Election Commission of India is a permanent Constitutional Body.
The Election Commission was established in accordance with the Constitution on 25th January 1950.
According to the Article 324 of the Constitution—
The Election Commission shall consist of the Chief Election Commissioner and such number of other Election Commissioners, if any, as the President may from time to time fix.
The appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners shall, subject to the provisions of any law made in that behalf by Parliament, be made by the President.
When any other Election Commissioner is so appointed the Chief Election Commissioner shall act as the Chairman of the Election Commission.
The Chief Election Commissioner shall not be removed from his office except in like manner and on the like grounds as a Judge of the Supreme Court and the conditions of service of the Chief Election Commissioner shall not be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment.
Any other Election Commissioner or a Regional Commissioner shall not be removed from office except on the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner.
It was not a multi member body from the beginning.
It was a single – member body when it was first set up in 1950 and up to 15th October, 1989 with only the Chief Election Commissioner.
From 16th October, 1989 upto the 1st January, 1990, it became a three-member body with R.V.S.Peri Sastri (C.E.C) and S.S.Dhanoa and V.S.Seigell as Election Commissioners.
From 2nd January, 1990 to 30th September, 1993, it was a single-member Commission and again from 1st October, 1993 it has become a three-member Commission.
Appointment & Tenure of Commissioners—
The President appoints Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners.
They have tenure of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
They enjoy the same status and receive salary and perks as available to Judges of the Supreme Court of India.
The Chief Election Commissioner can be removed from office only through impeachment by Parliament.
Two or three Deputy Election Commissioners and Director Generals who are the senior most officers in the Secretariat assist the Commission.
They are generally appointed from the national civil service of the country and are selected and appointed by the Commission with tenure.
At the state level, the election work is supervised, subject to overall superintendence, direction and control of the Commission, by the Chief Electoral Officer of the State, who is appointed by the Commission from amongst senior civil servants proposed by the concerned state government. He/she is, in most of the States, a full time officer and has a small team of supporting staff.
At the district and constituency levels, the District Election Officers, Electoral Registration Officers and Returning Officers, who are assisted by a large number of junior functionaries, perform election work. They all perform their functions relating to elections in addition to their other responsibilities. During election time, however, they are available to the Commission, more or less, on a full time basis.
Executive Interference Barred—
In the performance of its functions, Election Commission is insulated from executive interference.
It is the Commission which decides the election schedules for the conduct of elections, whether general elections or bye-elections.
Again, it is the Commission which decides on the location polling stations, assignment of voters to the polling stations, location of counting centres, arrangements to be made in and around polling stations and counting centres and all allied matters.
Political Parties & the Commission—
Political parties are registered with the Election Commission under the law.
Political Parties so registered with it are granted recognition at the State and National levels by the Election Commission on the basis of their poll performance at general elections according to criteria prescribed by it.
The Commission, as a part of its quasi-judicial jurisdiction, also settles disputes between the splinter groups of such recognised parties.
Advisory Jurisdiction & Quasi-Judicial Functions—
Under the Constitution, the Commission also has advisory jurisdiction in the matter of post-election disqualification of sitting members of Parliament and State Legislatures.
Further, the cases of persons found guilty of corrupt practices at elections which come before the Supreme Court and High Courts are also referred to the Commission for its opinion on the question as to whether such person shall be disqualified and, if so, for what period.
The opinion of the Commission in all such matters is binding on the President or, as the case may be, the Governor to whom such opinion is tendered.
The Commission has the power to disqualify a candidate who has failed to lodge an account of his election expenses within the time and in the manner prescribed by law.
The Commission has also the power for removing or reducing the period of such disqualification as also other disqualification under the law.
The decisions of the Commission can be challenged in the High Court and the Supreme Court of the 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.
Once the polls are completed and result declared, the Commission cannot review any result on its own.
This can only be reviewed through the process of an election petition, which can be filed before the High Court, in respect of elections to the Parliament and State Legislatures.
In respect of elections for the offices of the President and Vice President, such petitions can only be filed before the Supreme Court.