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Published : July 07, 2010 | Author : varunisrani@legalserviceindia.com
Category : Constitutional Law | Total Views : 48397 | Rating :

Varun Israni

Election Commission of India- Functions and Working

The Constitution of India ushered in a democratic republic for the free people of the country. The founding fathers of the Constitution took solemn care to devote a special chapter to elections niched safely in Part XV of the Constitution. The draft of Art 289 of the Constitution of India (which on adoption later became the present Art 324 in Part XV of the Constitution) was introduced in the Constituent Assembly on 15 ]une 1949 by Dr BR Ambedkar, Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly and one of the chief architects of the Indian Constitution.

Part Xv Of The Constitution Of India

Article 324. Superintendence , direction, and control of elections to be vested in an Election Commission.

(1) The superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of the electoral rolls for, and the conduct of, all elections to Parliament and to the Legislature of every State and of elections to the offices of President and Vice-President held under this Constitution[1] [***] shall be vested in a Commission (referred to in this Constitution as the Election Commission).

(2) The Election Commission shall consist of the Chief Election Commissioner and such number of other Election Commissioners, if any, as the President may from time to time fix and the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners shall, subject to the provisions of any law made in that behalf by Parliament, be made by the President.

(3) When any other Election Commissioner is so appointed the Chief Election Commissioner shall act as the Chairman of the Election Commission.

(4) Before each general election to the House of the People and to the Legislative Assembly of each State, and before the first general election and thereafter before each biennial election to the Legislative Council of each State having such Council, the President may also appoint after consultation with the Election Commission such Regional Commissioners as he may consider necessary to assist the Election Commission in the performance of the functions conferred on the Commission by clause (1).

(5) Subject to the provisions of any law made by Parliament, the conditions of service and tenure of office of the Election Commissioners and the Regional Commissioners shall be such as the President may by rule determine:

Provided that the Chief Election Commissioner shall not be removed from his office except in like manner and on the like grounds as a Judge of the Supreme Court and the conditions of service of the Chief Election Commissioner shall not be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment:

Provided further that any other Election Commissioner or a Regional Commissioner shall not be removed from office except on the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner.

(6) The President, or the Governor[2] [***] of a State, shall, when so requested by the Election Commission, make available to the Election Commission or to a Regional Commissioner such staff as may be necessary for the discharge of the functions conferred on the Election Commission by clause (1). [3]

The Supreme Court in TN Seshan v Union of India and Ors[4] observed that :
Democracy being the basic feature of our constitutional set up, there can be no two opinions that free and fair elections to our legislative bodies alone would guarantee the growth of a healthy democracy in the country. ln order to ensure the purity of the election process, it was thought by our Constitution-makers that the responsibility to hold free and fair election in the country should be entrusted to an independent body which would be insulated from political and/ or executive interference. It is inherent in a democratic set up that the agency which is entrusted the task of holding elections to the legislatures should be fully insulated so that it can function as an independent agency free from external pressures from the party in power or executive of the day. This objective is achieved by the setting up of an Election Commission, a permanent body, under Art 324(1) of the constitution.

The Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir also reposed faith in the Election Commission, created as aforesaid under Art 324 of the Constitution of India, and entrusted the task of holding elections to the State Legislature of Jammu and Kashmir to the same Commission, instead of creating a separate State commission which it could do under its own constitution (s 158 of the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution).

Structure Of The Election Commission
The commission presently consists of a Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners, appointed by the president.

Until October 1989, there was just one Chief Election Commissioner. In 1989, two Election Commissioners were appointed, but were removed again in January 1990. In 1991, however, the Parliament of India passed a law providing for the appointment of two Election Commissioners. This law was amended and renamed in 1993 as the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Conditions of Service) Amendment Act 1993. As of Tuesday, 21 April 2009, the CEC is Navin Chawla. The two Election Commissioners are S.Y. Quraishi and former Power Secretary V.S. Sampath .

The Constitution does not prescribe any qualifications, academic or otherwise, for appointment to these offices. However, by convention, only senior civil servants, either serving or retired, of the rank of the cabinet secretary or secretary to the Government of India or of an equivalent rank have been appointed as the Chief Election Commissioner and election commissioners so far. In Bhagwati Prashad Dixit Ghorewala v. Rajiv Gandhi[6], it was contended that as the Chief Election Commissioner is placed at par with a judge of the Supreme Court in the matter of his removability from office under the Constitution, for his appointment also he should possess qualifications similar to that of a judge of the Supreme Court. However, the Supreme Court rejected. that contention.

The Chief Election Commissioner may be removed from his office in like manner and on the like grounds as a judge of the Supreme Court. It means the Chief Election Commissioner may be removed from office by Parliament by passing a resolution to that effect, passed by special majority on the ground of proved misbehavior or incapacity. The Election Commission shall consist of a chief Election Commissioner and such other Commissioners as the President may, from time to time, fix. Other Election Commissioner may be removed by the President on the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner. Salary of chief election commissioner is same as justice of Supreme Court of India. All three commissioners have same right of taking a decision. Tenure of commissioners is 6 years or up to age of 65, whichever is earlier. The Election Commission of India has completed more than 300 elections. The Chief Election Commissioner can be removed from office only on the like manner and on like grounds as a judge of Supreme Court.[7]

Election Machinery
The Commission has a separate Secretariat at New Delhi, consisting of about 300 officials, in a hierarchical set up. Two Deputy Election Commissioners who are the senior most officers in the Secretariat assist the Commission. They are generally appointed from the national civil service of the country and are selected and appointed by the Commission with tenure. Directors, Principal Secretaries, and Secretaries, Under Secretaries and Deputy Directors support the Deputy Election Commissioners in turn. There is functional and territorial distribution of work in the Commission. The work is organised in Divisions, Branches and sections; each of the last mentioned units is in charge of a Section Officer. The main functional divisions are Planning, Judicial, Administration, Information Systems, Media and Secretariat Co-ordination.

The territorial work is distributed among separate units responsible for different Zones into which the 35 constituent States and Union Territories of the country are grouped for convenience of management. At the State level, the election work is supervised, subject to overall superintendence, direction and control of the Commission, by the Chief Electoral Officer of the State, who is appointed by the Commission from amongst senior civil servants proposed by the concerned State government.

He is, in most of the States, a full time officer and has a team of supporting staff. At the district and constituency levels, the District Election Officers, Electoral Registration Officers and Returning Officers, who are assisted by a large number of junior functionaries, perform election work. They all perform their functions relating to elections in addition to their other responsibilities. During election time, however, they are available to the Commission, more or less, on a full time basis. The gigantic task force for conducting a countrywide general election consists of nearly five million polling personnel and civil police forces. This huge election machinery is deemed to be on deputation to the Election Commission and is subject to its control, superintendence and discipline during the election period, extending over a period of one and half to two months.

Administrative Expenditure of the Election Commission
The Administrative expenditure of the Election Commission is not a ‘charge’ on the Consolidated Fund of India, and is a voted expenditure. The Commission has proposed to the government that its administrative expenditure should also be a `charge’ on the Consolidated Fund of India, like the expenditure of some other constitutional authorities, namely the Union Public Service Commission and the Comptroller and Auditor- General of India. This proposal did not find favour with the Goswami Committee on Electoral Reforms in 1990. However, the government subsequently accepted the Commission’s proposal and introduced a Bill titled the Election Commission (Charging of Expenses on the Consolidated Fund of India) Bill 1994, in the House of the People, but it lapsed without being passed on the dissolution of that House in 1996. Thus, the expenditure of the Commission continues to be voted by Parliament, despite the reiteration of its proposal by the Election Commission from time to time and in its latest proposals in July 2004.

State Election Commissions
Powers Of The State Election Commission:

The State Election Commission has the following powers in respect of Enquiry and examination on the issue of disqualification of a candidate or an elected member, as provided under Section 139 of the Kerala Panchayat Raj Act, 1994:

1.”where the State Election Commission in deciding any question under sub section
(2) of Section 34 or Section 36 of this Act considers it necessary or proper to make an enquiry, and the Commission is satisfied that on the basis of the affidavits filed and the documents produced in such enquiry by the parties concerned of their own accord, it cannot come to a decision in the matter which is being inquired into, the Commission shall have, for the purposes of such inquiry, the powers of a civil court, while trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (Central Act 5 of 1908) in respect of the following matters, namely:-

A. summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person and examining him on oath;
B. requiring the discovery and production of any document or other material object producible as evidence;
C. receiving the evidence of affidavits;
D. requisitioning any public record or a copy there of from any court or office;
E. issuing commissions for the examination of witness or documents.

2. The Commission shall also have the power to require any person including Government Officials subject to any privilege which may be claimed that person under lawbj for the time being in force, to furnish information on such points or matters as in the opinion of the Commission may be useful for, or relevant to, the subject matter of enquiry.

3. The Commission shall be deemed to be a civil court and when any such offence, as is described in Section 175, Section 178, Section 179, Section 180 or Section 228 of the Indian Penal Code (Central Act 45of 1860), is committed in the view or presence of the Commission, the Commission may, after recording the facts constituting the offence and the Statement of the accused as provided for in the code of Criminal Procedure, 1973(Central Act 2 of 1974), forward the case to a Magistrate having jurisdiction to try the same and the Magistrate to whom any such case is forwarded shall proceed to hear the complaint against the accused as if the case had been forwarded to him under Section 346 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

4. Any proceeding before the Commission shall be deemed to be a judicial proceeding within the meaning of Section 193 and Section228 of the Indian penal Code, 1860(Central Act 45 of 1860).

5. Similar provisions are made in the Kerala Municipality Act 1994 also under Section 196.

Changes In The Composition From Time To Time
The Constitution makers left it to the President to decide whether the Election Commission should be a single member body or a multi—member body, depending upon the exigencies of work in the Commission. Since, under the Constitution, the President functions on the aid and advice of the council of ministers, thus, in effect, it is the council of ministers headed by the Prime Minister which ultimately decides about the composition of the Election Commission.

Since the time of inception the Election Commission worked as a single member body consisting of only the Chief Election Commissioner. However, on 7 October 1989, the President, in exercise of the powers under art 324(2), decided to make the Election Commission a multi—member body and, by a notification issued on that day, fixed, until further orders, the number of election commissioners at two (besides the Chief Election Commissioner). By a further notification on 16 October 1989, the President appointed Shri SS Dhanoa and Shri VS Seigell as the two election commissioners from the afternoon of that day. On the same day, by another notification issued in exercise of the powers conferred by aft 324(5), the President made rules to regulate the uomliiions of service and tenure of office of the election commissioners. . These conditions laid down, among other things, that an election commissioner shall hold office for a term of five years or until he retains the age of 65 years, whichever happens earlier.

However, on 1 ]anuary 1990, the President was pleased to convert the Election Commission again into a single member body and rescinded both the notifications dated 7 and 16 October 1989, whereby he had fixed the number of election commissioners at two, and appointed Shri SS Dhanoa and Sh VS Seigell as the election commissioners.

Shri Dhanoa challenged this decision of the President before the Supreme Court, contending, inter alia, that, once appointed, an election commissioner continued in office for his full tenure as determined by rules under art 324(5) and that the President had no power to cut short the tenure so fixed. It was also urged that the Election Commission being an independent body, its independent functioning could not be eroded in any manner by removing the two election commissioners.

A Division Bench of the Supreme Court (MH Kania and PB Sawant ) rejected the contentions of Shri Dhanoa and dismissed his petition, by its decision dated 24 ]uly 1991.[8] The Supreme Court held, on merits, that there was no need for the posts of the election commissioners `at the time the appointments were made, and that in the absence of a clear definition of their role in the Commission, particularly, vis-a-vis the Chief Election Commissioner, the abolition of the posts, far from striking at the independence of the Commission, paved the way for its smooth and effective functioning. The Supreme Court further observed that the creation and abolition of posts is the prerogative of the executive, and art 324(2) leaves it to the President to fix and appoint such number of election commissioners as he may from time to time determine. The power of the President to create the posts is unfettered, so is his power to reduce or abolish them. With the abolition of the posts, the service rules pertaining to those posts also ceased to have effect and, therefore, the petitioner could not validly claim to continue for the full tenure as fixed by those service rules.

The Division Bench of the Supreme Court also observed that the framers of the Constitution did not appear to give the same status to the election commissioners as that of the Chief Election Commissioner and that the latter did not appear to be primus inter partes, i.e, first among the equals, but was intended to be placed in a distinctly higher position.

Apparently it was as a sequel to these observations of the Supreme Court that Parliament enacted the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Conditions of Service) Act 1991. By this Act, as aforesaid, the tenure of the Chief Election Commissioner and election commissioners, if appointed, was fixed as six years, but the Chief Election Commissioner was to retire at the age of 65 years and was given the salary and other perquisites equal to that of a judge of the Supreme Court, and the election commissioners were to retire at the age of 62 years and were to be given the salary and other benefits as are available to a judge of a high court.

Shri TN Seshan, the then Chief Election Commissioner, challenged before the Supreme Court, the above decision of the President to make the Election Commission a multi—member body and the appointment of the two election commissioners as mala fide, alleging that the intention behind the move was to sideline him and to erode his authority so that the ruling party at the Centre could extract favourable orders by using the services of newly appointed election commissioners. He also questioned the constitutional validity of the above-mentioned amendments as made by the aforesaid 1993 Ordinance, on the ground that the same were inconsistent with the scheme underlying art 324 and that Parliament had no power to frame rules for transaction of business of the Election Commission.

By further order dated 15 December 1993, the matter was referred to a Constitution Bench, as it involved interpretation of art 324. The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court (AM Ahmadi CJI, ]S Verma, NP Singh, SP Bharucha and MK Mukherjee however, dismissed all the above petitions by a unanimous decision[9] on July 14 1995, disagreeing with some of the observations of the division bench in Dhanoa's case[10].

The Supreme Court, dismissing the above petitions, held that the scheme of art 324 is that the Election Commission can either be a single member body or a multi—member body, if the President considers it necessary to appoint one or more election commissioners. The argument that a multi- member Election Commission would be unworkable and should not, therefore, be appointed could not be accepted as that would tantamount to destroying or nullifying ell (2) and (3) of art 324. By aft 324(1), the Constitution makers entrusted the task of conducting elections in the country to the Election Commission and not to an individual. The Commission discharges a public function.

The election commissioners form part of the Commission and, therefore, they must have a say in decision making. If the Chief Election Commissioner is considered to be superior in the sense that his word is final, he would render the election commissioners non—functional or ornamental. Such an intention is difficult to cull out from art 324 and it is not possible to accept the argument that the function of the election commissioners is only to tender advice to the Chief Election Commissioner. The Chief Election Commissioner does not enjoy a status superior to election commissioners, only because the first proviso to cl (5) of Art 324 lays down that conditions of service of the Chief Election Commissioner cannot be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment and because such protection is not extended to the election commissioners.

Similarly, the protection given to the Chief Election Commissioner in the matter of his removal from office in like manner and on the like grounds as of a Judge of the Supreme Court and the absence of such protection to election commissioners, who can be removed on the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner, is not an indicia for conferring a higher status on the Chief Election Commissioner. The provision that the election commissioners can be removed only on the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner does not make them subordinate to the latter, but is intended to ensure their independence and that they are not at the mercy of the political and executive bosses of the day. This check on the executives power to remove, is built to safeguard the independence of not only these functionaries, but the Election Commission as a body.

The Chief Election Commissioner cannot exercise his power to recommend the removal of the election commissioners as per his whim and caprice, and has to exercise this power only when there exist valid reasons, which are conducive to efficient functioning of the Commission, as otherwise he would become an instrument of oppression and destroy the independence of the election commissioners. As art 324 envisages the Election Commission to be a permanent body to be headed by a permanent incumbent, namely, the Chief Election Commissioner, in order to preserve and safeguard his independence, he has to be treated differently, as there cannot be an Election Commission without a Chief Election Commissioner. But that is not the case with the other election commissioners who are not intended to be permanent incumbents. lf the Commission is a single member body, the Chief Election Commissioner is the alter ego of the Commission and no more. And if it is a multi—member body, he is obliged to act as its Chairman.

Further, the Supreme Court proceeded to observe that the function of the Chairman would be to preside over meetings, preserve order, conduct the business of the day, ensure that precise decisions are taken and correctly recorded and do all that is necessary for smooth transaction of business. The Supreme Court also upheld the power of Parliament to make provisions for the transaction of business of the Election Commission under cl. (2) and (5) of arts 324, 327 and 328 and Entry 72 of List I of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution. The Supreme Court also observed that even if it is assumed that the Commission alone was competent to lay down how it would transact its business, it would be required to follow the same pattern of decision-making by the rule of majority as has been set out in the impugned law. The Supreme Court saw no merit in the allegations of mala fide against the government and rejected them.

Thus, the Election Commission is now functioning, since 1 October 1993, as a three-member body comprising the Chief Election Commissioner and two election commissioners. The Election Commission, in its views on electoral reforms as communicated to the Government of India in July 1998 and reiterated in July 2004, has expressed satisfaction with the present set up and recommended that its strength may be permanently fixed at three. The Commission has further recommended that the election commissioners should also be extended the same protection under the Constitution in the matter of their conditions of service and removability from office as is available to the Chief Election Commissioner. [11]

Functions of The Election Commission
The primary function of the Election Commission entrusted to it by the Constitution is the superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of the electoral tolls for, and conduct of elections, to Parliament and to the legislature of every State, and also of elections to the offices of the President and Vice-President of India [Art 324(1)]. Originally, the Constitution also vested in the Election Commission the responsibility of appointment of election tribunals for the decision of doubts and disputes arising out of or in connection with elections to Parliament and to the legislatures of the States [Art 324(1), as originally enacted].

However, on the recommendation of the Election Commission in its Report on the third general elections held in 1962, the trial of election petitions was entrusted to the High court’s and the institution of election tribunals was abolished, as the experience showed that the disposal of election petitions was getting inordinately delayed because even the interlocutory orders of the tribunals were subject to appeal to the High Courts. Accordingly, Art 324(1) was amended by the Constitution (Nineteenth Amendment) Act 1966, to relieve the Commission of the Function of appointing election tribunals.

Amplitude of Powers of Election Commission—Meaning of ` Superintendence, Direction and Control What is the amplitude of powers and width of functions of the Election Commission under Art 324 came to be considered by the Supreme Court in Mohinder Singh Gill and Anor v. Chief Election Commissioner and Ors[12]. In this case, the Election Commission had declared the poll taken in Firozepur parliamentary constituency in the State of Punjab at the time of the 1977-general election to the House of the People as void, on the basis of certain complaints. The petitioners contended that the Election Commission under the enacted law could only direct fresh poll at the polling stations where the poll was allegedly vitiated, and not in the entire parliamentary constituency. The Supreme Court rejected the contention of the petitioners. A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court held that art 324 is a plenary provision vesting the whole responsibility for national and State elections in the Election Commission and the words (superintendence, direction and control’ used in Art 324 are the broadest terms.

The responsibility of superintendence, direction and control of the conduct of elections may cover powers, duties and functions of many sorts, administrative or other depending upon the circumstances. Article 324, on the Face of it, vests vast functions in the Commission which may be powers or duties, essentially administrative, and marginally, even judicative or legislative. Two limitations are atleast are, however, laid on its plenary character in the exercise of its powers. First, when parliament or any State legislature has made valid law relating to or in connection with relations , the commission shall act in conformity with, not in violation of, such law.

But where such law is silent, Art 324 is a reservoir of power for the Commission to act for the avowed purpose of pushing forward, but not divorced from, a free and fair election with expedition. Secondly, the Commission shall be responsible to the rule of law, act bona fide and be amenable to the norms of natural justice in so far as conformance to such canons can reasonably and realistically be required of it as fair play-in- action in a most important area of the constitutional order, namely; Elections. The Supreme Court also observed in that case that arts 327 and 328 which empower Parliament to make laws with regard to electoral matters are subject to the provisions’ of the Constitution which include art 324. The Court observed that:

The framers of the Constitution took care to leaving scope for exercise of residuary power by the Election Commission in its own right, as a creature of the Constitution, in the infinite variety of situations that may emerge from time to time in such a large democracy as ours. Every contingency could not be foreseen or anticipated with precision. That is why there is no hedging in Art 324. The Commission may be required to cope with some situation which may not be provided for in the enacted laws and the rules. That seems to be the raison d’etre for the opening clause in Arts 327 and 328 which leaves the exercise of powers under Art 324 operative and effective when it is reasonably called for in a vacuous area.

Where the existing laws are absent and yet a situation has to be tackled, the Chief Election Commissioner has not to fold his hands and pray to God for divine inspiration to enable him to exercise his functions and to perform his duties or to look to any external authority for the grant of powers to deal with the situation. He must lawfully exercise his power independently, in all matters relating to the conduct of elections, and see that the election process is completed properly in a free and fair manner.

The nature and scope of the powers and functions of the Election Commission also came to be considered by the Supreme Court in kanhiya Lal Omar V RK Trivedi and Ors[13]. In that case, the validity of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order 1968, promulgated by the Election Commission providing for the recognition of political parties as national or State parties, determination of disputes between the splinter groups of such recognised political parties, allotment of symbols to candidates , etc was called in question. It was contended that the symbols order was legislative in character and could not have been promulgated by the Commission, as the Commission is not empowered by law to issue such a legislative order.

The Supreme Court rejected the above contention, holding that the power to issue the Symbols Order is comprehended in the powers of superintendence, direction and control of elections vested in the Commission under art 324. If any of the provisions in the Symbols Order could not be traced to the Representation of the People Act 1951, or the Conduct of Elections Rules 1961, it could easily be traced to the reservoir of power under art 324(1), which empowers the Commission to issue all directions necessary for the purpose of conducting smooth, fair and free elections.

In AC Jose v Sivan Pillai and Ors[14] the Supreme Court, however, held that when there is no parliamentary legislation or rule made under the said legislation, the Commission is free to pass any order in respect of the conduct of elections, but where there is an Act and express rules made there under, it is not open to the Commission to override the Act or the rules, and pass orders in direct disobedience to the mandate contained in the Act or rules.

The powers of the Commission are meant to supplement rather than supplant the law in the matter of superintendence, direction and control as provided by aft 324. Where a particular direction by the Commission is submitted to the government for approval as required by the rules, it is not open to the Commission to go ahead with implementation of it at its own sweet will even if the approval of the government is not given. In that case, the Supreme Court struck down the Commissions order, as being without jurisdiction, whereby the Commission had introduced the electronic voting machines in an election without any express provision in the Act and the rules which then contemplated the taking of poll only by means of ballot papers and ballot boxes.

In Common Cause v Union of India and Ors[15], the Supreme Court held that the expression °conduct of election° in art 324 of the Constitution is wide enough to include in its sweep, the power of the Election Commission to issue——in the process of the conduct of elections—directions to the effect that the political parties shall submit to the Commission for its scrutiny, the details of the expenditure incurred or authorised by the political parties in connection with the election of their respective candidates.

Summing up the amplitude of powers of the Election Commission under Art 324, the Supreme Court held in Union of India v association for Democratic Reforms and Ors[16].

(1) The jurisdiction of the Election Commission is wide enough to include all powers necessary for smooth conduct of elections and the word ‘elections’ is used in a wide sense to include the entire process of election which consists of several stages and embraces many steps.

(2) The limitation on plenary character of power is when the Parliament or State Legislature has made a valid law relating to or in connection with elections, the Commission is required to act in conformity with the said provisions. In case where law is silent, art 324 is a reservoir of power to act for the avowed purpose of having free and fair election. Constitution has taken care of leaving scope for exercise of residuary power by the Commission in its own right as a creature of the Constitution in the infinite variety of situations that may emerge from time to time in a large democracy as every contingency could not be foreseen or anticipated by the enacted laws or the rules. By issuing necessary direction, Commission can fill the vacuum till there is legislation on the subject. In Kanhiya Lal Omar’s case[17], the Court construed the expressions ‘superintendence, direction and control` in Art 324 (1) and held that a direction may mean an order issued to a particular individual or a precept which may have to follow and it may be a specific or a general order and such phrase should be construed liberally empowering the election commission to issue such orders.

Other Important Functions Of The Election Commission Under The Constitution Of India
Apart from the above primary function, the Constitution has also entrusted the Election Commission with another important duty of advising the President and the governors in the matter of disqualification of sitting members of Parliament and of State legislatures, on all grounds other than the ground of defection (Arts 103 and 192). If any question arises whether any sitting member of Parliament or of a State legislature has become subject to any disqualification for continuing as such member under the Constitution (other than on the ground of defection) or under any law, such question is decided by the President, in the case of a member of Parliament, and by the governor, in the case of a member of State legislature [Arts 103(l) and 192(1)].

Before deciding such question, the President or, as the case may be, the governor is obliged to refer the matter to the Election Commission for its opinion and act according to such opinion. The Supreme Court has held in Brundaben Nayak v Election Commission of India and Anor[18] that the President and the governors are bound by the opinion of the Election Commission in such matters and they are not required even to consult their council of ministers.

The apex court observed in Shamsher Singh v. State of Punjab[19] that the actual adjudication has to be made by the Election Commission, which binds the government, and the President and governors merely append their signature to the order in regard to such decision.

The Rajasthan High Court held in Nand Lal Sharma v. Election Commission[20] that there is no requirement for opportunity to be given to the person who raised the question or to the member concerned by the President or governor before acting on the opinion of the Commission.

But the jurisdiction of the President or the governors and of the Election Commission arises only in those cases where a sitting member of Parliament or of a State legislature has become subject to disqualification after his election, that is to say, a post-election disqualification. If a member was subject to any disqualification at the time o£ or prior to, his election, such question cannot be considered and decided by the President or governor, and the Election Commission also cannot make any enquiry into such matter, even if such disqualification subsists after the election.[21]Such question of pre-election disqualification can be raised only in an election petition and not before the President or the governor.

There is, however, a gap in the provisions of the Constitution in that there is no authority prescribed under the Constitution or under the law to go into the question of a pre—election disqualification which subsists even after the election, but which has not been questioned by filing an election petition within the period prescribed for filing such petitions. The Election Commission has pointed out this lacuna in some of its opinions tendered to the President and the governors of certain States, but the constitutional position continues to be the same.

In another matter relating to the alleged disqualification of Km Jayalalitha, the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, referred to the Commission by the Governor of Tamil Nadu in March 1993, a single judge of the Madras High Court struck down the notice issued by the Commission to Km Jayalalitha, holding that she had not incurred any disqualification on the grounds mentioned in the petition on the basis of which the reference was made by the governor to the Commission.[22] On appeal, however, the Division Bench of the High Court set aside the order of the single judge, holding that such question could be decided only by the governor on the opinion of the Election Commission and not by the high court.

In the above referred case of Km Jayalalitha, another important issue relating to the Election Commissions jurisdiction also came to be decided. It was contended by Km ]ayalalitha before the Madras High Court that the then Chief Election Commissioner should not adjudicate the matter, because she apprehended that the Chief Election Commissioner might be biased in favour of the complainant before the governor, as the wife of the complainant was acting as the counsel for the Chief Election Commissioner in a private litigation instituted by him before the Delhi High Court.

At that time, the Election Commission was a single-member body wholly constituted of the Chief Election Commissioner and a plea was raised on behalf of the Commission that under the doctrine of necessity, the matter had necessarily to be adjudicated by the Chief Election Commissioner. The single judge of the Madras High Court accepted the contention of Km jayalalitha on 2 ]uly 1993 and directed the Chief Election Commissioner to recuse himself from dealing with the matter, and observed that the President could consider to appoint some additional election commissioners to deal with the matter. The matter was taken to a Division Bench of the high court[23]. The Division Bench also agreed with the single judge.

By that time, the Election Commission had already become a multi- member body on I October 1993 with the appointment of two election commissioners. The Division Bench observed that it was now open for the multi—member body, while regulating the procedure for transaction of its business, to allocate this case to any one of the two Election Commissioners or to both of them. The matter was still further agitated before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court also directed the Chief Election Commissioner to recuse himself from adjudicating the matter and to leave it to be decided by the two election commissioners. The Supreme Court, however, added that if there was difference of opinion between the two election commissioners, the Chief Election Commissioner may also then give his opinion, as the doctrine of necessity would then apply to the facts and circumstances of the case[24].

Other Functions Of Election Commission Under The Law
The Election Commission has also been vested with another advisory jurisdiction under the law. If a person is found guilty of a corrupt practice at an election either by a high court in an election petition or by the Supreme Court in an election appeal, the President decides the question whether such person should be disqualified for contesting future elections and, if so, for what period [Section 8A(1), 1951 Act]. Before deciding such question, the President obtains the opinion of the Election Commission and acts according to such opinion, as in the case of the post-election ‘ disqualification of sitting members of Parliament [S. 8A(3) ]. Thus, though the order is issued by the President, it is in fact the Election Commission which decides the basic issue of disqualification in such matters. _ The maximum period for which the disqualification can be imposed in such cases is six years from the date the order of the high court or, as the tense may he, of the Supreme Court takes effect [proviso to s 8A(1)].

`Here, it deserves to be noted that it is the President who decides the question of disqualification of all persons found guilty of corrupt practices, irrespective of whether the election pertained to Parliament or to a State legislature.3l Prior to 1975, a person found guilty of a corrupt practice at an election was automatically disqualified for a period of six years from the date the order of the Supreme Court or the high court finding him guilty took effect. However, the law was amended by the Election Laws (Amendment) Act 1975, to provide that there shall be no automatic disqualification in such cases, and the question and the period of disqualification shall be decided by the President on the basis of the opinion of the Election Commission. It was provided that the case of every such person found guilty of a corrupt practice would be referred to the President by such authority as may be specified by the Central Government, and that the President shall thereupon refer the matter to the Election Commission for its opinion. Pursuant thereto, the Central Government has specified the Secretary General of the House of the People or the Secretary General of the Council of States as such referring authority, if the election at which the person concerned has been found guilty related to the House of the People or, as the case may be, to the Council of States. Likewise, in the case of a person found guilty at an election to the legislative assembly or the legislative council of a State, the specified authority is the Secretary of the House concerned. It has, however, been observed that there is always a time lag between the date on which the order of the high court or the Supreme Court takes effect, the date on which the matter is referred by the aforesaid specified authority to the President, and the ultimate date on which the President decides the question on the opinion of the Election Commission. During this intervening period, the person concerned cannot be said to be disqualified under the law, as the disqualification will be visited upon the person concerned only when the President decides the question. In one case relating to the Bihar legislative assembly, the reference from the Secretary to the Bihar legislative assembly was itself made to the President after nearly five years from the date of the order of the Supreme Court, finding a member of that assembly guilty of corrupt practice. As a result, the person concerned suffered disqualification for less than a year. The Goswami Committee on Electoral Reforms recommended in its report in May 1990, that the law may be amended to restore the position as obtaining before 1975 providing for automatic disqualification of the person concerned for a period of six years from the date of the order of the court. The Election Commission has, however, expressed the view that the period of disqualification should be commensurate with the gravity of corrupt practice committed and, therefore, there should not be automatic disqualification for six years in all cases. Under the existing law, the Commission tenders its opinion to the President after hearing the person concerned in regard to the tvvo-fold question, whether, first, he should be disqualified at all and, if so, for what period.

Quasi Judicial Functions Of The Election Commission
Apart from the above advisory jurisdiction, the Election Commission has another important function to perform under the law. All associations or bodies of individual citizens calling themselves as political parties and wishing to contest elections under the name and banner of a political party have to get themselves registered with the Election Commission (s 29A, 1951 Act). Such function of registration of political parties by the Election Commission has been held by the Supreme Court to be a quasi-judicial function of the Commission[25].

Such registered political parties, if they fulfill certain criteria fixed by the Election Commission on the basis of their poll performance, are further recognised by the Commission either as national or State parties, under the provisions of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order 1968, promulgated by the Commission. If any split takes place in any such recognised national or State party and there are two or more rival or splinter groups of the party each claiming to be that party, it is the Election Commission which decides under para 15 of the Symbols Order as to which of these rival or splinter groups is the party[26].

Again, if any of such recognised national or State parties merge with other parties, whether recognised or unrecognised, it is the Election Commission which determines whether there has been a valid merger of such parties, and whether on such merger, the parties so merging should be recognised as national or State parties and which election symbols should be reserved for them. The Supreme Court has held that while deciding such disputes, the Election Commission exercises the judicial power of State and is deemed to be a quasi-judicial tribunal against whose decision an appeal shall straightway lie to the Supreme Court under its appellate jurisdiction under Art 136.

Judicial Review
The decisions of the Commission can be challenged in the High Court and the Supreme Court of the India by appropriate petitions. By long standing convention and several judicial pronouncements, once the actual process of elections has started, the judiciary does not intervene in the actual conduct of the polls. Once the polls are completed and result declared, the Commission cannot review any result on its own. This can only be reviewed through the process of an election petition, which can be filed before the High Court, in respect of elections to the Parliament and State Legislatures. In respect of elections for the offices of the President and Vice President, such petitions can only be filed before the Supreme Court.

“Election Commission of India Gets Political Infection, Democracy at Receiving End”

New Delhi (ABC Live): The Election Commission has its great relevance in implementing democracy in very form of governance. According to constitution the fairness in actions and neutrality in its mind are made mandatory elements.

New Delhi (ABC Live): The Election Commission has its great relevance in implementing democracy in every form of governance. According to constitution of India, the fairness in actions and neutrality in its mind are made mandatory elements.

The Election Commission of India is now a day missing both of mandatory elements in its actions and mind. The commission has been divided into political blocks.

The Chief Election Commissioner/ Election Commissioners are openly seen as political agents of political parties. The tussle which came into public light, when on January 31, CEC N Gopalaswami sent a recommendation letter to President Pratibha Patil against election commissioner Navin Chawla for his removal, which later Indian government denied to accept. It was open secret in top political circles that who owns whose loyalty in EC.

This Recommendation letter has thrown Indian elections holding statuary body into deep well, Where all political parties are nude. It is interesting to know about the reasons, N Gopalaswami quoted in his recommendation to remove Navin Chawla, election Commissioner, who is considered very close to congress party high command.

According to information with ABC Live the first serious allegation which CEC has leveled against Chawla that, he sneaks election commission’s top secret decisions to his political masters in Congress party.

To support his allegation Gopalaswami wrote in his letter to President of India that usually during full bench Election Commission meetings to take crucial decisions on poll maters, Navin Chawla tries to take excuses like wash room urgency to leak decisions.

CEC further to substance his allegation against election Commissioner has given two incident which showed that he conveyed each and every information of EC to his master in Congress party on routine basis.

According to first incident quoted in CEC recommendation regarding Gujarat elections in 2007, when decision was inside Commission on holding elections in three or two phase, where N Gopalaswami supported three phases’ elections and Chawla opposed it, where as Indian Home ministry had also made arrangements of central paramilitary forces for three phases.

The Information was passed on to Congress party Bosses by Chawla on the issue which than called EC, asking why elections in Gujarat could not held in two phases, even than it was not officially announced by EC yet and decision was still with EC. Finally in case Indian government agreed to arrange central paramilitary forces and polls were conducted in two phases as desired by EC Chawla and its political bosses.

The second case which CEC has pointed out against Chawla on scheduling of Karnataka polls in May 2008, where eroded EC tried to postpone as per wishes of Congress party opposing CEC and the third election commissioner, SY Quraishi without any substantial reasons.’

Chawla Saved Sonia Gandhi?
Further N Gopalaswami charged Navin Chawla that he used his chair to save Congress party President, Sonia Gandhi as he had taken 'suo motu' decision on a complaint seeking her disqualification for accepting a Belgian honor to ask ministry of external affairs comment of the issue.

After much of deliberation EC issued notice to Sonia Gandhi, which she has replied but as Chawla is looking the case, still undecided on the complaint.

Know About Navin Chawla
Navin Chawla is an IAS officer of the 1969 batch was appointed on 16 May 2005 as election commissioner in 2005; his term will extend till 30 July 2010. At time of Indian Emergency (1975 - 77) he was secretary to the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi.

The Shah Commission probed Emergency causes and cases indicted Mr Chawla as unfit to hold any public office due to his role played during Emergency as secretary to the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi.

Chawla’s Name figured once again when news reported that the Jaipur-based Lala Chaman Lal Education Trust run by his wife Rupika has got funds under MPLADS from different MPs A.A. Khan,R.P. Goenka, Ambika Soni, Dr Karan Singh and Mr A.R. Kidwai.

Navin Chawla Got Italy’s Mazzini award in 2005
In March 2005, Chawla has got Mazzini award by the Government of Italy in recognition of his efforts to forge a new relationship with Italy and strengthening existing bonds.[27]

Electoral Reforms In India:
Proactive Role Of Election Commission
One of the most important features of a democratic polity is elections at regular intervals. Elections constitute the signpost of democracy. These are the medium through which the attitudes, values and beliefs of the people towards their political environment are reflected. Elections grant people a government and the government has constitutional right to govern those who elect it. Elections are the central democratic procedure for selecting and controlling leaders. Elections provide an opportunity to the people to express their faith in the government from time to time and change it when the need arises. Elections symbolize the sovereignty of the people and provide legitimacy to the authority of the government. Thus, free and fair elections are indispensable for the success of democracy.

In continuance of the British legacy, India has opted for parliamentary democracy. Since 1952, the country has witnessed elections to the legislative bodies at both the national as well as State levels. The electoral system in India is hamstrung by so many snags and stultifying factors. Such maladies encourage the anti-social elements to jump into the electoral fray. Our system was largely free from any major flaw till the fourth general elections (1967). The distortions in its working appeared, for the first time, in the fifth general elections (1971) and these got multiplied in the successive elections, especially in those held in the eighties and thereafter. [Dash 2006: 50] Many a time, the Election commission has expressed its concern and anxiety for removing obstacles in the way of free and fair polls. It has had made a number of recommendations and repeatedly reminded the government the necessity of changing the existing laws to check the electoral malpractices. The Tarkunde Committee Report of 1975, the Goswami Committee Report of 1990, the Election commission’s recommendations in 1998 and the Indrajit Gupta Committee Report of 1998 produced a comprehensive set of proposals regarding electoral reforms. A number of new initiatives have been taken by the Election commission to cleanse the electoral process in India. The important among these are being discussed here.

Model Code of Conduct
The Election Commission of India is regarded as guardian of free and fair elections. In every elections, the EC issues a Model Code of Conduct for political parties and candidates to conduct elections in a free and fair manner. The Commission circulated its first Code at the time of the fifth general elections, held in 1971. Since then, the Code has been revised from time to time. The Code of Conduct lays down guidelines as to how political parties and candidates should conduct themselves during elections.

A provision was made under the Code that from the time the elections are announced by the Commission, Ministers and other authorities cannot announce any financial grant, lay foundation stones of projects of schemes of any kind, make promises of construction of roads, carry out any appointments in government and public undertakings which may have the effect of influencing the voters in favour of the ruling party.

Recently, the Punjab Government, which announced the budget for 2008-2009, did not propose any new concessions, because the Code of Conduct was in force for the May 2008 Panchayat elections[28]. However, the Punjab Congress leveled serious allegations against the ruling SAD-BJP alliance for misusing government vehicles and making certain announcements, thereby violating the Model Code of Conduct. [The Tribune: 2008]

Despite the acceptance of the Code of Conduct by political parties, cases of its violation have been on the rise. It is a general complaint that the party in power at the time of elections misuses the official machinery to further the electoral prospects of its candidates.

The misuse of official machinery takes different forms, such as issue of advertisements at the cost of public exchequer, misuse of official mass media during election period for partisan coverage of political news and publicity regarding their achievements, misuse of government transport including aircraft/helicopter, vehicles. For example, during the 2003 Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections, the Commission had issued strict instructions to the political parties to abstain from the use of plastic and polythene for the preparation of posters and publicity material.

But the political parties, particularly the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, put up a large number of saffron and green publicity flags made of polythene. [The Tribune: 2003] During the 2002 Punjab Assembly elections, an aggressive advertisement campaign was launched by the Congress against Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son, accusing them of corruption and bartering away the interests of Punjab.

The Akali Dal hit back with its own set of equally aggressive advertisements against the Congress leaders. [Prashar: 2002] The Election commission of India had to intervene to clarify that under the Model Code of Conduct, personal allegations against individual leaders were not allowed, though criticisms of policy decisions and performance were permitted. Similarly, the EC also held Narendra Modi and Sonia Gandhi responsible for violation of the Model Code of Conduct by making controversial remarks during elections campaign in the 2007 Gujarat Assembly polls.[29] The EC expressed its severe displeasure over its violation by the two leaders and expected that both of them in future would adhere to the salutary provisions of the Code in letter and spirit. [The Financial Express: 2007] Despite sincere efforts on the part of the EC to check malpractices, in each and every elections India witnesses violation of the Model Code of Conduct.

In June 2002, the EC on the direction of the Supreme Court, issued an order under Article 324 that each candidate must submit an affidavit regarding the information of his/her criminal antecedents; assets (both movable and immovable) of self and those of spouses and dependents as well; and qualifications at the time of filing his/her nomination papers for elections to the Lok Sabha, the Rajya Sabha and the State Legislative Assemblies.

But political parties believed that the Election commission and the judiciary were overstepping their powers. At the all-party meeting, held on July 8, 2002, representatives of 21 political parties decided that the Election commission’s order should not be allowed to be implemented. The Supreme Court again came out as a guardian of the citizen’s right to information.

The Apex Court gave its judgment on March 13, 2003, basically asserting its previous June 2002 decision, which required full disclosure by all candidates. The order made it clear that failing to furnish the relevant affidavit shall be considered as a violation of the Supreme Court’s order and as such the nomination papers shall be liable to be rejected by the Returning Officer. Furnishing of wrong or incomplete information shall result in the rejection of nomination papers, apart from inviting penal consequences under the Indian Penal Code. The 2004 General Elections were conducted under these rules.

The above order is an effective step to make democracy healthy and unpolluted. Citizens have every right to know about the persons whom they prefer as their representatives. The EC has directed all Returning Officers to display the copies of nomination papers and affidavits filed by candidates to the general public and representatives of print and electronic media, free of cost.

Registration of Political Parties
The party system is an essential feature of parliamentary democracy. However, there is no direct reference of political parties in the Constitution of India. The statutory law relating to registration of political parties was enacted in 1989 which was quite liberal. As a result, a large number of non-serious parties mushroomed and got registered with the Commission. Many of them did not contest elections at all after their registration. It led to confusion among electors as to whom to vote.

To eliminate the mushrooming of parties, the EC had to take some rigorous steps. The Commission now registers a party which has at least 100 registered electors as its members and is also charging a nominal processing fee of Rs 10,000 to cover the administration expenses which it will have to incur on correspondence with the parties after their registration.[30]
In order to ensure that the registered political parties practice democracy in their internal functioning, the Commission requires them to hold their organizational elections regularly in accordance with their constitutions. The measures taken by the Election commission to streamline the registration of political parties have shown effective results. These have lessened the headache of the administrative machinery, as well as confusion of the electorate.

Checking Criminalization of Politics
Criminalization of politics is a grave problem in India. This menace began in Bihar and gradually spread to every nook and corner of the nation. In 2003, a law was introduced to prohibit the election of criminals to the legislative bodies. However, persons with criminal background continue to hold seats in Parliament and State Assemblies. This leads to a very undesirable and embarrassing situation when law-breakers become law-makers and move around under police protection. During the 13th Lok Sabha elections candidates having criminal cases against them numbered 12 in Bihar and 17 in Uttar Pradesh. It has been rightly observed by J.P.Naik: “Power is the spoiler of men and it is more so in a country like India, where the hungry stomachs produce power hungry politicians.”

The EC has expressed its serious concern over the entry of anti-social and criminal persons into the electoral arena. From time to time, it has set down norms and made recommendations to the government to curb the menace of criminalization of politics. The Commission has urged all political parties to reach a consensus that no person with a criminal background will be given the party ticket.

The candidates to elections are also obliged to submit an affidavit in a prescribed form declaring their criminal records, including convictions, charges pending and cases initiated against them. The information so furnished by the candidates shall be disseminated to the public, and to the print and electronic media.

Limits on Poll Expenses
To get rid of the growing influence and vulgar show of money during elections, the EC has made many suggestions in this regard. The Commission has fixed legal limits on the amount of money which a candidate can spend during the elections campaign. These limits have been revised from time to time. During 2004 elections, the ceiling limits for Lok Sabha seats varied between Rs 10, 00,000 to Rs 25, 00,000. For Assembly seats, the highest limit was Rs 10, 00,000 and the lowest limit was Rs 5, 00,000. The EC, by appointing expenditure observers keeps an eye on the individual accounts of election expenditure made by a candidate during election campaign. The contestants are also required to give details of expenditure within 30 days of the declaration of the election results. However, political parties do not adhere to the financial Lakashman Rekha (limits) as huge amounts are spent by parties under the garb of their supporters.[31]
Apart from this, the EC is also in favour of holding the Lok Sabha and the Assembly elections simultaneously, and to reduce the campaign period from 21 to 14 days. This, they feel, will lead to trim down the election expenditure. The Election commission’s attempt to impose these measures has been a move in the right direction.

Use of Scientific and Technological Advancements
The Election commission of India has been trying to bring improvements in election procedures by taking advantage of scientific and technological advancements. The introduction of ‘electronic voting machines’ (EVMs) is one of the steps in that direction. The Election commission has recommended the introduction of electronic voting machines with a view to reducing malpractices and also improving the efficiency of the voting process.

On an experimental basis, the EVMs were first tried in the State of Kerala during the 1982 Legislative Assembly Elections. After the successful testing and long legal inquiries of the technological aspects of the machines, the EC took a historic decision to go ahead and start the use of EVMs for certain Assembly elections in November 1998. The Commission selected 16 Assembly constituencies in the States of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Union Territory of Delhi.

Later, in the June 1999 Assembly elections, Goa became the first State to successfully use EVMs in all its Assembly constituencies. In the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, the machines were used all over the country. It is a major initiative taken by the EC to make the electoral process simple, quick and trouble-free. It has saved money, solved several logistical issues and also contributed to the conservation of environment through saving of paper. Another major advantage of these machines is that the counting of votes becomes more fast and accurate. Now there are no invalid and wasted votes at all, as every vote recorded in the machine is accounted for in favour of the candidate for whom it was cast.

The Election commission has not lagged behind in making use of Information Technology for efficient electoral management and administration. It launched a website of its own on February 28, 1998 [that is, www.eci.gov.in.]. This is now a good source to have accurate information about elections, election laws, manuals and handbooks published by the Election commission. During the 1999 Lok Sabha elections, the Commission’s Secretariat was directly connected with nearly 1500 counting centres across the country. The round-wise counting results were fed into the Commission’s website from those counting centres. These results were instantly available throughout the world.

In order to bring as much transparency as possible to the electoral process, the media—both electronic and print—were encouraged and provided with facilities to report on the actual conduct of the poll and counting. They had, in cooperation with the State owned media (Doordarshan and All India Radio) taken several innovative and effective steps to create awareness among voters. All recognised national as well as State parties were allowed free access to the State-owned media on an extensive scale for their election campaign. During the 2004 general elections, the total free time allocated to political parties was 122 hours.[32]
With a view to prevent impersonation of electors at the time of voting and to eliminate bogus and fictitious entries into electoral rolls, the Election commission took a bold step. In 1998, it decided to take a nationwide programme for the ‘computerisation’ of electoral rolls. The printed electoral rolls as well as CDs containing these rolls are available to the general public for sale national and State parties are provided these free of cost after every revision of electoral rolls. The entire country’s electoral rolls are available on its website. Karnataka became the first State to prepare electoral rolls with the photographs of voters in the 2008 elections.

The State EC developed the electoral roll management software called ‘STEERS’ (State Enhanced Electoral Roll System) [The Hindu: 2008] to prevent duplication of voters lists and to eliminate wrong addresses. The EC has decided to introduce photo electoral rolls for proper verification of voters across the country by the 2009 general elections.

In an attempt to improve the accuracy of the electoral rolls and prevent electoral fraud, the Election commission in August 1993 ordered the issuance of electors’ photo identity cards (EPICs) for all voters. A modest attempt to introduce the photo identity cards was made for the first time in 1978 at the instance of the then Chief Election commissioner, S.L. Shakdher, in the case of elections to the Legislative Assembly of Sikkim. During the 2004 Assembly elections, it was mandatory for people possessing EPICs to furnish it at the time of voting. People who did not possess EPICs had to bring the proofs of identity as prescribed by the EC at the time of voting [Rao 2004: 5438] during the 2007 Punjab Assembly elections, Parneet Kaur (MP from Patiala), could not cast her vote till late afternoon as she had misplaced her voter card. [The Tribune: 2007] The distribution of EPICs, on the part of Election commission, was a major step to reduce electoral malpractices. Only genuine voters were listed in the rolls with the issuance of voter identity cards.

Over the years, the Election Commission has conducted a number of laudable electoral reforms to strengthen democracy and enhance the fairness of elections. These reforms are quite adequate and admirable. Undoubtedly, the election machinery, under the aegis of the EC, deserves credit for conducting elections in a free and fair manner. However, our system is still plagued by many vices. To win votes, political parties resort to foul methods and corrupt practices. Such maladies encourage the anti-social elements to enter the electoral fray. The problem is not lack of laws, but lack of their strict implementation. In order to stamp out these unfair tendencies, there is a need to strengthen the hands of the EC and to give it more legal and institutional powers. The EC must be entrusted with powers to punish the errant politicians who transgress and violate the electoral laws.

Our election commission tries its best to weed out the virus of malpractices. It is optimistic of strengthening and improving the working of democracy through free and fair elections. It has always devised better systems and is using advanced scientific technologies for maintaining the high reputation of the Indian elections. However, the success of reforms will largely depend upon the will of the political parties to adhere to and implement such reforms. An independent media and an enlightened public opinion have no substitute in pushing through reforms. If people vote according to their convictions and punish those who infract the rules, corrupt practices will automatically disappear. And this will go a long way towards enabling democracy to flourish and grow to its full capacity.

The Commission has taken several new initiatives in the recent past. Notable among these are, a scheme for use of State owned Electronic Media for broadcast/telecast by Political parties, checking criminalization of politics, computerization of electoral rolls, providing electors with Identity Cards, simplifying the procedure for maintenance of accounts and filling of the same by candidates and a variety of measures for strict compliance of Model Code of Conduct, for providing a level playing field to contestants during the elections.
[1] Certain words omitted by the Constitution (Nineteenth Amendment) Act, 1966, Sec. 2 (w.e.f 11-12-1966)
[2] The words “ or Rajpramukh” omitted by the Constitution ( Seventh Amendment) Act, 1956, Sec. 29 and Sch
[3] P.M.Bakshi, The Constitution of India, ( Delhi: Universal law publishing co.) 2008 P 274
[4] (1995) 4 SCC 611
[5]Available at www.wikipedia.org visited on March 1, 2010.
[6] AIR 1986 SC 1534
[7] V S Rama Devi and S K Mendiratta, Election laws, Practice and Procedure, (Nagpur: Lexis Nexis Butterworths) 2006 P 187.
[8] SS Dhanoa v Union of India and Ors AIR 1991 SC 1745
[9] TN Seshan v. Union of India and Ors (1995) 4 SCC 611
[10] SS Dhanoa v Union of India and Ors AIR 1991 SC 1745
[11] Chawla, Chawla’s Election laws and Practices, (Delhi: Bahri Brothers) 2005 P 230.
[12] AIR 1978 SC 851
[13] AIR 1986 SC 111
[14] AIR 1984 SC 921
[15] AIR 1996 SC 3081 : (1996) 2 SCC 752
[16] AIR 2002 SC 2112, (2002) 5 SCC 294
[17] AIR 1986 SC 111
[18] AIR 1965 SC 2192
[19] AIR 1974 SC 2192
[20] AIR 1984 Raj 88
[21] Election Commission of India v Saka Venkata Rao AIR 1953 SC 210
[22] Km Jayalalitha v Dr Subramaniam swamy and Ors Writ petition Nos 6094-95 of 1993, Decision dated 2 july 1993
[23] Km Jayalalitha v Dr Subramaniam swamy and Ors Writ petition Nos 6094-95 of 1993, Decision dated 2 july 1993
[24] Election Commission v Dr Subramaniam swamy and Ors AIR 1996 SC 1810
[25] Indian National Congress v Institute of Social welfare and ors (2002) 2 LRI 709
[26] Sadiq Ali v Election Commission of India and Ors AIR 1972 SC 187

Authors contact info - articles The  author can be reached at: varunisrani@legalserviceindia.com

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Article Comments

Posted by Professor (Dr.) MANAS DAS on July 04, 2013
1.Disqualifications of SEC
2.Can a voluntarily retired IAS be appointed SEC ?
What about the reasons for voluntary retirement ?
Can a person with psychosomatic disequilibrium be appointed SEC ?

Posted by Rohit SSSBPO on November 05, 2011
Thanks for the post. It was really helpful to solve my confusion.

Posted by Rohit SSSBPO on November 05, 2011
Thanks for the post. It was really helpful to solve my confusion.

Posted by nandan vajramatti on October 27, 2010
please i want composition and functions of the election commission of india

Posted by K RAMANKUTTY MENON on October 23, 2010

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