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India is the largest democracy in the world. With 28 States and 8 Union Territories, India conducts more elections than any other country in the world. In the 2019 Assembly Elections, 911 million people were eligible to vote. This great election had to be conducted in 11 phases over a period of 40 days.
All the administration and management of such a great election happened smoothly due to the mammoth effort of one statutory body called the Election Commission of India.
India is proud of being a Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic in the World. It gained independence on 15th of August 1947. Free and fair elections have since been held at regular intervals, in accordance with the values enshrined in the Constitution, Electoral Laws and Framework.
Indian Election Commission is a permanent constitutional body. On 25th January 1950, the Election Commission was created in accordance with the Constitution. The Commission had its Golden Jubilee celebrated in 2001. India 's Election Commission is an independent statutory body in charge of conducting election processes for the Union and the States in India. The body administers elections to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, the Indian State Legislative Assemblies and the country's President and Vice President Offices.
It consists of a Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners. Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners are appointed by the President. They have a six year term, or up to the age 65, whichever is earlier. They enjoy the same rank and receive salary and benefits similar to the Indian Supreme Court Judges. The Chief Electoral Officer may only be suspended from office by Parliamentary Impeachment.
In a hierarchical set-up, the Commission has a separate Secretariat at New Delhi, composed of about 300 officials. The Commission is assisted by two or three Deputy Election Commissioners and Director-Generals who are the top most Secretariat officers.
At the state level, the election work is supervised by the Chief Electoral Officer of the State, who is appointed by the Commission from among senior civil servants recommended by the State Government concerned, subject to overall superintendence, direction and control of the Commission. He is a full-time officer in most states and has a small staff support team.
The District Election Officers, Electoral Registration Officers, and Returning Officers, who are assisted by a significant number of junior officials, conduct election work at the district and constituency level.
The gigantic task force to conduct a countrywide general election is comprised of nearly five million polling staff and civil police. This huge election machine is considered to be on the Election Commission's deputation and is subject to its power, superintendence, and supervision during the election cycle, extending from one and a half months to two months.
Election Commission is free from Executive Intervention in the execution of its functions. It is the Commission that decides on the timelines for the conduct of elections, be it bye-elections or general elections. Once again, it is the Commission that decides on the location of polling stations, the assignment of voters to polling stations, the location of counting centres, the arrangements to be made in and around polling stations and counting centres and all related issues.
Under the constitution, political parties are registered with the Election Commission. Throughout its operation, the Commission guarantees internal party democracy by insisting on them conducting their organizational elections at regular intervals. Political parties so registered with it are given recognition by the Election Commission on the basis of their poll results at general elections in compliance with parameters prescribed by it at the state and national level. As part of its quasi-judicial authority, the Commission is also resolving disputes among the rebel factions of these recognized parties.
The Election Commission ensures a level playing field for the political parties in the election fray by strictly adhering to a Model Code of Conduct that has evolved with the consensus of all political parties.
The Commission holds periodic consultations with the political parties on matters related to the conduct of elections; compliance with the Model Code of Conduct and proposed new measures to be introduced by the Commission on matters related to elections.
The Commission also has advisory jurisdiction under the Constitution in the matter of disqualification of sitting members of parliament and state legislatures in the post-election process. However, the cases of persons found guilty of corrupt practices in elections to be held before the Supreme Court and the High Courts are also referred to the Commission for its opinion on whether and, if so, for what time that person is to be disqualified. The Commission's position on both of these issues is binding on the President or, as the case may be, on the Governor to whom such an opinion is being tendered.
The Commission has the power to disqualify a candidate who has failed in time and in the manner required by statute to file an account of his election expenses. The Commission also has the power to delete or reduce the duration of such disqualification as well as other legislative disqualification.
Participation of voters in democratic and electoral processes is integral to the successful running of any democracy, and the very foundation of healthy democratic elections. In recognition of this, in 2009, India's Election Commission officially embraced Voter Education and Electoral Participation as an integral part of its election management.
India is a founding member of the International Democracy and Electoral Assistance Institute (IDEA), Stockholm, Sweden. The Commission has expanded international contacts in the recent past through the sharing of experience and expertise in the fields of electoral management and administration, electoral laws and reforms.
Election Officials from the national electoral bodies and other representatives from different countries like Russia, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Indonesia, South Africa, Bangladesh, Thailand, Nigeria, Namibia, Bhutan, Australia, the United States, Afghanistan, etc. have visited the Commission for a better understanding of the Indian Election Process. In collaboration with the United Nations and the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Commission has also provided experts and observers for the elections of other countries.
The country is divided into 543 Parliamentary Constituencies, each returning one MP to the Lok Sabha, the Parliament's lower house. Thirty-six federal divisions are in the Federal Democratic Republic of India. All the twenty-nine states and two of the seven territories of the Union have their own assemblies - Vidhan Sabhas. There are 4120 constituencies in the thirty-one assemblies.
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