Election Commission of India:  An important institution to be left to its own devices

Election Commission of India:  An important institution to be left to its own devices


Recently, the ECI’s directives to major political parties like the BJP and Congress to avoid divisive issues during campaigning for the general election has reignited the debate about the ECI’s effectiveness and impartiality.

  • This situation underscores the significance of reinforcing the independence and credibility of the ECI to maintain the legitimacy of elections in India.

GS-02 (Polity)

Dimensions of the Article:

  • What is the Topic About?
  • About the Issue
  • Causes
  • Suggested Measures

What is the Topic About?

  • The article addresses the crucial role of the ECI and the challenges it faces in maintaining its integrity and impartiality.
  • It critiques the ECI’s delayed actions against divisive political statements and highlights the underlying issues with the current mechanism of appointing its members, which is seen as partisan.
  • The ECI’s recent interventions, including letters to the BJP and Congress to refrain from divisive rhetoric, and actions against various political leaders for violating the model code of conduct (MCC), are examined.
  • The article also discusses the broader implications of the ECI’s functioning on the democratic process and suggests measures to strengthen its independence.

About the Issue:

  • The ECI recently instructed BJP President J.P. Nadda and Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge to ensure their parties’ “star campaigners” avoid making statements that could divide society.
  • This directive followed a controversial speech by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Banswara, Rajasthan, where he referred to Muslims as “infiltrators” and “people with more children.” Similarly, the ECI asked Congress to prevent its campaigners from making caste or community-related inflammatory remarks.
  • The ECI also censured Abhijit Gangopadhyay, a BJP candidate from Tamluk, West Bengal, for his comments against Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee, barring him from campaigning for 24 hours.
  • Earlier, the ECI had taken action against leaders from various parties, including YSRCP’s Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, BRS’s K. Chandrashekar Rao, Telangana Minister Konda Surekha, BJP’s Shobha Karandlaje and Dilip Ghosh, and Congress’s Supriya Shrinate and Randeep Surjewala.
  • Complaints against U.P. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma for alleged MCC violations are still pending. Despite these actions, there are concerns about the ECI’s ability to act impartially and effectively, given the partisan nature of its appointments.


  • The ECI’s recent actions, though intended to appear impartial, have raised questions about its effectiveness and credibility.
  • The core issue is the perceived false parity between legitimate political debates on policies impacting various social groups and incitements to xenophobia and social polarization.
  • The ECI’s role is to regulate misuse of power and prevent the creation of disharmony, not to stifle legitimate political discourse.
    • Impact on Electoral Legitimacy: The credibility of the ECI is central to the legitimacy of elections. If the electorate perceives the ECI as biased or ineffective, it undermines the democratic process and erodes public trust in the electoral system. Ensuring that the ECI acts impartially and promptly is crucial for maintaining the integrity of elections.
    • Role of Political Parties: Political parties play a significant role in reinforcing the ECI’s independence. By adhering to the MCC and avoiding divisive rhetoric, parties can support the ECI’s efforts to conduct fair elections. However, the current scenario shows that political parties often push the boundaries, necessitating stringent actions from the ECI.
    • Judicial Oversight: The judiciary also has a critical role in ensuring the ECI’s independence. Judicial oversight can help address issues related to partisan appointments and ensure that the ECI functions without undue influence from the executive. Reinforcing the ECI’s independence should be a priority for all stakeholders in Indian democracy.


  • The primary cause of the ECI’s perceived ineffectiveness is the mechanism of appointing its members, which is entirely under the control of the executive.
  • This partisan appointment process can lead to biases and undermine the ECI’s ability to act impartially.
  • Additionally, the delay in ECI’s actions against violators of the MCC exacerbates the problem, as timely interventions are crucial for maintaining order during the election process.
  • Partisan Appointments: The executive’s control over the appointment of ECI members leads to questions about the commission’s impartiality. If the members are perceived to be biased, it affects the ECI’s credibility and its ability to enforce the MCC effectively.
  • Delayed Actions: The ECI’s delayed responses to violations of the MCC reduce the impact of its actions. Prompt interventions are necessary to prevent the escalation of divisive rhetoric and maintain the sanctity of the election process.
  • Lack of Clear Guidelines: Ambiguities in the MCC and the lack of clear guidelines for political parties contribute to the challenges faced by the ECI. Clearer rules and stricter enforcement mechanisms are needed to ensure compliance.

Suggested Measures:

  • Reforming the Appointment Process:
  • Establishing an independent and transparent mechanism for appointing ECI members is crucial. This could involve a collegium system or a selection committee comprising representatives from different branches of government and civil society to ensure impartiality.
  • Strengthening Legal Framework:
  • Revising the MCC to include clearer guidelines and stricter penalties for violations can help improve compliance. The legal framework should empower the ECI to take swift and decisive action against offenders.
  • Enhancing Judicial Oversight:
  • Increased judicial oversight can help address issues related to the ECI’s functioning. The judiciary can play a role in ensuring that the ECI operates independently and without bias.
  • Promoting Political Accountability:
  • Political parties must be held accountable for their actions. Encouraging internal party regulations and promoting a culture of adherence to the MCC can support the ECI’s efforts. Parties should also engage in self-regulation and peer monitoring to prevent violations.
  • Public Awareness and Engagement:
  • Raising public awareness about the importance of the ECI and its role in the democratic process is vital. Citizen engagement and watchdog groups can play a role in monitoring elections and reporting violations, supporting the ECI’s efforts to maintain integrity.
  • Leveraging Technology:
  • The use of technology can enhance the ECI’s ability to monitor elections and enforce the MCC. Digital platforms for reporting violations and data analytics for monitoring campaign activities can improve the ECI’s efficiency and effectiveness.


The Election Commission of India is a cornerstone of the country’s democratic process, and its independence and effectiveness are paramount to ensuring free and fair elections. The current challenges faced by the ECI, particularly regarding its impartiality and timely actions, highlight the need for significant reforms.

  • By addressing the root causes and implementing suggested measures, India can reinforce the ECI’s role as a robust and impartial watchdog of elections, thereby strengthening the foundations of its democracy.