India is a constitutional democracy with a parliamentary system of government. The Election Commission of India was established under India’s Constitution in 1950. The ECL’s constitutional authority includes preparing electoral rolls and exercising control over elections to the national Parliament, to the offices of the president and vice-president and to state legislatures. The Constitution also provides for the appointment of commissioners, the conditions of their tenure and removal from office and the availability of staff for the ECI to carry out its functions. The Constitution establishes the primary of the Chief Election Commissioner and provides the ECI with the authority needed to carry out its mandate. The Constitution also establishes voter entitlement on the basis of citizenship and age and bars courts from interfering in electoral matters.
Composition of Election Commission:
Article 324 provides for a chief Election Commissioner to be appointed by the President. He can also appoint any number of Election Commissioners. Since 1993, the Election commission consists of a Chief election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners. If the Election Commission is a multi-member body then the Chief Election Commissioner acts as the Chairman of the election Commission. The decisions are arrived at by either consensus or majority in multi-member election commission. There is a provision to appoint Regional Commissioners before each general election to Lok Sabha and State Assembly and before the general election and thereafter before each biennial election to the Legislative Council. The President appoints them in consultation with the Election Commission.
The Chief Election Commissioner is the head of the body. The body was set up in 1050 with only one officer- The Chief Election Commissioner, appointed by the President. But in 1993, it grew and also included two more election commissioners. They hold office for six years or till they are 65 years old, whichever is earlier. Yet, they can still step down from office or be removed any time before that.
Power and Functions of Election Commission:
There are three main types of powers of the Election Commission-to advice, to administer and quasi-judicial powers. Under the first type, it advises the President and the Governor regarding disqualifying members of Parliament and state assemblies. In the second type, the office marks areas for elections, makes electoral rolls, controls and oversees elections, etc. Finally, under quasi-judicial powers, the office also acts as a court for settling fights regarding recognition of political parties and their symbols.
The Election Commission superintends, direct and controls the elections to Parliament, State Legislatures and Union Territories, Presidential and Vice-Presidential elections. In this regard, it performs the following functions:
- Preparation of electoral rolls.
- Conduct of elections
- To advise the President in regard to the question whether a Member of Parliament (Art 103) or a State Legislature has become subject to any disqualification (Art. 192)
- To advise the President in the appointment Regional Commissioner.
Article 329 – Election Disputes:
Article 329 bars the interference of Courts in electoral matters. If a Delimitation Commission draws the boundaries of a territorial constituency it cannot be challenged in any Court of law. Article 329 also provides that no election to either House of Parliament or to a House of a State Legislature shall be called in question except by an election appropriate law. Since 1966, a High Court alone has the jurisdiction to hear an election petition. Appeal lies with the Supreme Court.