CHIEF ELECTION COMMISSIONER AND OTHER ELECTION COMMISSIONERS AMENDMENT BILL 2023
2. The Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023
The Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service, and Term of Office) Bill, 2023, was introduced in Rajya Sabha on August 10, 2023. It repeals the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991.
Election Commission: As per Article 324 of the Constitution, the Election Commission consists of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and such number of other Election Commissioners (ECs), as the President may decide. The CEC and other ECs are appointed by the President. The Bill specifies the same composition of the Election Commission. It adds that the CEC and other ECs will be appointed by the President on the recommendation of a Selection Committee.
Selection Committee: The Selection Committee will consist of (i) the Prime Minister as Chairperson, (ii) the Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha as a member, and (iii) a Union Cabinet Minister nominated by the Prime Minister as a member. If the Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha has not been recognized, the leader of the single largest opposition party in Lok Sabha will assume the role.
Search Committee: A Search Committee will prepare a panel of five persons for the consideration of the Selection Committee. The Search Committee will be headed by the Cabinet Secretary. It will have two other members, not below the rank of Secretary to the central government, having knowledge and experience in matters related to elections. The Selection Committee may also consider candidates who have not been included in the panel prepared by the Search Committee.
Qualification of CEC and ECs: Persons who are holding or have held posts equivalent to the rank of Secretary to the central government will be eligible to be appointed as CEC and ECs. Such persons must have expertise in managing and conducting elections.
Salary and allowances: The 1991 Act provides that the salary of the ECs will be equal to that of a Supreme Court judge. The Bill provides that the salary, allowance, and service conditions of the CEC and other ECs will be the same as that of the Cabinet Secretary.
Term of office: The 1991 Act mandates that the CEC and other ECs will hold office for a term of six years or until they reach the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier. If an EC is appointed as the CEC, his total term cannot exceed six years. The Bill retains the same tenure. Further, under the Bill, the CEC and other ECs will not be eligible for re-appointment.
Conduct of business: All business of the Election Commission is to be conducted unanimously. In case of a difference of opinion between the CEC and the other ECs on any matter, it shall be decided through the majority.
Removal and resignation: Under Article 324 of the Constitution, the CEC can only be removed from his office in a manner similar to that of a Supreme Court judge. This is done through an order of the President, based on a motion passed by both Houses of Parliament in the same session. The motion for removal must be adopted with (i) majority support of total membership of each House, and (ii) at least two-thirds support from members present and voting. An EC can only be removed from office on the recommendation of the CEC. The Bill retains this removal procedure.
Further, the 1991 Act provides that the CEC and other ECs may submit their resignation to the President. The Bill has the same provision.
3. Election Commission of India
The Election Commission of India (ECI) is an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering election processes in India at both the national and state levels. Its primary functions are to conduct free and fair elections to the Lok Sabha (House of the People), Rajya Sabha (Council of States), State Legislative Assemblies, and State Legislative Councils. Here are some key points about the Election Commission of India:
- Constitutional Body: The Election Commission of India is a constitutional body established under Article 324 of the Indian Constitution. It was set up in 1950.
- Independence: The Election Commission is designed to be an independent and impartial body. The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and other Election Commissioners are appointed by the President of India and can only be removed through impeachment by the Parliament.
- Composition: The Election Commission consists of a Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and a maximum of two Election Commissioners, although it can function with just the CEC.
- Election Management: The ECI is responsible for overseeing all aspects of election management, including voter registration, candidate nominations, the conduct of elections, and the counting of votes.
- Electoral Rolls: It maintains and updates the electoral rolls (voter lists) for all elections in the country. Ensuring the accuracy of these rolls is essential for fair elections.
- EVMs and VVPATs: The ECI oversees the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verified Paper Audit Trails (VVPATs) to ensure transparency and accuracy in the voting process.
- Code of Conduct: It enforces the Model Code of Conduct during elections, which sets ethical standards and guidelines for political parties and candidates during the election period.
- Delimitation: The ECI is responsible for delimitation (redefining) of constituencies, which is done periodically to ensure equitable representation.
- Election Observers: The ECI appoints election observers to monitor the conduct of elections and report any violations.
- Educational Programs: It conducts voter education and awareness programs to encourage voter participation and inform citizens about the electoral process.
- Advisory Role: The ECI provides advice to the President of India and the Governors of States on matters related to disqualification of members of Parliament and State Legislatures.
- Regulatory Functions: The ECI also registers political parties and allocates symbols to them. It monitors campaign finance and enforces rules related to political donations and expenditures.
- Transparency: The ECI strives to ensure transparency, fairness, and integrity in the electoral process to uphold the principles of democracy in India.
The Election Commission plays a crucial role in the functioning of Indian democracy by ensuring that elections are conducted fairly and that the voice of the people is accurately represented in government.
4. Powers and Functions
The Election Commission of India (ECI) is vested with a wide range of powers and functions to ensure the conduct of free and fair elections in India. These powers and functions are outlined in the Indian Constitution and various election-related laws. Here are the key powers and functions of the Election Commission of India:
- Conducting Elections: The ECI is responsible for conducting elections to the Lok Sabha (House of the People), Rajya Sabha (Council of States), State Legislative Assemblies, and State Legislative Councils.
- Electoral Rolls: The ECI prepares and maintains the electoral rolls (voter lists) for all elections in India. It ensures the accuracy and completeness of these rolls.
- Delimitation: The ECI conducts delimitation exercises to define the boundaries and constituencies of electoral areas to ensure equitable representation.
- Election Schedule: It determines the schedule for elections, including the dates for filing nominations, polling, and vote counting.
- Model Code of Conduct: The ECI enforces the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) during elections, which sets ethical standards and guidelines for political parties and candidates during the election period.
- Registration of Political Parties: The ECI registers political parties and allocates symbols to them. It also monitors compliance with the rules and regulations governing political parties.
- Campaign Finance: It monitors and regulates campaign finance, including political donations, election expenditure, and the submission of audited financial reports by political parties.
- Election Observers: The ECI appoints election observers to monitor the conduct of elections, report any violations, and ensure the smooth functioning of the electoral process.
- EVMs and VVPATs: The ECI is responsible for the deployment and maintenance of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verified Paper Audit Trails (VVPATs) to ensure transparency and accuracy in the voting process.
- Voter Education: It conducts voter education and awareness programs to educate citizens about the importance of voting, the electoral process, and their voting rights.
- Disqualification of Members: The ECI advises the President of India and the Governors of States on matters related to the disqualification of members of Parliament and State Legislatures.
- Advisory Role: The ECI provides advice and recommendations to the President and Governors on various electoral matters and issues related to the election process.
- Monitoring and Enforcement: The ECI monitors political activities, party campaigns, and the conduct of elections to ensure compliance with electoral laws and regulations.
- Transparency and Accountability: It ensures transparency and accountability in the electoral process to maintain public confidence in the integrity of elections.
- Overseeing By-Elections: The ECI conducts by-elections (also known as bye-elections) to fill vacant seats in legislatures.
- Counting and Declaration of Results: The ECI oversees the counting of votes and the declaration of election results, ensuring transparency and accuracy.
- Redressal of Election-related Disputes: The ECI also plays a role in the adjudication of election disputes, along with other competent authorities.
These powers and functions empower the Election Commission of India to fulfill its crucial role in upholding the principles of democracy and ensuring that elections are conducted in a fair, transparent, and impartial manner in the world's largest democracy.
For Prelims: Election Commission of India, President, Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), Article 324, Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verified Paper Audit Trails (VVPATs).
1. The Election Commission of India is often hailed as the guardian of democracy. Discuss the constitutional provisions and the various measures it takes to ensure free and fair elections in the country. (250 words).
2. Examine the role of the Election Commission of India in regulating the influence of money in politics. How effective have its measures been in curbing electoral malpractice related to campaign finance? (250 words).
Previous year Questions
1. Consider the following statements: (UPSC 2017)
1. The Election Commission of India is a five-member body.
2. Union Ministry of Home Affairs decides the election schedule for the conduct of both general elections and bye-elections.
3. Election Commission resolves the disputes relating to splits/mergers of recognised political parties.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
A. 1 and 2 only
B. 2 only
C. 2 and 3 only
D. 3 only
2.With reference to the Constitution of India, prohibitions or limitations or provisions contained in ordinary laws cannot act as prohibitions or limitations on the constitutional powers under Article 142. It could mean which one of the following? (UPSC CSE 2019)
1.In the light of recent controversy regarding the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM), what are the challenges before the Election Commission of India to ensure the trustworthiness of elections in India? (UPSC Mains GS2, 2018)