The founding - fathers of Indian constitution were unanimous in underlying the importance and significance of an autonomous electoral machinery to ensure free and fair election as a bed rock of a genuine democratic system.
Accordingly an election commission has been set up to perform three functions of 'superintendence, direction and control' of election. It is responsible for preparation, revision and updating of the electoral rolls from time to time. It conducts election to parliament and state legislature as well as to the office of the President and the Vice President of India (Article 324).
It consists of the Chief Election Commissioner and a few other election commissioners whose membership is determined and fixed from time to time by the President of India.
They are appointed by the President for a fixed term of five years. Their tenure and service conditions are laid down by the parliament and cannot be changed during the term of office.
The Chief Election Commissioner cannot be removed from office, except on the ground and in the manner on which the Supreme Court judge can be removed. This is to protect him from undue interference of executive and legislature.
A branch of Election Commission exists in each state headed by a Chief Election Officer appointed by the Chief Election Commissioner in - consultation with the state government. They constitute a permanent setup of machinery for conducting elections in the state.
The number of members of Election Commission is limited but at the time of elections necessary officers and staff are drawn from other departments of the government. Eg: government departments and educational institutions.
The Election Commission of India has been given wide powers and functions. They are,
1. To prepare, revise and update he list of voters for elections.
2. To conduct and supervise the elections and bi-elections.
3. To delimit constituencies for election to he parliament and state legislature and to allot seats to each of them.
4. To fix the election programme including dates for the nomination and scrutiny of candidates and date of election, making arrangement and declaration of result etc.
5. To advice the President or the Government of he concerned state as he case may be regarding all electoral matters including queries relating to disqualification of members.
6. To prepare guidelines for a code of conduct for political parties, candidates and voters during the period of elections.
7. To fix limit of election expenses and to examine the accounts of electoral expenditure submitted by the candidates.
8. To determine criteria for recognizing political parties and then recognize them and decide their election symbols and allocate time to them for the use of radio and TV in order to help them to reach the people on the election issue.
9. To prepare a list of 'free symbols' for allotment to independent candidates, and
10. To settle election disputes and petition, referred to it by the President or the Governor of a state.