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Speech delivered by Shri Navin B. Chawla
at Indian Military Academy, Dehradun
(14th February, 2009)
Lieutenant General R.S. Sujlana, AVSM, VSM, Commandant, Indian Military Academy, Major General A.K. Singh, Dy. Commandant & Chief Instructor, Brigadier Ranjit Singh, Head of the Academics Department, Officers and gentlemen cadets of the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, ladies and gentlemen…
Let me begin this lecture by giving you a brief background of how the Election Commission of India was established. After attaining Independence in 1947, India adopted its Constitution in 1950 proclaiming the country as a Sovereign, Democratic, Republic. A parliamentary democracy on the Westminster model was established and an independent Election Commission set up to ensure regular, free and fair elections. Universal adult franchise was adopted as the basis of elections to the Parliament and State Legislatures. However, doubts were expressed at that time as to whether the democratic system would work in a country, where in 1950, 84 per cent of the population was still illiterate. Time has set these doubts to rest by the manner in which the Indian electorate has voted during the last 59 years. The Indian electorate has shown not only their firm belief in the democratic structure and institutions that the Constitution has provided but also their political maturity by smooth transfer of power from one party to another, from one Government to another.
There is recognition of India as a stable, vibrant democracy characterized by regular, free and fair elections in our three tier set-up, i.e., the national level, state level and at the local levels of self-government (known generically as Panchayat Raj institutions). The size and diversity of the country, the logistic and administrative requirements, the contestation and participation make Indian elections largest exercise of its kind in the entire world. There are 543 Lok Sabha (the lower House of Parliament) constituencies, 245 seats in the Rajya Sabha (the Upper House of Parliament) of which 233 are elected and 12 nominated, and 4120 Assembly Constituencies spread over 28 States and Union Territories. A study by Prof. Yogendra Yadav has shown that on a rough estimate the number of elected representatives from the national to the village level is no less than three million.
Article 324 of the Constitution of India bestows on the Election Commission of India the ‘superintendence, direction and control of the conduct of all elections to Parliament and legislature of every state, and all the elections to the offices of President and Vice-President’ on the Election Commission of India. This Article of the Constitution of India is unique in as much as it provides special powers during the entire electoral process making the Election Commission supreme in all matters relating to the actual conduct of elections.