Composition and Function of Election Commission in India
One of the most important and critical contribution of the Indian constitution to the organization and functioning of democratic governments particularly in the newly independent state was the provision for an election commission in India.
As Pandit H. N. Kunzru remarked “If the electoral machinery is defective or is not efficient or is worked by the people whose integrity cannot be depended upon, democracy will be poisoned at the source.”
The Articles 324 to 392A in Part XV of Indian Constitution contain provisions relating to Elections.
Composition of the Election Commission in India
Article 324 of the Indian constitution provides for the Election commission and its composition. This Article says that the election commission in India shall consist of
- a Chief Election Commissioner and
- such other Commissioners as the President may from time to time fix.
Ever since Mr. Sukumar Sen was appointed Chief Election Commissioner by Dr. Rajendra Prasad India’s first President. The Election Commission remained a single member body until early 90’s, when along with Mr. T. N. Sheshan as Chief Election Commissioner, Mr. G. S. Gill and Mr. K. V. Krishna Murthi were appointed as Election Commissioners for the first time. Thus, the election commission in India became a multi-member body.
Elections are of vital importance to the functioning of democracy in India. Article 324 of the constitution of India says that superintendent’s direction and control of the preparation of electoral rolls, the conduct of elections of the President, both Houses of the parliament and state legislature shall be vested in the election commission of India. The Indian constitution says that the election commission in India shall consist of the Chief Election Commissioner and such other commissioners as the President may deem fit. The President may also appoint regional commissioners to assist the election commission in the performance of its functions. Except in 1952 before the first General election when two regional commissioners were appointed, such regional commissioner has never been appointed. Instead there is a deputy election commissioner.
The election commissioners in India are not only appointed by the President, their conditions of service and tenure of office is determined by the President. They can be removed only through the process through which a judge may be removed. Their condition of service cannot be varied during their tenure of office to their disadvantage. These are aimed that making the election commission in India function impartially.
Over the years an electoral apparatus have been built up in India. Functioning under the election commission there is a Chief Electoral Officer in each state, below the electoral officer there are the electoral registration officers and at the next lower level there are the Presiding Officers and Polling Officers. All these officers are drawn from the cadres of state government’s employees.
The functions of the Election Commission are of vital importance. It is on the satisfactory performance of these functions that the democrative process largely depends.
- The commission prepares the electoral’s rolls which are revised before every general election to union or state legislatures.
- It supervises the machinery of election, it notifies the dates of elections, conducts elections, recognizes political parties, allots those symbols and enforces a code of conduct for the political parties.
- It also sees that voters can exercise their franchise without fear or lure. It is an important function of the commissioner to see that peace is not disturbed. For these election meetings, processions and propaganda etc. are strictly regulated by the commission.
- In a poor country like India the voters are often exposed to monetary allurement or physical intimidation. All these have to be checked by the vigilant election commission. In one word the election commission’s one very important duty is to prevent all kinds of electoral corruption and to ensure free and fair poll.
It was admitted on all hands that the election commission became an ineffective body and that the electoral process became vitiated by large scale corruption, violence and intimidation. It was only Mr. T. N. Sheshan when he became the Chief Election Commissioner, the bold steps have been taken to ensure free and fair poll.