All citizens cannot take direct part in making every decision. Therefore, representatives are elected by the people. The method followed to choose these representatives is referred to as an election. The constitution lays down some basic rules about elections.
India is divided into 543 constituencies. Each constituency elects one representative and the candidate who secures the highest number of votes in that constituency is declared elected. The winning candidate need not secure a majority of the votes. This method is called the First Past the Post (FPTP) system. In the electoral race, the candidate who is ahead of others, who crosses the winning post first of all, is the winner. This method is also called the Plurality System. This is the method of election prescribed by the Constitution.
In this system, all voters in a constituency are eligible to vote but the candidates must belong to only a particular community or social section for which the seat is reserved. The Constitution provides for reservation of seats in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. This provision was made initially for a period of 10 years and as a result of successive constitutional amendments, has been extended up to 2020.
The Delimitation Commission is appointed by the President of India and works in collaboration with the Election Commission of India. It is appointed for the purpose of drawing up the boundaries of constituencies all over the country. A quota of constituencies to be reserved in each State is fixed depending on the proportion of SC or ST in that State.
The Commission is a powerful body whose orders cannot be challenged in a court of law. The orders are laid before the Lok Sabha and the respective State Legislative Assemblies. However, modifications are not permitted.
Till 1989, an adult Indian meant an Indian citizen above the age of 21. An amendment to the Constitution in 1989, reduced the eligibility age to 18. Adult franchise ensures that all citizens are able to participate in the process of selecting their representative.
All citizens have the right to stand for election and become the representative of the people. However, there are different minimum age requirements for contesting elections. For example, in order to stand for Lok Sabha or Assembly election, a candidate must be at least 25 years old.
Article 324 of the Indian Constitution provides for an independent Election Commission for the ‘superintendence, direction and control of the electoral roll and the conduct of elections’ in India.
To assist the Election Commission of India there is a Chief Electoral Officer in every state. The Election Commission is not responsible for the conduct of local body elections.
Election Commissioners are appointed by the President of India on the advice of the Council of Ministers. The Constitution ensures the security of the tenure of the CEC and Election Commissioners. They are appointed for a six year term or continue till the age of 65, whichever is earlier.