Electoral Reforms In India

Arun Goel appointed as Election Commissioner

Note4Students

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.

Tenure

  • 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.

 

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