India – The world’s largest democracy with 1.33 billion people is a constitutional democracy where the political authority of the nation lies with the Government of India and is governed by fundamental laws stated in the Constitution.
Being a democratic country, India follows a parliamentary system of governance where the people of India choose their leaders with the system of voting predominant since Independence. The Election Commission of India, established in 1950 has been the major body responsible for the 4 major elections in India which are:
- Lok Sabha Elections
- State Legislative Assembly Election
- Members of Parliament in Rajya Sabha
- Elections for the members of Local Panchayat and City Council Officials.
Out of these 4, the Lok Sabha elections and the elections held for the Members of Parliament. The citizens of India have the pivotal role in the elections of India – to elect candidates from the various parties in the country, mainly the Indian National Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party according to who you as a citizen should be in power. The Election Commission is a body which helps you to do so.
Coming to the people who head the Election Commission of India, Mr. Sunil Arora serves as the Chief Election Commissioner along with Mr. Ashok Lavasa and Mr. Suhsil Chandra serving as the Election Commissioners. The Election Commission’s major role in a democracy is to conduct fair and free elections in the country.
List of chief election commissioners in India
The list of chief election commissioners in India are:
|Name||Date of Joining||Date of Leaving Office|
|Sukumar Sen||21 March 1950||19 December 1958|
|KVK Sundaram||20 December 1958||30 December 1967|
|S.P. Sen Varma||01 October 1967||30 September 1972|
|Dr. Nagendra Singh||01 October 1972||6 February 1973|
|T Swaminathan||07 February 1973||17 June 1977|
|S.L. Shakdhar||18 June 1977||17 June 1982|
|R.K. Trivedi||18 June 1982||31 December 1985|
|R.V.S. Peri Sastri||01 January 1986||25 November 1990|
|Smt V.S. Rama Devi||26 November 1990||11 December 1990|
|T.N. Sheshan||12 December 1990||11 December 1996|
|M.S. Gill||12 December 1996||13 June 2001|
|J.M. Lyngdoh||14 June 2001||7 February 2004|
|T.S. Krishna Murthy||08 February 2004||15 May 2005|
|B.B. Tandon||16 May 2005||29 June 2006|
|N Gopalaswamy||30 June 2006||20 April 2009|
|Navin Chawla||21 April 2009||29 July 2010|
|S.Y. Qureshi||30 July 2010||10 June 2012|
|V.S. Sampath||11 June 2012||15 January 2015|
|H.S. Brahma||16 January 2015||18 April 2015|
|Dr. Nasim Zaidi||19 April 2015||05 July 2017|
|Shri AK Joti||06 July 2017||22 January 2018|
|Shri Om Prakash Rawat||23 January 2018||01 December 2018|
|Shri Sunil Arora||02 December 2019||Ongoing|
Election Laws in India
The two major election laws in India are the Representation of the People Act, 1950 and the Representation of the People Act, 1951. While the Representation of the People Act, 1950 is related to both preparation and revision of electoral rolls, the Representation of the People Act, 1951 deals with smooth conduct of elections and disputes. It is important to note that Election Commission holds residuary powers to act in an appropriate manner in the conduct of elections, in case any law is silent or does not cover a matter adequately.
Right to Vote
All citizens of India have the right to vote by registering as voters in constituencies where they reside, provided they are 18 years of age as on the first day of the year for which an electoral roll is prepared. It is important to note that individuals who have been disqualified by courts for çorrupt practices or any offense related to elections are not eligible to vote. Similarly, persons with an unsound mind cannot be registered as voters.
An electoral roll is a list of eligible citizens entitled to exercise their franchise. In other words, an electoral roll consists of names of eligible voters who can cast their votes in an election. India is divided into various constituencies. As per Article 82 of the Constitution of India, the Parliament has to enact a Delimitation Act once in 10 years or after every census. The central government sets up a Delimitation Commission which demarcates the boundaries of all parliamentary constituencies. India has 543 Parliamentary constituencies which have been created based on the 2001 census and will be remain so till 2026.
Indian citizens whose names are included in an electoral roll are eligible to vote. It is important to note that an electoral roll is revised on an yearly basis for various reasons including enrolment of new voters who turn 18 in a given year and also include citizens who move into a different constituency among others. In many cases, names of voters who have expired should be removed from an electoral roll. According to election commission, no voter should commute for more than 2 kms to cast his or her vote at a polling booth. Also, no polling booth should have more than 1500 voters. In case an eligible voter does not find his name on an electoral roll, he should file a claim application (Form 6) before the Electoral Registration Officer in his constituency. For deletion of names from the electoral list, form No. 7 is used. Similarly, for any changes in the house number, name, age and so forth of an elector, form no.8 should be used. Form 8A can used in cases where an elector changes his house in the same assembly constituency.
It is important to note that the process of updation of electoral rolls may continue even after the publication of electoral rolls in that individuals can file the required applications for the deletion, transposition, addition and so forth with the Electoral Registration Officer.
An elector has to identify himself with an Electors Photo Identity Card (EPIC) which is issued by the Election Commission. However, an EPIC alone will not allow an elector to cast his vote in that his name should be listed in the electoral roll for him to exercise his franchise.
Polling is conducted on different days in different constituencies to ensure law and order for free and fair elections. The Returning Officer draws up the list of candidates who compete in a given election after all candidates complete the process of filing their nominations. Ballot papers are then printed along with the names and symbols of candidates. Candidates who hail from nationally or regionally recognised parties are provided the symbols of their respective parties.
The date and hours for polling are fixed by the Election Commission of India before all elections. Voting at all polling booths set up in public institutions across the country is held by secret ballot. An elector is allocated a ballot paper, provided his or her name is mentioned in the electoral roll. An elector has to indicate his choice of candidate by marking his ballot paper with a stamp on the related symbol. After marking his choice, an elector has to put his ballot paper in a ballot box in the presence of the Presiding Officer and some polling agents. However, the Election Commission since 1998 has advocated the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) rather than ballot boxes. The Election Commission appoints many observers for smooth conduct of elections and also keep a check on the money spent by candidates and parties.
Upon entering a polling booth or station, an elector has to go to the First Polling Officer who is in charge of proper identification of electors. The First Polling Officer announces the name of the elector and his serial number in the presence of polling agents. The elector then has to proceed towards the Second Polling Officer who will mark his left forefinger with an indelible ink, following which, the former has to sign in the Register of Voters. The Second Polling Officer will then give the elector a voter’s slip. The elector has to give the voter’s slip to the Third Polling Officer who will then press the ‘ballot’ button on the voting machine. The elector should then proceed to the voting compartment based on his serial number in the voters’ register.
In case an elector decides not to exercise his franchise, he must inform the presiding officer who will then take the former’s voter’s slip and make an entry in the remarks column of the Register of Vote. In case an elector finds that his vote has already been cast as informed by the First Polling Officer, he should bring it to the notice of Presiding Officer of the polling station. After the polling process is complete, the counting of votes is duly supervised by the observers and Returning Officers. The Returning Officer announces the name of the winner (s).
Credentials of competing candidates
The Election Commission of India has made it mandatory for all candidates to file affidavits along with nomination forms with details of their criminal antecedents, assets, liabilities and educational background. All Indian citizens of the country can, if they wish to, acquire copies of affidavits and nomination forms of candidates from Returning Officers.
Corrupt Electoral Practices
There are several practices which are considered electoral offenses as listed below:
- Accepting money or any other form of gratification to vote for a candidate
- Acceptance of gifts and liquor among others to not vote for a candidate
- Offer free conveyance to electors as inducement to influence voting decisions
- Offering any form of inducement to voters on the basis of caste, religion or place of birth
- Threatening electors with excommunication
It is important to note that no voter should disclose details of who he voted for. In case a voter violates the secrecy, he will be booked under Section 128 of Representation of People Act, 1951.
Grievance Redressal mechanisms
In case an elector has any issue related to elections, he may contact some officials as listed below:
|Chief Electoral Officer||State|
|District Election Officer||District|
|Assistant Returning Officer||Taluka|
|Electoral Registration Officer||Constituency|
|Presiding Officer||1 Polling Station|
|Zonal Officer||Polling Stations|
FAQs on Election Commission of India
Currently, Mr. Ashok Lavasa and Mr. Sushil Chandra are the Election Commissioners of India who serve under the Chief Election Commissioner. All the members of the Election Commission are elected by the President of India.
The Election Commission of India is an autonomous authority for conducting the elections in India. It was established in 1950. It comes under the jurisdiction of the Government of India and is headquartered in New Delhi. The Commission conducts the Union and State elections in the country administrating the elections for the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, State Legislative Assemblies and the offices of the President and Vice-President of the country.
The Election Commission’s role is to conduct fair and free elections for the citizens of India. As a part of a democratic country, it is a responsibility of the citizens to elect leaders from the various parties in order to voice their demands and needs in the Lok Sabha.
The Election Commission of India includes the Chief Election Commissioner along with two Election Commissioners. All the members are elected by the President of the country.
V.S. Ramadevi was the first woman Chief Election Commissioner of India. She held office from 26 November 1990 to 11 December 1990.
Mr. Sunil Arora is the current Chief Election Commissioner of the country. He took up office on 2 December 2018.
Mr. Sukumar Sen was the first Chief Election Commissioner of the country serving from 21 March 1950 to 19 December 1950.
The Election Commission of India comprises of three members which include the Chief Election Commissioner along with two Election Commissioners. All of them are elected by the President of India.
The Chief Election Commissioner of India can be removed the Parliament on the grounds of proven incapacity or misbehaviour. He or she can only be removed by two-thirds of the majority in both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.