Election Commission of India
The Election Commission of India (ECI) is a constitutional body responsible for administering elections in India according to the rules and regulations mentioned in the Constitution. It was established on January 25, 1950 with the aim to define and control the process for elections conducted at various levels: parliament, state legislatures, and the offices of the president and vice president of India. In other words, the ECI ensures smooth and successful functioning of the democracy.
Role of Election Commission of India
In its assigned role, the most crucial challenge before the Election Commission of India is to implement norms and the Model Code of Conduct to ensure free and fair elections in the country. Its existence and independence are necessitated by history, which has shown that democratic elections are not free from sabotage. Towards this end, it has been empowered to oversee political parties and candidates and take appropriate action in case of violations.
Structure of Election Commission of India
The secretariat of the commission has 300 officials, and is located in New Delhi. The deputy election commissioners and director generals are the senior-most officers in the secretariat. The President of India appoints the chief election commissioner, who serves for six years and must retire at the age of 65. The commissioner is generally a member of the Civil Services, and more often, of the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) or the Indian Revenue Services (IRS). He can be removed from his office through the process of impeachment, which needs to be carried out in the parliament. The President of India can remove the other officers on the chief commissioner’s recommendation.
Functions and Powers of Election Commission of India
The main functions of the ECI are as follows:
- It issues the Model Code of Conduct in every election for political parties and candidates so that the dignity of democracy is maintained.
- It regulates political parties and registers them for being eligible to contest elections.
- It publishes the limits of campaign expenditure per candidate allowed to the political parties, and also monitors the same.
- The political parties must submit their annual reports to the ECI for getting tax benefit on contributions.
- It ensures that all the political parties regularly submit their audited financial reports.
Some of the powers wielded by the ECI are as follows:
- The commission can suppress the results of opinion polls if it deems such an action fit for the cause of democracy.
- The commission can advise for disqualification of members after the elections if it thinks they have violated certain guidelines.
- In case a candidate is found guilty of corrupt practices in elections, the Supreme Court and high courts consult the commission.
- The commission can suspend candidates who fail to submit their election expense accounts timely.