Election Observers: Roles and Duties

  • Observers of the Election Commission of India (ECI) are appointed under the powers conferred on it by Section 20B of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and the plenary powers available to the Commission under the Constitution of India.
  • They are the appointees of the Commission working under the superintendence, control and discipline of the Commission for the period from their appointment until the process of election is completed.
  • The Representation of the People Act, 1951 was amended in August 1996 to add a new Section 20B.
  • This provides statutory powers to the Observers to watch the conduct of elections and especially in respect of counting of votes.
  • The observers are drawn from various central services, such as the Indian Revenue Service, the Indian Administrative Service, and the Indian Police Service.
  • They are considered to be on EC duty till the elections process ends.
  • They provide direct inputs to the Commission from the field as an interface with the election machinery, the candidates, political parties etc.
  • No Observer is allowed to go on a foreign trip during the period intervening between the briefing session and the completion of the election process.
  • Moreover, no officer appointed as Observer or kept in Reserve List shall proceed on any kind of leave without prior approval of the Commission till the completion of the election in Constituency (ies) in which the officer has been appointed as Observer or for which Observer has been kept in reserve.

Specific roles of observers

  • Observing the processes of scrutiny of nominations and withdrawal of candidature by the Returning Officer;
  • Making a proper investigation on the complaints received in connection with the process of nomination;
  • Examining the unresolved grievances by the candidate/ political parties about the allotment of symbols;
  • Monitoring of the implementation of MCC and, if needed, even by visiting important rallies to get first-hand input etc.
  • Though checking the account of the expenditure of the candidates is entrusted to Expenditure Observers, however, General Observer is also required to do so, in case of exigencies, if directed by the Commission;
  • Tracking dispatch of postal ballot papers to the service voters;
  • Observing and regulating the counting process.
  • The observer has to sign the round wise counting sheets as proof of his/her satisfaction.
  • She/he can direct the Returning Officer to stop the counting of votes or declaration of result, if she/he notices any irregularities and bring the matter to the notice of the Commission for further directions.

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