Legal Article

The Election Commission of India: Guardian of Democratic Process

Shivendra Pratap Singh

Advocate

High Court Lucknow

Article

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Published on: 21 Aug, 2023

Overview

The Election Commission of India (ECI) is an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering election processes in India at both the state and national levels. The body was established on January 25, 1950, and that date is celebrated annually as National Voters’ Day in India. The Election Commission aims to conduct free and fair elections, an essential feature of a democratic system.

Composition

The Election Commission consists of a Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and two Election Commissioners, all of whom are appointed by the President of India. They serve a tenure of six years or until they reach the age of 65, whichever comes first. The CEC can be removed from office only through impeachment by Parliament.

Functions and Responsibilities

Conducting Elections

The primary role of the ECI is to conduct elections for the offices of President and Vice-President of India, Members of Parliament, and Members of State Legislatures.

Electoral Roll

The ECI is responsible for maintaining an updated and accurate electoral roll. This includes regular revisions and purging of names that should no longer be on the electoral roll.

Code of Conduct

The Election Commission lays down the Model Code of Conduct for political parties and candidates to follow during elections. This aims to ensure that elections are conducted in a fair and impartial manner.

Election Observers

The ECI appoints election observers to ensure that the electoral process is transparent and fair. These observers belong to civil services and are generally not residents of the state they are sent to.

Dispute Resolution

The Election Commission settles disputes related to elections. It can disqualify candidates and even political parties for violation of laws and the Model Code of Conduct.

Challenges

Technological Concerns

While Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) have made the electoral process quicker and more efficient, they have also been subject to scrutiny for vulnerabilities to tampering.

Money Power in Elections

Despite regulations, the influence of money power continues to be a significant challenge, with parties and candidates often finding loopholes in expenditure laws.

Voter Turnout

The ECI faces the challenge of ensuring a high voter turnout, especially among marginalized communities and the youth.

Reforms and Innovations

Voter Education

The ECI has launched several initiatives aimed at educating voters about the importance of voting, the electoral process, and the need for informed decision-making.

Technological Upgrades

The introduction of Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trails (VVPATs) alongside EVMs has been one such technological advancement aimed at making the electoral process more transparent.

Conclusion

The Election Commission of India plays an instrumental role in safeguarding the democratic fabric of the country. While it has been successful in administering numerous elections effectively, challenges remain. Addressing these challenges would require concerted efforts from the government, civil society, and the Election Commission itself to uphold the sanctity of electoral democracy in India.