSITION OF ELECTION COMMISSION
As of now, the Election Commission consists of a Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners. Article 324 of Indian Constitution confers power on the President to appoint Election Commissioners and “such other Commissioners” as he may from time to time fix. These Commissioners are appointed for the time period of 6 years, or up to the age of 65 years.
The removal procedure of the Chief Election Commissioner from office resembles the procedure of removal of a Judge of Supreme Court. The salary payable to Chief Election Commissioner is also equal to that of a Judge of Supreme Court. The grounds for the removal of Chief Election Commissioner includes misconduct or incapacity if two third members in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha give their consent to the decision. Other Election Commissioners can be removed by the President on the recommendation by the Chief Election Commissioner.
POWERS OF ELECTION COMMISSION
Power To Superintendent, Direct And Control
The Election Commission has got the power to conduct electrol rolls for all the elections of Parliament, State Legislature, Offices of President and Vice President. The Election Commission has the power of Superintendence, Direction and control over the preparation of the electrol rolls. The power of Superintendence, Direction and control which is vested in the Election Commission under Article 324(1) of the Indian Constitution are subject to the laws made by Parliament under Article 327 and it is also subject to the laws made by State Legislature under Article 328 of the Constitution.
Election Commission has been entrusted the responsibility to conducting both National and State Election, therefore Article 324(1) is considered as a plenary provision vesting the responsibility of conducting elections under the Election Commission. As Article 324(1) is a plenary provision, it there is no law or provision made by Parliament or State Legislature to meet a particular situation, Article 324 confers power on the Election Commission to act and to enact such provisions necessary to push forward free and fair elections. The Election Commission has got the power to take care of surprising situations on which there has been no law made either by Parliament or State Legislature.
Power To Order Re-Poll
Article 324 confers on the Election Commissionnot only the power to conduct elections but also the power to order a fresh poll. The order for re-poll may be given if there is hooliganism, breakdown of law and order at the time of polling or during counting of votes.
Power To Allot Symbols
The Election Commission is empowered by the rule 5(1) of the rules made by the Central Government under Representation Of People's Act, 1951 to specify the symols to the candidates for elections. The Symbols Order, 1968 has also been issued by the Election Commission read with the above mentioned rules. The validity of the order has been challenged stating it to be ultra vires to the Constitution on the ground that "Election Commission has got only executive but no legislative power, but the Supreme Court has always upheld the validity of the order explaning as follows ; " In India allotment of symbols to the candidates becomes necessary so that an illiterate voter may identify the candidate of his choice and cast his vote in his favour".
Supreme Court has observed in the the case Kanhaiya Lal v. R.k. Trivedi as follows " Even if for any reason, it is held that any of the provisions contained in the symbols order are not traceable to the Act or the Rules, the power of the Election Commission under Article 324(1) of the Constitution which is plenary in character can compass all such provisions. Article 324 of the Constitution operates in the areas left unoccupied by the legislation.
Power To Postpone The Elections
In the case Digvijay Mote v. Union Of India the Supreme Court has ruled that if there is any kind of disturbing situations going on in a state or in any part of the state which is preventing the conduction of free and fair elections, then the Election Commission has got the power to postpone the elections.
Power To Seek Information Regarding Election Expenses
In the case Registered Society v. UOI, the question regarding the "election expenses" incurred by the political parties during the time of elections was brought before the court. The main contention in the arguments were that the elections in India are soly fought on the basis of money power, therefore the people should be made aware of the expenses that are incurred by the political parties and the candidates in the process of election.
The Court ruled that the purity of election is fundamental to democracy and therefore the Election Commission has got the power to issues such directions requiring the political parties to submit to the Election Commission, for its scrutiny, the details of the expenditure incurred during elections.
Power To Issues Budgets And Expenses
The budgets of the formers Secretariat, which is liable for an independent budget is finalised by the Union Finance Ministery and Election Commission. Union Finance Ministery generally uphelds the recommendation made by the Election Commission. The expenses of the elections should be taken care by the concerned states and the Union territories but it is the Union Government who bears the expenses of Lok Sabha elections entirely, in case of the legislative assembly elections, the concerned state bears the expenses.
Power To Disqualify The Candidates
The power of post election disqualification of sitting members of the Parliament and State Legislature has been vested within the Election Commission. In the case where the person is found guilty of corrupt practices at elections that come before High Court or Supreme Court are also referred to the Election Commission for its opinion regarding whether such person shall be disqualified and it so, for what reason. The opinion of the Commission is binding on the President or as the case may be, the Governor to whom such opinion is tendered. The imposed disqualification on the candidate may be removed or reduced by the Election Commission.
Decriminalization Of Politics
Election Commission is seriously concerned about the existing criminalization in politics. In order to curb the criminal activities in politics it has taken variety of initiatives which are as follows;
Model Code Of Conduct
Election Commission in every election prescribes the model code of conduct for both political parties and the candidates which deals with the manner in which the political parties and the candidates should conduct themselves during elections in order to push forward free and fair elections. The Commission has also issued an order under Article 324, which says that each candidate mush issues an affidavit which includes the information regarding his/her criminal antecedent, assets as well as the qualification at the time of filing his/her nomiation papers.
Checking Criminalization In Politics
In order to prevent the entry of any anti social and criminal persons in the electrol arena, the Commission has urged all the political parties to come to a consensus that no person with the criminal background will be given the party ticket.
Limiting The Poll Expense
India has already experienced many elections where there has been vulgar show of money during elections. In order to get rid of such activities, the Election Commission has issued limit on the amount that can be spent by a candidate during the election campaign. Election Commission also appoints expenditure observers to keep an eye on the expenses incurred by the candidates during election campaign.
Use Of Scientific and Technological Advancements
Making use of scientific and technological advancements has been trying to bring improvements in Eelection procedure. Intriduction of EVM's ( Electronic Voting Machines) is one of the steps in that direction. There has been a drastic decrease in malpractice during elections after the introduction of EVM's and there has also been improvement in the efficiency of voting process.
Further efficient step taken by Election Commission using scientific and technological advancement is the introduction of NOTA ( None Of The Above ), a ballot option, which allows the voter to indicate disapproval of all the candidates in a voting system. The principle on which it is based is as follows ; " Consent requires the ability to without consent in an election"
FUNCTIONS OF ELECTION COMMISSION
The primary function of the Election Commission which is entrusted by the Constitution is superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of the electrol rolls for and conduct of the elections to Parliament and to the legislature of every state and also of the elections to the offices of the President and Vice President of India.
Other primary functions of Election Commission includes demarcation of constituencies, preperation of electrol rolls, arranging sufficient staff for smoothly conducting the elections, conduction of polls, briefings the details of elections to media etc.
Other Functions Under The Constitution
Apart from the above primary function, the Election Commission has got an important duty of advising the President and the Governor in the matter of disqualification of sitting members of Parliament, State Legislature on all grounds other than the ground of defection (Arts. 103 and 192). Before deciding such questions, the President or as the case may be, the Governor is obliged to refer the matter to the Election Commission fits it's opinion and act accordingly to such opinion. The Supreme Court has held in Brudaben Nayak v. Election Commission of India has said that the President and the Governor are bound by the opinion of the Election Commission.
Other Functions Under The Law
The Election Commission has been vested with advisory jurisdiction under the law. If a person is found guilty of corrupt practise at election which comes before High Court in Eelection petition is before Supreme Court in election appeal, the President decides the question whether such persons should be disqualified from contesting future elections and, if so, for what period. Before deciding such questions, the President obtains the opinion of Election Commission and acts accordingly to such opinion.
Quasi Judicial Functions
All political parties wishing to contest in the elections mush register themselves with the Election Commission. Such function of registration of political parties by the Election Commission has been held by the Supreme Court as quasi judicial function of the commission. The Supreme Court also held that in merger disputes between two political parties, the Election Commission exercises the judicial power of state and against whose decision an appeal shall straight away lie to Supreme Court under appellate jurisdiction under Art. 136.
Over the years, the Election Commission has conducted a number of laudable electrol reforms to strengthen democracy and enhance the fairness odds elections by making efficient use of its powers. However, our system is still plagued by many vices. To win votes, political parties resort to foul method and corrupt practices.
There is a need to strengthen the hands of the Election Commission and to give it more legal and institutional powers. The Election Commission must be entrusted with powers to punish the errent politicians who transgress and violate the electrol laws.
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