From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Election Commissioner, ECI
Mains level : NA
Former secretary of the Ministry of Heavy Industries Arun Goel has been appointed as the Election Commissioner.
About Election Commission of India (ECI)
- The ECI is a constitutional body was established by the Constitution of India to conduct and regulate elections in the country.
- Article 324 of the Constitution provides that the power of superintendence, direction, and control of elections.
- The body administers elections to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, State Legislative Assemblies, State Legislative Councils and the offices of the President and Vice President of the country.
- Thus, the Election Commission is an all-India body in the sense that it is common to both the Central government and the state governments.
- The Election Commission operates under the authority of Constitution per Article 324 and subsequently enacted Representation of the People Act.
Composition of ECI
- The ECI was established in 1950 and originally only had one Chief Election Commissioner.
- Two additional Commissioners were appointed to the commission for the first time during the 1989 General Election, but they had a very short tenure, ending on 1 January 1990.
- The Election Commissioners are assisted by Deputy Election Commissioners, who are generally IAS officers.
- They are further assisted by Directors General, Principal Secretaries, and Secretaries and Under Secretaries.
- At the state level, Election Commission is assisted by the Chief Electoral Officer of the State, who is an IAS officer of Principal Secretary rank.
- At the district and constituency levels, the District Magistrates (in their capacity as District Election Officers), Electoral Registration Officers and Returning Officers perform election work.
- The tenure of election commissioners is not prescribed by Indian Constitution.
- However, the Election Commission conduct of service Act, 1991 prescribes the term of service.
- Chief Election Commissioner or an Election Commissioner shall hold office for a term of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier, from the date on which he/she assumes his/her office.
Removal from office
- The Chief Election Commissioner of India can be represented removed from their office in a manner similar to the removal of a judge of the Supreme Court of India.
- It requires a resolution passed by the Parliament of India a two-thirds majority in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha on the grounds of proved misbehaviour or incapacity.
- Other Election Commissioners can be removed by the President of India on the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner.
- A Chief Election Commissioner has never been impeached in India.
Recent incidence of criticisms of ECI
Ans. Partiality in Elections
- Over the last couple of years, several actions and omissions of the commission have come in for criticism.
- Nearly 66 former bureaucrats in a letter addressed to the President, expressed their concern over the working of the Election Commission.
- They felt was suffering from a credibility crisis, citing various violations of the model code of conduct during the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections.
Importance of ECI for India
- Conduction of Election: The ECI has been successfully conducting national as well as state elections since 1952.
- Electoral participation: In recent years, however, the Commission has started to play a more active role to ensure greater participation of people.
- Discipline of political parties: It had gone to the extent of disciplining the political parties with a threat of derecognizing if the parties failed in maintaining inner-party democracy.
- Upholds federalism: It upholds the values enshrined in the Constitution viz, equality,
equity, impartiality, independence; and rule of law in superintendence, direction, and control over electoral governance.
- Free and fair elections: It conducts elections with the highest standard of credibility, freeness, fairness, transparency, integrity, accountability, autonomy and professionalism.
Issues with ECI
- Flaws in the composition: The Constitution doesn’t prescribe qualifications for members of the EC. They are not debarred from future appointments after retiring or resigning.
- No security of tenure: Election commissioners aren’t constitutionally protected with security of tenure.
- Partisan role: The EC has come under the scanner like never before, with increasing incidents of breach of the Model Code of Conduct in the 2019 general elections.
- Political favor: The opposition alleged that the ECI was favoring the ruling party by giving clean chit to the model code of conduct violations made by the PM.
- Non-competence: Increased violence and electoral malpractices under influence of money have resulted in political criminalization, which ECI is unable to arrest.