Examine the role of the Election Commission of India as an independent body in the context of ensuring free and fair elections. Identify challenges to its independence and analyze the implications of recent legislative changes.


With the recent resignation of Arun Goel as the Election Commissioner, the ECI has become a one-member body. In this context, the changes introduced by the new law regarding the appointment of the CEC and ECs raise concerns regarding the independence of the ECI.


  • Introduce by writing about ECI and its mandate with relevant constitutional provisions
  • In the main body, write the role of ECI as independent body, address the challenges hindering independence, then discuss about new CEC act and write its implications.
  • In Conclusion write how ECI’s independence is important in upholding democratic ethos and its essentiality for a country like India.


The Election Commission of India (ECI), established by the Constitution under Article 324, oversees the conduct of elections, ensuring their integrity and fairness. It administers elections to the Parliament, state legislatures, and for the President and Vice-President, maintaining democracy’s foundational principle of free and fair voting.

Role of the ECI as an Independent Body:

  • Constitutional Mandate: to conduct free and fair elections as per Article 324 of the Constitution and ensure it operates independently of government influence.
  • Model Code of Conduct Enforcement: Restricting government advertisements and the use of official resources for campaigning purposes to ensure fair play during elections.
  • Addressing Electoral Malpractices: The ECI takes strict action against electoral fraud and manipulation.
    • Use of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines alongside Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
  • Monitoring Electoral Expenditure: Sets limits on electoral expenditure to ensure a level playing field among candidates.
    • ECI has appointed expenditure observers.
  • Regulation of Political Parties and Candidates: Manages registration and recognition of political parties, and monitors election expenditure.
  • Dispute Resolution: Acts as an arbitrator in electoral disputes.
    • The ECI’s decision to freeze the ‘Two Leaves’ symbol of the AIADMK party due to a factional dispute.
  • Voter Registration and Education: about the importance of voting and increasing voter participation.
    • The ‘Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation’ (SVEEP) program.
  • Innovation and Adaptation: Introduces technological advancements and reforms to improve the electoral process.
    • Introduction of NOTA.

Challenges to Independence of ECI:

  • Appointment Process: Traditionally, Election Commissioners are appointed by the President, often leading to allegations of partisanship.
  • Lack of Tenure Security: for Election Commissioners can potentially undermine their independence.
  • Resources: Dependence on the government for financial resources may affect the ECI’s autonomy.
  • Limited Regulatory Powers: Powers to penalize violations of the MCC are limited, affecting enforcement capabilities.
    • ECI’s inability to take punitive action against powerful political figures for MCC violations.
  • Technological Challenges: Issues like EVM security and data breaches can undermine public trust in the electoral process.

The Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023 was passed with changes in appointment process and qualifications.

Implications of Legislative Changes:

  • Exclusion of CJI from Selection Committee: Reduces judicial oversight in the appointment process, potentially affecting the impartiality of appointees.
  • Search Committee Composition Changes: The introduction of the Law Minister as the chair of the Search Committee could politicize the appointment process.
  • Lack of Consensus Building: The legislative changes might lead to appointments based on majority decisions, sidelining opposition views.
    • The selection committee structure favouring the government may compromise the ECI’s independence.
  • Procedural Ambiguities: The amendments introduce uncertainties in the removal process of the CEC and ECs, potentially making them more vulnerable to executive influence.
    • Varying standards for the removal of the CEC compared to other ECs.
  • Global Practices Discrepancy: The legislative changes diverge from global best practices for ensuring electoral commission independence.
    • Unlike in India, in countries like South Africa and the UK, there’s significant judicial or legislative oversight in the appointment process.

The Election Commission of India’s role as an independent body is vital for upholding the democratic principles of free and fair elections. However, recent legislative changes pose significant challenges to its autonomy and effectiveness. It is crucial for the ECI to navigate these challenges carefully to maintain public trust in the electoral process and ensure the integrity of democracy in India.

‘+1’ value addition:

  • Goswami Committee (1990): Recommended CEC and ECs’ appointment by President, consulting Chief Justice and Leader of Opposition.
  • National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (2002): recommended to include Prime Minister, both Leaders of Opposition, Speaker of Lok Sabha, and Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha.
  • Law Commission (2015): Suggested Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, and Chief Justice as appointers, streamlining the process with judicial oversight.
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