Special FEATURE - 1
S. K. Mendiratta*
17th February 2014
After India attained Independence in August 1947,
there was a need to hold General Elections to elect
a truly representative Government on the basis of
universal adult suffrage. Article 324, which
provides for the setting up of Election Commission
as an independent constitutional authority, was
therefore brought into force from November 26th,
1949, whereas, most of the other provisions were
made effective from January 26th, 1950 (when the
Constitution of India became effective).
Election Commission was formally constituted on
January 25th, 1950, a day before India became as
Sovereign Democratic Republic. The First Chief
Election Commissioner, Shri Sukumar Sen, was
appointed on March 21st, 1950.
The Commission functioned as a single member body
from 1950 to October 16th, 1989 but was converted
into a three member body on October 16th, 1989 to
January 1st, 1990. In the year 1990, January 1st, it
was reverted to the system of single member body.
However, since October 1st, 1993, the Commission is
regularly functioning as a three member body.
The Chief Election Commissioner and two Election
Commissioners are given the same salary and
allowances as of a Judge of the Supreme Court. All
the three Commissioners have equal powers in
decision making and in case of any difference of
opinion on any issue, the decision is taken by the
majority. The term of the office of CEC and ECs is
six years or till the age of 65, whichever is
For the purpose of first General Elections to the
Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabhas, the first delimitation
order was issued by President, in consultation with
Election Commission and with the approval of
Parliament on August 13th, 1951.
To provide a legal framework for the conduct of
elections, Parliament passed the first Act on May
12th, 1950 (Representation of the People Act, 1950)
providing mainly for the preparation of electoral
rolls and second Act on July 17th, 1951
(Representation of the People Act, 1951) laying down
the procedure for the conduct of elections to both
Houses of Parliament and Vidhan Sabhas for each
Electoral Rolls for constituencies were published in
all States by November 15th, 1951. The total number
of voters (excluding J&K) was 17,32,13,635 as
against the total population of India (excluding
J&K), 35,66,91,760 according to 1951 census,. The
first General Elections to the Lok Sabha and Vidhan
Sabhas were held between October, 1951 and March,
1952. The first Lok Sabha consisting of 497 members
was constituted on April 2nd, 1952. The first Rajya
Sabha consisting of 216 members was constituted on
April 3rd, 1952.
After the constitution of the two Houses of
Parliament and the State Legislative Assemblies, the
first Presidential election was held in May, 1952
and the first duly elected President assumed the
charge of office on May 13th, 1952. At the time of
the first General Election in 1951-52, the
Commission had recognized 14 political parties as
multi-state parties and 39 parties as the state
parties. Presently, there are seven recognized
National Party and 40 State Party.
For the first and second General Elections in
1951-52, and 1957, the Election Commission adopted
the ‘Balloting System’ of voting. Under this system,
every candidate was allotted a separate ballot box
at each polling station in a screened compartment
and the voter was required only to drop his ballot
paper, the centrally pre-printed ballot papers into
the ballot box of the candidate of his choice.
From the 3rd General Elections in 1962 onwards, the
Commission switched over to ‘marking system’ of
voting. Under this system, a common ballot paper
containing the names and election symbols of all
contesting candidates is printed on which the voter
has to put a mark with an arrow cross mark rubber
stamp on or near the symbol of the candidate of his
choice. All the marked ballot papers are put into a
common ballot box.
The Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) were used for
the first time in part of Parur Assembly
Constituency in Kerala in 1982, on experimental
basis. Later, the extensive use of EVMs started in
1998. The EVMs were used at all polling stations in
the country in the 14th General Elections to the Lok
Sabha in 2004 for the first time. Since then all
elections to Lok Sabha and Legislative Assemblies
have been held using EVMs.
Since 1951-52, fifteen General Elections have been
held to the Lok Sabha and 348 General Elections to
the Vidhan Sabhas and the country is now fully
geared for the 16th country wide general elections
to Lok Sabha .
* Legal Advisor, Election Commission of India.