Power of Election Commission of India
The Election Commission of India (ECI) is a self-governing constitutional authority that supervises the Election process in India as per the Indian Constitution. On January 25, 1950, the ECI was established to define and control our nation’s multi-tiered electoral process. The most crucial role of the Election Commission of India is to make sure that elections are conducted fairly and in accordance with the Model Code of Conduct.
Under Article 324(2), the ECI comprises a Chief Election Commissioner and two other Election Commissioners who are appointed by the President of India for a period of 6 years or up to the age of 65 years, whichever comes first. The multi-member ECI operates under the majority vote principle.
A Political Party is given a standardized symbol known as an Electoral or Election Symbol. These symbols are used by the parties for their campaigning and are also shown on Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) when voters select the symbol and vote for the associated parties. They were created to make voting easier for those who are illiterate and can not read the names of the parties. The political party’s principal mark and its identity, embodying its ideology and aspirations, are represented by this symbol. The Election Commission of India (ECI) recognizes and allots election symbols for national and state-level political parties if they comply with the relevant criteria.
How is an Election Symbol Allotted?
The Election Commission of India (ECI) recognizes and allots election symbols for national and state-level political parties if they comply with the relevant criteria. Political Parties are classified as Recognized and Unrecognized:
Recognized Political Party- In the case of recognized political parties, the Commission allows them to ‘reserve’ a symbol, once it is allocated to them after their establishment. For example- BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), INC (Indian National Congress), NCP (Nationalist Congress Party), BSP ( Bahujan Samaj Party), CPI (Communist Party of India), etc. have reserved election symbols. There are eight national parties and 64 state parties with reserved symbols.
- Even two or more recognized political parties can have the same election Symbol when they are not contenders in the same state or Union Territory. For example- In Tamil Nadu the DMK and in Manipur the Federal Party have the same symbol, i.e. “Rising Sun”
Unrecognized Political Party- The candidates from the political party will have to provide three symbols from the free list at the time of submission of nomination papers, one of which will be allotted to him/her. It is decided on a first-come, first-served basis. The parties can also offer their own symbols but the final decision is taken by the EC, it can either accepts or rejects.
- In addition, the Election Commission maintains a pool of approximately 200 “free” symbols for new parties that are not officially recognised but emerge before elections. The Commission determines the symbol to be used when a recognised political party splits.
Powers of Election Commission in Election Symbol Dispute:
- The Election Commission is empowered to identify political parties and allot symbols under the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.
- In case a recognized political party splits- Under paragraph 15 of the Order, the Commission can decide which faction can use the symbol or the Commission may also choose to freeze the symbol and ask both factions to contest in fresh elections.
- The EC may take into account all the available facts and circumstances and undertake a test of majority. It tests the strength of a party organization’s support among the splitting factors. The decision of the Election Commission shall be binding on all such rival sections/groups.
- Additionally, if the claimants are reunited, they may approach the EC once more and ask to be recognized as a unified party. The Commission has the authority to approve group mergers into a single political party. Even the Commission may restore the name and symbol of the original party.
- In Sadiq Ali and another vs ECI in 1971, the Supreme Court upheld the validity of the Election Commission as the only authority to decide issues on a dispute or a merger.
- In case of registered unrecognized party splits, the Election Commission encourages the fighting groups to resolve their disputes internally or to approach the court.
Can anyone challenge the decision of the Election Commission?
The Supreme Court and the High Court can hear petitions challenging the Election Commission’s decisions, but once the election process has started, they have no ability to interfere. A Constitutional organization like the Election Commission, which is responsible for safeguarding India’s electoral democracy, can operate efficiently provided there is a widespread understanding that any appeals of its rulings should only be heard by the judiciary in cases where there are systemic problems.
The Election Commission is the protector of the Indian Constitution. The Elections Commission (EC) is authorised to identify political parties and assign symbols under the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968. It has the authority to resolve disagreements between rival parties or splits of a recognised political party under Article 15 of the Order. Hitherto, the Election Commission has been making judgements in a fairly impartial way. It is one of the few constitutional authorities with the freedom to act independently.