Article 324 of the Constitution of India provides for the appointment of the Election Commission to direct and control the elections. The Commission is an All-India body having jurisdiction over elections to Parliament, State Legislatures, Office of the President and Vice President. The constitution of one central body, the Election Commission, is done to prevent injustice, which can be done by regional, State Governments, discriminating against any section of the people in the matters relating to elections.
Constitution of Election Commission
Article 324(2) provides that the Election Commission shall consist of the Chief Election Commissioner and another such number of commissioners as the President may deem fit to fix from time to time. When any such commissioner is appointed, the Chief Election Commissioner shall act as the Chairman of the Commission. The conditions of service and tenure of the office of the Election Commissioners shall be such as determined by the President through rules, from tin’s to time. Article 324(5) of the Constitution provides that such rules are subject to the law made by the President.
Until 1989, the Election Commission consisted of the CEC only. But, a multi-member commission was essential to encourage impartial decision-making. Therefore, the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners(Conditions of Service) Act,1991 was amended in 1994. This amendment provided for making it a multi-member Commission.
Independence and Impartiality of the Election Commission
The Constitution envisages the setting up of an independent, autonomous(statutory) Election Commission. The following provisions are contained in the Constitution for securing the independence of the Election Commission:
- Though appointed by the President first a term of 5 years, the CEC of India cannot be removed from his office except in the manner and on the like grounds as a Judge of the Supreme Court can be removed.
- The salary and other perks as well his service conditions cannot be varied for any disadvantageous grounds after his appointment.
- The salaries of the CEC are drawn from the Consolidated Fund of India. Thus, it is non-votable.
- He is not eligible for further re-appointment.
Functions of the Election Commission
The Election Commission performs the following functions:
- To prepare the electoral rolls before each general election and registration of talk eligible voters.
- To delimit the Constituencies.
- To recognize various political parties and grant them election symbols.
- To prepare a Code of Conduct for talk the political parties.
- To tender advice to the President regarding disqualification of the MPs and MLAs.
- To conduct the elections of the Parliament, State Legislatures and the Offices of the President and Vice President.
Court’s interference in Election matters
The Election Commission has the full power to hold and conduct the elections, but its power is not absolute. The decision of the Election Commission is subject to the judicial review. Article 329 seeks to bar interference by courts in election matters including the validity of any law relating to delimiting the constituencies, allotting seats and for election in both the Houses of the Parliament as well as in State Legislative Assemblies. The latter can be questioned only by an election petition presented to such authority and in such manner as may be provided by law by the concerned legislature.
Election Commission vis-à-vis Government:
Article 324(1) implies in the vesting of the whole responsibility in the Election Commission for national and State elections. But it is subject to the following Limitations:
- Article 327 empowers the Parliament only to make laws relating to or in connection with elections, the Commission shall act in conformity with such laws.
- While exercising such power, the Commission shall conform to the rule of law, act bonafide and be amenable to the norms of natural justice.
It is the prerogative of the government to choose the timing of the elections. The Election Commissioner’s role is to take over the actual conduct and supervision of the elections. The duty ad power to intimate elections lies in the hands of the government.
In Re. Gujrat Assembly Election Matter(2002), the Supreme Court has observed that the holding of the elections is the exclusive domain of the Election Commission. It has the autonomous power to frame the schedule for holding elections of MPs as well as MLAs.
Therefore, it can be summarily concluded that the Election Commission of India holds a constitutional position to hold free and fair elections for the largest democratic country in the world.
Also Read: One Nation One Election: Constitution Vs Politics