The Election Commission of India (ECI) had invoked its Article 324 of the constitution to curtail election campaigning in Bengal which was marred by violence.
- This is for the first in its entire history that the Election Commission has invoked Article 324.
- Article 324 of the Constitution under Part XV vests in the EC the “superintendence, direction and control of elections”.
- Enlarging the powers of the Commission further are the Representation of People Act, 1950 and 1951.
- The Supreme Court in Mohinder Singh Gill & And Vs The Chief Election Commissioner, New Delhi & Others (1977) held that Article 324 “operates in areas left unoccupied by legislation and the words ‘superintendence, direction and control’ as well as ‘conduct of all elections’ are the broadest terms.”
- The Court further stated that the article is a plenary provision vesting the whole responsibility of central and state elections with the Election Commission and therefore it has the necessary power to conduct elections free and fair.
- It has also observed that the makers of the constitution has left the EC the right to exercise residuary powers in various situations that may emerge from time to time.
- But, the Court cautioned that the power needs to be exercised both cautiously and mindfully.
EC Credibility Questioned:
- Invoking of Article 324 has been seen as unnecessary by many.
- The Representation of People (Amendment) Act, 1988 introduced Section 28A in the Representation of People Act, 1951, which states that all the officials deputed to the conduct of elections shall remain under the control of the Election Commission.
- Critics argue that by using this rule, the EC could have held up the officials responsible for curtailing the violence than ending the poll campaign prematurely.ECI
- This and the earlier arguments of the EC before the SC that it do not have power to curtail any discrepancies is making people question the credibility of the EC.
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- It is true that the EC has lost some credibility in this general election.
- From the long poll scheduling to inflammatory speeches, the EC is not up-to the mark in conducting elections.
- Yet, it had managed to conduct the elections of such a large scale only with minor incidents.
Going further, the powers of the Election Commission must be strengthened.