In the Government of India Act, 1935, and in the earlier statues the conduct of elections was left to the executive – the Central or Provincial Governments, according as election to the Central or State Legislature was concerned. In the discussions in the Constituent Assembly, there emerged almost from the beginning a consensus of opinion that the right to vote should be treated as a fundamental right of the citizen and that, in order to enable him to exercise this right freely, an independent machinery to control elections should be set up, free from local pressures and political influences.

Fundamental Rights and Minorities Sub-Committee

There was considerable discussion on these issues in the Fundamental Rights Sub-Committee and the Minorities Sub-Committee. K.M. Munshi’s draft articles on fundamental rights included the following clause:

“Every citizen has the right to choose the Government and the legislators of the Union and his State on the footing of equality in accordance with the law of the Union or the unit, as the case may be, in free, secret and periodic elections.”

This clause was considered by the Fundamental Rights Sub-Committee at its meeting held on March 29, 1947. The sub-committee approved that,

(1) universal adult suffrage must be guaranteed by the Constitution;

(2) elections should be free, secret and periodic; and

(3) elections should be managed by an independent commission set up under Union law.

To give effect to these conclusions, the following recommendation was drafted for inclusion in the sub-committee’s report:

(1) Every citizen not below 21 years of age shall have the right to vote at any election to the Legislature of the Union and of any unit thereof, or, where the Legislature is bicameral, to the lower chamber of the Legislature, subject to such disqualifications on the ground of mental incapacity, corrupt practice or crime as may be imposed, and subject to such qualifications relating to residence within the appropriate constituency as may be required by or under the law.

(2) The law shall provide for free and secret voting and for periodical elections to the Legislature.

(3) The superintendence, direction and control of all elections to the Legislature, whether of the Union or of a unit, including the appointment of Election Tribunals, shall be vested in an Election Commission for the Union or the unit, as the case may be, appointed in all cases in accordance with the law of the Unit.

There was some difference of opinion about vesting so much power in the Union in the matter of Election Commissions. It will be seen that, in terms of the recommendation made by the sub-committee, the appointment of all Election Commissions, irrespective of whether they were to function in relation to elections to the Legislature of the Union or in relation to elections to the Legislature of a unit was to be regulated by Union law. Some members of the sub-committee felt that it would be an infringement of the rights of the units if such over-riding authority was given to Union law in matters relating to elections to the Legislatures of the units.

Nevertheless, the recommendation as included in the draft was adopted by the sub-committee by a majority vote. The Minorities Sub-Committee considered these provisions at its meeting held on April 17, and accepted these recommendations. The only point that arose at the meeting of this Sub-Committee was raised by Syama Prasad Mukerjee, who thought that the minorities should be effectively represented in these Election Commissions.

On the other hand, Jairamdas Daulatram did not think it practicable to provide for separate representation for minorities. He suggested that the Election Commissions should be so constituted that they would function as impartial bodies and inspire confidence among all parties and communities. Accepting this suggestion, the Minorities Sub-Committee proposed in its report that Election Commissions should be independent and quasi-judicial in character.

The Advisory Committee

The Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights, Minorities, and Tribal and Excluded Areas considered this matter at its meetings of April 20 and 21. There was unanimous acceptance of the principles formulated by the Fundamental Rights Sub-Committee. Discussion centred mainly on the question whether the chapter on fundamental rights was the proper place for laying down these matters which pertained to electoral law.

C. Rajagopalachari was of the view that franchise would not ordinarily be a part of fundamental rights; and P.R. Thakur pointed out that the proposal not only made adult franchise compulsory, but also provided for direct elections, thereby prejudging the issue of direct elections; he expressed the view that the Advisory Committee, dealing as it did with fundamental rights, could not appropriate the jurisdiction to decide on this issue. Ambedkar, on the other hand, was clearly and emphatically of the opinion that adult franchise and all provision for its free and fair exercise should be recognized as in the nature of fundamental rights.

He said:

“So far as this committee is concerned, my point is that we should support the proposition that the committee is in favour of adult suffrage. The second thing that we have guaranteed in this fundamental right is that the elections shall be free and the elections shall be by secret voting … We have not said that they shall be direct or they shall be indirect. This is a matter that may be considered at another stage … The third proposition which this fundamental clause enunciates is that in order that elections may be free in the real sense of the world, they shall be taken out of the hands of the Government of the day, and that they should be conducted by an independent body which we may here call an Election Commission.

We have also given permission in sub-clause (3) of this clause that each unit may appoint its own Commission. The only thing is that the law shall be made by the Union. The reason for this is that later on there will be a clause in the Constitution which will impose an obligation upon the Union Government to protect the Constitution framed by themselves for the units. Therefore, we suggested that the Union should have the power of making a law, although the administration of that law may be left to the different units.”


There was unanimous support for the principles enunciated by Ambedkar but Rajagopalachari argued that it would not be proper to deal with this issue as a fundamental right. It could not be taken for granted, he said, that the Union Legislature would be elected by the direct vote of all citizens from all India. He therefore suggested that these matters relating to franchise should be dealt with when they arose in connection with the Constitution and not be prejudged as fundamental rights.

Govind Vallabh Pant

Eventually a compromise solution suggested by Govind Vallabh Pant was adopted, and it was decided that these recommendations need not go as part of the clauses on fundamental rights; but that in the letter forwarding the report of the Advisory Committee the Chairman should make it clear that the committee recommended the adoption of these proposals. In accordance with this decision the Advisory Committee recommended that, instead of being included in the chapter of fundamental rights, the provision regarding the setting up of an independent Election Commission, along with the other two proposals regarding adult franchise and free and fair elections to be held periodically, should find a place in some other part of the Constitution.

The memorandum


In his memorandum on the principles of a model Provincial Constitution circulated on May 30, 1947, B.N. Rau, the Constitutional Adviser, included a provision that the superintendence, direction and control of elections, including the appointment of election tribunals, should be vested in the Governor acting in his discretion, subject to the approval of the Council of State. Likewise, in the memorandum on the Union Constitution, circulated on the same date, he included a similarly comprehensive provision that the control of central elections, including the appointment of election tribunals, should be vested in the President acting in his discretion; the intention of this provision was to make available to the President the advice of the Council of State.

The Provincial Constitution Committee

The Provincial Constitution Committee in its report of June 27, 1947, accepted the suggestions in the Constitutional Adviser’s memorandum but deleted the reference to the approval of the Council of State.

The Union Constitution Committee

The Union Constitution Committee deleted all the suggestions for the exercise of discretionary powers by the President and also the proposal for a Council of State. The committee however took a definite step in the direction of a centralized authority in the matter of elections: according to its recommendations, all powers of supervision, direction and control in respect of the federal as well as provincial elections would be vested in a Commission to be appointed by the President.

The Union Powers Committee

The Union Powers Committee expanded this proposal by the inclusion in the Federal Legislative List of the subject,

“All Federal elections: and Election Commission to superintend, direct and control all Federal and Provincial elections”.

Constituent Assembly

The provisions suggested in the model Provincial Constitution came up for discussion in the Constituent Assembly on July 18, 1947. The Constitutional Adviser in his Draft Constitution of October, 1947 provided that the superintendence, direction and control of all elections to the Federal parliament and Provincial Legislatures (including the appointment of Election Tribunals for the decision of doubts and disputes in connection with elections to Parliament and to Provincial Legislatures) and of all elections to the offices of President, Vice-President, Governor and President.

The Drafting Committee altered this scheme and in its draft the power of appointing an Election Commission for supervising elections to the office of Governor and to the State Legislature was vested in the Governor. The Drafting Committee expressed the definite opinion that the Election Commission for provincial elections should be appointed by the Governor. This view underwent a radical change subsequently and on June 15, 1947, when the article came up for discussion in the Constituent Assembly, Ambedkar introduced a new article which made comprehensive provision for a Central Election Commission to be in charge of all Central and State elections.

The Origin of Article 324

Draft Article 289 went on to blossom into Article 324 of the Constitution. Regarding the Draft Article 289 it is apposite that we notice the following developments and discussions. On 15th June, 1949, the following discussions are noticed. Amendment No.99 was moved by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar to the original Article 289. The original Article 289 read as follows:

289. The superintendence, directions and control of elections to be vested in an Election Commission.

(1) The superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of the electoral rolls for, and the conduct of, all elections to Parliament and to the Legislature of every State and of elections to the offices of President and Vice- President held under this Constitution, including the appointment of election tribunals for the decision of doubts and disputes arising out of or in connection with elections to Parliament and to the Legislatures of States shall be vested in a Commission (referred to in his Constitution as the Election Commission) to be appointed by the President.

(2) The Election Commission shall consist of the Chief Election Commissioner and such number of other Election Commissioners, if any, as the President may, from time to time appoint, and when any other Election Commissioner is so appointed, the Chief Election Commissioner shall act as the Chairman of the Commission.

(3) Before each general election to the House of the People and to the Legislative Assembly of each State and before the first general election and thereafter before each biennial election to the Legislative Council of each State having such Council, the President shall also appoint after consultation with the Election Commission such Regional Commissioners as he may consider necessary to assist the election Commission in the performance of the functions conferred on it by clause (1) of this article.

(4) The conditions of service and tenure of office of the Election Commissioners and the Regional Commissioners shall be such as the President may by rule determine:

Provided that the Chief Election Commissioner shall not be removed from the office except in like manner and on the like grounds as a judge of the Supreme Court and the conditions of the service of the Chief Election Commissioner shall not be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment:

Provided further that any other Election Commissioner or a Regional Commissioner shall not be removed from office except on the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner.

(5) The President or the Governor or Ruler of a State shall, when so requested by the Election Commission, make available to the Election Commission or to a Regional Commissioner such staff as may be necessary for the discharge of the functions conferred on the Election Commission by clause (1) of this article.”


The amendment moved contemplated substitution of the original Article 289 inter alia as follows:

“(2) The Election Commission shall consist of the Chief Election Commissioner and such number of other Election Commissioners, if any, as the President may, from time to time appoint, and when any other Election Commissioner is so appointed, the Chief Election Commissioner shall act as the Chairman of the Commission.

Xxx xxx xxx

(4) The conditions of service and tenure of office of the Election Commissioners and the Regional Commissioners shall be such as the President may by rule determine:

Provided that the Chief Election Commissioner shall not be removed from the office except in like manner and on the like grounds as a judge of the Supreme Court and the conditions of the service of the Chief Election Commissioner shall not be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment:

Provided further that any other Election Commissioner or a Regional Commissioner shall not be removed from office except on the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner.”

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Statement

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar had this to state inter alia:

“The House will remember that in a very early stage in the proceedings of the Constituent Assembly, a Committee was appointed to deal with what are called Fundamental Rights. That Committee made a report that it should be recognised that the independence of the elections and the avoidance of any interference by the executive in the elections to the Legislature should be regarded as a fundamental right and provided for in the chapter dealing with Fundamental Rights.

When the matter came up before the House, it was the wish of the House that while there was no objection to regard this matter as of fundamental importance, it should be provided for in some other part of the Constitution and not in the Chapter dealing with Fundamental Rights. But the House affirmed without any kind of dissent that in the interests of purity and freedom of elections to the legislative bodies, it was of the utmost importance that they should be freed from any kind of interference from the executive of the day. In pursuance of the decision of the House, the Drafting Committee removed this question from the category of Fundamental Rights and put it in a separate part containing articles 289, 290 and so on.

Therefore, so far as the fundamental question is concerned that the election machinery should be outside the control of the executive Government, there has been no dispute. What article 289 does is to carry out that part of the decision of the Constituent Assembly. It transfers the superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of the electoral rolls and of all elections to Parliament and the Legislatures of States to a body outside the executive to be called the Election Commission.

That is the provision contained in sub-clause (1). Sub-clause (2) says that there shall be a Chief Election Commissioner and such other Election Commissioners as the President may, from time to time appoint. There were two alternatives before the Drafting Committee, namely, either to have a permanent body consisting of four or five members of the Election Commission who would continue in office throughout without any break, or to permit the President to have an ad hoc body appointed at the time when there is an election on the anvil. The Committee, has steered a middle course.

What the Drafting Committee proposes by sub-clause (2) is to have permanently in office one man called the Chief Election Commissioner, so that the skeleton machinery would always be available. Election no doubt will generally take place at the end of five years; but there is this question, namely that a bye-election may take place at any time. The Assembly may be dissolved before its period of five years has expired. Consequently, the electoral rolls will have to be kept up to date all the time so that the new election may take place without any difficulty. It was therefore felt that having regard to these exigencies, it would be sufficient if there was permanently in session one officer to be called the Chief Election Commissioner, while when the elections are coming up, the President may further add to the machinery by appointing other members to the Election Commission.

Now, Sir, the original proposal under article 289 was that there should be one Commission to deal with the elections to the Central Legislature, both the Upper and the Lower House, and that there should be a separate Election Commission for each province and each State, to be appointed by the Governor or the Ruler of the State. Comparing that with the present article 289, there is undoubtedly, a radical change.

This article proposes to centralize the election machinery in the hands of a single Commission to be assisted by regional Commissioners, not working under the provincial Government, but working under the superintendence and control of the central Election Commission. As I said, this is undoubtedly a radical change. But, this change has become necessary because today we find that in some of the provinces of India, the population is a mixture…..”

Professor Shibban Lal Saksena

Professor Shibban Lal Saksena gave notice of an amendment to the amendment to Article 289 which, inter alia, stated that after the word ‘appoint’ in clause (2), the words “subject to confirmation by two-third majority in a joint session of both the Houses of Parliament” be inserted. He also proposed that in clause (4), the words “Parliament may by law determine” be substituted for the words “President may by rule determine”. There were certain other amendments proposed by Prof. Saksena.

Prof. Saksena further went on to make the following statement:

“..Of course it shall be completely independent of the provincial Executives but if the President is to appoint this Commission, naturally it means that the Prime Minister appoints this Commission. He will appoint the other Election Commissioners on his recommendations. Now this does not ensure their independence…”

“So what I want is this that even the person who is appointed originally should be such that he should be enjoying the confidence of all parties—his appointment should be confirmed not only by majority but by two-thirds majority of both the Houses. If it is only a bare majority, then the party in power could vote confidence in him but when I want 2/3rd majority it means that the other parties must also concur in the appointment so that in order that real independence of the Commission may be guaranteed, in order that everyone even in opposition may not have anything to say against the Commission, the appointments of the Commissioners and the Chief Election Commissioner must be by the President but the names proposed by him should be such as command the confidence of two-thirds majority of both the Houses of Legislatures.”

“I want that in future, no Prime Minister may abuse this right, and for this I want to provide that there should be two-thirds majority which should approve the nomination by the President. Of course there is danger where one party is in a huge majority. As I said just now it is quite possible that if our Prime Minister wants, he can have a man of his own party, but I am sure he will not do it. Still if he does appoint a party-man, and the appointment comes up for confirmation in a joint session, even a small opposition or even a few independent members can down the Prime Minister before the bar of public opinion in the world. Because we are in a majority we can have anything passed only theoretically. So the need for confirmation will invariably ensure a proper choice.”

Shri H.V. Pataskar

On 16th June 1949, Shri H.V. Pataskar stated as follows:

“As I said, so far as I can see, article 289(2) is quite enough for the purpose. Even under article 289(2) we can appoint not merely some officials of the Government as Election Commissioners, but people of the position of High Court Judges; we can make them permanent; we can make them as Independent as we are trying to make them in the case of the Central Commission.”

Pandit Hirday Nath Kunzru

Pandit Hirday Nath Kunzru addressed the following concerns and suggested as follows:

“Here two things are noticeable: the first is that it is only the Chief Election Commissioner that can feel that he can discharge his duties without the slightest fear of incurring the displeasure of the executive, and the second is that the removal of the other Election Commissioners will depend on the recommendations of one man only, namely the Chief Election Commissioner. However responsible he may be, it seems to me very undesirable that the removal of his colleagues who will occupy positions as responsible as those of judges of the Supreme Court should depend on the opinion of one man.

We are anxious, Sir, that the preparation of the electoral rolls and the conduct of elections should be entrusted to people who are free from political bias and whose impartially can be relied upon in all circumstances. But, by leaving a great deal of power in the hands of the President we have given room for the exercise of political influence in the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and the other Election Commissioners and officers by the Central Government.

The Chief Election Commissioners will have to be appointed on the advice of the Prime Minister, and, if the Prime Minister suggests the appointment of a party-man the President will have no option but to accept the Prime Minister’s nominee, however unsuitable he may be on public grounds. (Interruption). Somebody asked me suitable why it should be so.”

“My remedy for the defects that I have pointed out is that Parliament should be authorised to make provision for these matters by law. Again, Sir, this article does not lay down the qualifications of persons who are chosen as Chief Election Commissioners or as Election Commissioners. And, as I have already pointed out, in the matter of removal, the Election Commissioners are not on the same footing as the Chief Election Commissioner.”

Shri K.M. Munshi

Shri K.M. Munshi expressed the following views:

“Between two elections, normally there would be a period of five years. We cannot have an Election Commission sitting all the time during those five years doing nothing. The Chief Election Commissioner will continue to be a whole-time officer performing the duties of his office and looking after the work from day to day, but when major elections take place in the country, either Provincial or Central, the Commission must be enlarged to cope with the work. More members therefore have to be added to the Commission. They are no doubt to be appointed by the President, but as the House will find, they are to be appointed from time to time. Once they are appointed for a particular period they are not removable at the will of the President. Therefore, to that extent their independence is ensured.

So there is no reason to believe that these temporary Election Commissioners will not have the necessary measure of independence. Any way the Chief Election Commissioner an independent officer, will be the Chairman and being a permanent officer will have naturally directing and supervising power over the whole Commission. Therefore, it is not correct to say that independence of the Commission is taken away to any extent.

We must remember one thing, that after all an election department is not like a judiciary, a quasi-independent organ of Government. It is the duty and the function of the Government of the day to hold the elections. The huge electorates which we are putting up now, the voting list which will run into several crores— all these must necessarily require a large army of election officers, of clerks, of persons to control the booths and all the rest of them. Now all this army cannot be set up as a machinery independent of Government. It can only be provided by the Central Government, by the Provincial Government or by the local authorities as now.

 It is not possible nor advisable to have a kingdom within a kingdom, so that the election matters could be left to an entirely independent organ of the Government. A machinery, so independent, cannot be allowed to sit as a kind of Super Government to decide which Government shall come into power. There will be great political danger if the Election Tribunal becomes such a political power in the country. Not only it should preserve its independence, but it must retain impartiality.

Therefore, the Election Commission must remain to a large extent an ally of the Government; not only that, but it must, a considerable extent, be subsidiary to Government except in regard to the discharge of the functions allotted to it by law.

Therefore, the Parliament as well as the State Legislatures are free to make all provisions with regard to election, subject, of course, to this particular amendment, namely, the superintendence, direction and control of the Election tribunal. Today, for instance, the elections re controlled by officers appointed either by the Center or the Provinces as the case may be. What is now intended is that they should not be subjected to the day-to-day influence of the Government nor should they be completely independent of Government, and therefore a sort of compromise has been made between the two positions; but I agree with my honourable Friend, Pandit Kunzru that for the sake of clarity, at any rate, to allay any doubts clause (2) requires a little amendment.

At the beginning of clause (2) the following words may be added; “subject to the provisions of law made in this behalf by Parliament.”

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar made the following remarks:

“Now with regard to the question of appointment I must confess that there is a great deal of force in what my Friend Professor Saksena said that there is no use making the tenure of the Election Commissioner a fixed and secure tenure if there is no provision in the Constitution to prevent either a fool or a knave or a person who is likely to be under the thumb of the Executive. My provision—I must admit-—does not contain anything to provide against nomination of an unfit person to the post of the Chief Election Commissioner or the other Election Commissioners. I do want to confess that this is a very important question and it has given me a great deal of headache and I have no doubt about it that it is going to give this House a great deal of headache.

In the U.S.A. they have solved this question by the provision contained in article 2 Section (2) of their Constitution whereby certain appointments which are specified in Section (2) of article 2 cannot be made by the President without the concurrence of the Senate; so that so far as the power of appointment is concerned, although it is vested in the President it is subject to a check by the Senate so that the Senate may, at the time when any particular name is proposed, make enquiries and satisfy itself that the person proposed is a proper person. But it must also be realised that that is a very dilatory process, a very difficult process.

Parliament may not be meeting at the time when the appointment is made and the appointment must be made at once without waiting. Secondly, the American practice is likely and in fact does introduce political considerations in the making of appointments. Consequently, while I think that the provisions contained in the American Constitution is a very salutary check upon the extravagance of the President in making his appointments, it is likely to create administrative difficulties and I am therefore hesitating whether I should at a later stage recommend the adoption of the American provisions in our Constitution.

The Drafting Committee had paid considerable attention to this question because as I said it is going, to be one of our greatest headaches and as a via media it was thought that if this Assembly would give or enact what is called an Instrument of Instructions to the President and provide therein some machinery which it would be obligatory on the President to consult before making any appointment, I think the difficulties which are felt as resulting from the American Constitution may be obviated and the advantage which is contained therein may be secured. At this stage it is impossible for me to see or anticipate what attitude this House will take when the particular draft Instructions come before the House.

If the House rejects the proposal of the Drafting Committee that there should be an Instrument of Instructions to the President which might include, among other things, a provision with regard to the making of appointments, this problem would then be solved by that method. But, as I said, it is quite difficult for me to anticipate what may happen. Therefore, in order to meet the criticism of my honourable Friend Professor Saksena, supported by the criticism of my honourable Friend Pandit Kunzru, I am prepared to make certain amendments in amendment No. 99. I am sorry I did not have time to circulate these amendments, but when I read them the House will know what I am proposing.”

Thereafter, he proposed that an amendment which read as follows:

“The appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners shall, subject to the provisions of any law made in this behalf by Parliament, be made by the President.”

We notice that the amendment which was proposed by Professor Shibban Lal Saksena which we have noticed came to be negatived and the amendment which was proposed by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was adopted. Thus, Article 289 as amended was added to the Constitution. It is this Article which appears in the Constitution as Article 324.


Anoop Baranwal v. Union of India (2023)