From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : ECI
Mains level : Read the attached story
The “informal interaction” of the CEC and two other Election Commissioners with the Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary has raised questions about the neutrality of the Commission, especially when elections to crucial States are around the corner.
About Election Commission of India
- The ECI is a constitutional authority whose responsibilities and powers are prescribed in the Constitution of India under Article 324.
- In the performance of its functions, the Election Commission is insulated from executive interference.
- It is the Commission that decides the election schedules for the conduct of elections, whether general elections or by-elections.
- ECI decides on the location of polling stations, assignment of voters to the polling stations, location of counting centers, arrangements to be made in and around polling stations and counting centres and all allied matters.
Litigations against EC
- The decisions of the Commission can be challenged in the High Court and the Supreme Court of 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.
Issues with PMO meeting
- Executive interference: ECs are expected to maintain distance from the executive — a constitutional safeguard to insulate the commission from external pressure and allow it to continue as an independent authority.
- Violating official channels: The EC’s communication with the Government on election matters is through the bureaucracy — either with its administrative ministry — the Law Ministry or the Home Ministry.
- Breach of protocol: The Law Ministry spells the fine print on law for the country and is expected not to breach the constitutional safeguard provided to the commission to ensure its autonomy.
Recent incidence of criticisms
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.