The Election Commission has invoked its powers under Art 324 to curtail campaigning in West Bengal following violence in Kolkata. The Election Commission of India passed an unprecedented order ending the campaign in West Bengal at 10 pm the following day instead of 5 pm on May 17 as was notified earlier, and is the norm. It also removed the state’s Home Secretary, and a senior police officer.
Article 324 vests “in an Election Commission” the “superintendence, direction and control of elections”. Parliament enacted The Representation of the People Act, 1950 and The Representation of the People Act, 1951 to define and enlarge the powers of the Commission.
The Supreme Court in Mohinder Singh Gill & Anr vs The Chief Election Commissioner, New Delhi and Ors (1977) held that Article 324 “operates in areas left unoccupied by legislation and the words ‘superintendence, direction and control’ as well as ‘conduct of all elections’ are the broadest terms”. The Constitution has not defined these terms. It gives wide powers to election commission and unprecedented steps cab be taken by ECI to have free and fair elections.