Power of Election Commission Of India

Electoral System of India :Power of Election Commission Of India

Context: Power of Election commission of India to enforce poll norms and clean campaigns.

Background of the issue

  • Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister, Kamal Nath, while campaigning for a by-election to the Madhya Pradesh Assembly recently used the derogatory word “item” for a BJP woman candidate.
  • Following this, the ECI revoked the star campaigner status for Kamal Nath.
  • The Supreme Court has recently stayed the order issued by the Election Commission of India (ECI) revoking Kamal Nath’s status as the star campaigner of the Congress party.

What is star campaigner status?

  • It is a privilege given to few candidates. The expenditure incurred on the campaign by those from the list of star campaigners is not included in the expenditure of the candidate concerned.
  • It ensures that some leaders can charter helicopters and travel extensively to cover more territory and constituencies without breaching any individual candidate’s spending limit.

Why the court stayed ECI’s order?

  • Section 77 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which relates to a candidate’s election expenditure, empowers the political party to decide itself who its “leaders” are and list of ‘star campaigners’ to the election authorities.
  • It is against the right to campaign without incurring electoral expenditure on the candidates’ account.
  • Stating that the EC has no power to withdraw the status of star campaigner submitted by political parties the Supreme court stayed the Election Commission’s order.

What were the arguments made by ECI?

  • The ECI has cited the clause in the MCC (non statutory) that bars candidates from resorting to “criticism of all aspects of the private life, not connected with the public activities” of other leaders and party workers.
  • Also, the ECI has made reference to the Supreme Court’s observation that when laws are absent, the ECI can invoke its residuary power to meet an infinite variety of situations that cannot be foreseen by lawmakers.

What is the way forward?

  • The ECI needs to be empowered to revoke the status of a campaigner, if there is an apparent breach of campaign norms or the Model Code of Conduct.
  • ECI’s power to enforce poll norms and clean campaigns should not be
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