Syllabus: General studies Paper 2 ( Polity )
- The sudden and dramatic developments in the lok janshakti party (ljp) have caused quite a storm in the political circles. The ec does not take suo motu cognisance of such cases and comes into the picture only when one party approaches it with its claim.
- The commission starts proceedings which arequasi-judicial in nature, under section 15 of the election symbols (reservation and allotment) order, 1968, by giving a notice to the other faction to give its version.
- Both parties are asked toproduce evidence in support of their claim, accompanied by affidavits.
- Section 15 of the symbols order, states:“when the commission is satisfied on information in its possession, that there are rival sections or groups of a recognised political party, each of whom claims to be that party, the commission may, after taking into account all the available facts and circumstances of the case … decide that one such rival section or group, or none of such rival sections or groups
- The ec examines the claims and counterclaims of the two factions to determine which one has the majority. This includes mps, mlas, and mlcs on the one hand, and the office-bearers of the party, on the other.
- Determining the genuineness of signaturesis time-consuming and often a frustrating job. As the lawyers get involved, the whole process can normally take four to five months.
- The ec looks at the strength of each group, in the party’s organisation and in the legislatures, applying the test of majority. Whenever the ec could not determine the strength of rival groups based on support within the party organisation, it fell back on testing the majority among elected mps and mlas.
- Many of these cases have landed in the supreme court. The most significant case was that of the inc in 1969 where the supreme court upheld the order of the eci applying the test of majority (sadiq ali vs eci, 1972).It was a milestone judgment for the election commission as the apex court upheld the constitutional validity of the election symbols (reservation and allotment) order, 1968, giving an executive order the status of subordinate legislation.
Election symbols (reservation and allotment) orders of 1968:
- It is an order to provide for specification, reservation, choice and allotment of symbols for the recognition of political parties.
- It is applicable to bothparliamentary and assembly elections.
- As per the order a symbol shall be allotted to a contesting candidatein accordance with the provisions of this order and different symbols shall be allotted to different contesting candidates at an election in the same constituency.
- Classification of symbols: there are two types of symbols i.e. Reserved and free.
- A reserved symbolis a symbol which is reserved for a recognised political party for exclusive allotment to contesting candidates set up by that party.
- A free symbolis a symbol other than a reserved symbol.
- Classification of political parties:these are either recognised political parties or unrecognised political parties.
- A recognised political partyshall either be a national party or a state party, rest all are unrecognised parties.
- Choice of symbols by candidates of national and state partiesand allotment thereof:
- A national party candidate has to mandatorily use its party symbol.
- A state party candidate has to mandatorily use its party symbol.
- No other person is allowed to use a national or state party symbol or national party symbol irrespective of that party contesting or not.
- It also givesec power to suspend or withdraw recognition of a recognised political party for its failure to observe model code of conduct or follow lawful directions and instructions of the commission.
Constitutional status of eci:
From its inception in 1950 and till 15 october 1989, the election commission was a one-member body with only the chief election commissioner (cec) as its sole member.
- On 16 october 1989, the voting age was changed from 21 to 18 years. So, two more election commissioners were appointed by the president in order to cope with the increased work of the election commission.
- Since then, the election commission was a multi-member bodythat consisted of 3 election commissioners.
- This was repeated again later in october 1993 when thepresident appointed two more election commissioners. Since then, the election commission functions as a multi-member body consisting of 3 commissioners.
- The chief and the two other election commissioners have the same powersand emoluments including salaries, which are the same as a supreme court judge.
- In case of a difference of opinion amongst the chief election commissioner and/or two other election commissioners,the matter is decided by the commission by a majority.
- The office is held by them for a term of 6 years or until they attain 65 years, whichever happens first. They can also be removed or can resign at any time before the expiry of their term.
Independence of election commission:
Article 324 of the constitution of india mentions the provisions to safeguard and ensure the independent and impartial functioning of the election commission which is as follows.
- The chief election commissioner is provided with security of tenure. He cannot be removed from his office except in the same manner and on the same grounds as a judge of the supreme court. In other words, he can be removed by the president on the basis of a resolution passed to that effect by both the houses of parliament with a special majority, either on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity.
- Thus,he does not hold his office until the pleasure of the president, though he is appointed by him.
- The service conditions of the chief election commissioner cannot be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment.
- Any other election commissioner or a regional commissioner cannot be removed from office except on the recommendation of the chief election commissioner.
- Though the constitution has sought to safeguard and ensure the independence and impartiality of the election commission, some flaws can be noted, ie:
- The constitution has not prescribed the qualifications(legal, educational, administrative or judicial) of the members of the election commission.
- The constitution has not specified the term of the members of the election commission.
- Theconstitution has not debarred the retiring election commissioners from any further appointment by the government
Powers of election commission:
- Determining the electoral constituencies’territorial areas throughout the country on the basis of the delimitation commission act of parliament.
- Preparing and periodically revising electoral rollsand registering all eligible voters.
- Notifying the schedules and datesof elections and scrutinising nomination papers.
- Granting recognition to the various political partiesand allocating them election symbols.
- Acting as a court to settle disputesconcerning the granting of recognition to political parties and allocating election symbols to the parties.
- Appointing officers for inquiring into disputesconcerning electoral arrangements.
- Determining the code of conductto be followed by the political parties and candidates during elections.
- Preparing a program for publicising the policies of all the political parties on various media like tv and radio during elections.
- Advising the presidenton matters concerning the disqualification of mps.
- Advising the governoron matters concerning the disqualification of mlas.
- Cancelling pollsin case of booth capturing, rigging, violence and other irregularities.
- Requesting the governor or the president for requisitioning thestaff required for conducting elections.
- Supervising the machineryof elections throughout the country for ensuring the conduct of free and fair elections.
- Advising the president on whether elections can be held in a state that is under the president’s rule,in order to extend the period of emergency after 1 year.
- Registering political partiesand granting them the status of national or state parties (depending on their poll performance).
The election commission has been successfully conducting national as well as state elections since 1952. Now, it plays an active role to ensure the greater participation of people. The commission has brought discipline among the political parties with a threat of derecognizing if the parties failed in maintaining inner-party democracy. It supports the values preserved in the constitution viz, equality, equity, impartiality, independence; and rule of law in superintendence, direction, and control over the electoral governance.