ELECTION COMMISSION OF INDIA (Article 324 – 329) (Part XV)

ELECTION COMMISSION OF INDIA (Article 324 – 329) (Part XV)

 

BACKGROUND
  • Election Commission of India is an independent constitutional body responsible for administering the free and fair election system and process of both the Union and State elections of India, in order to uphold the true spirit of democracy.
  • Part XV, Article 324 – 329 deals with the powers, function, tenure, eligibility, etc. of the commission and the member.
  • Article 324 of the Indian Constitution provides for an independent Election Commission for the ‘superintendence, direction and control of the electoral roll and conduct of the elections’ in India.
  • Election Commission is an all India body that conducts the elections to
  1. Parliament
  2. State Legislature
  3. Office of President
  4. Office of Vice President.
  • Though in its inception it was a single member body from 1950 to 1989 and from 1990 to 1993, thereafter once again it became the multi-member body and has remained to cope with the increased work of the Election Commission.

 

OBJECTIVES
  • To uphold the spirit of democracy and values enshrined in the Constitution.
  • To conduct free and fair elections.
  • To ensure participation of all eligible citizens in the electoral process.
  • To engage with political parties and all stakeholders in the interest of electoral process.
  • To promote awareness about the electoral process and electoral governance.

 

COMPOSITION OF ECI

Since its inception the commission had only one election commissioner but after the Election Commissioner Amendment Act 1989, it has been made a multi-member body. According to Art. 324 of the Indian Constitution provides the following provisions in relation to the composition of the election commission –

  • The Election Commission consists of the chief election commissioner and such number of other election commissioners, determined by the President.
  • The President appoints Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners.
  • Chief election commissioner acts as the chairman of the election commission when other election commissioners are appointed.
  • The President may also appoint regional commissioners after consultation with the election commission.
  • The conditions of service and tenure of office of the election commissioners and the regional commissioners shall be determined by the President.
  • The Chief Election Commissioner and the two other Election Commissioners enjoy the same status and receive salary and perks as available to Judges of the Supreme Court of India.
  • The Chief Election Commissioners and the two Election Commissioners have equal powers to take all decisions relating to elections as a collective body.
  • In case of difference of opinion amongst the Chief Election Commissioner and/or two other election commissioners, the matter is decided by the Commission by majority.

 

 

DUTIES AND FUNCTIONS OF ECI

The powers and functions of the election commission are mentioned below –

  • Determines the territorial area of the electoral constituencies in accordance with the Delimitation Commission Act.
  • Prepares electoral rolls and revises them from time to time.
  • Notifies the schedule of the election.
  • Receives and scrutinizes the nomination papers from all the candidates in the elections.
  • Registers political parties, providing election symbol and grants recognition to them.
  • Provides the status of national or state parties to the political parties on the basis of their performance in the elections.
  • Resolves disputes regarding the recognition of political parties and allotment of symbols to them.
  • Appoints officers to enquire into disputes relating to electoral arrangements.
  • Ensures that the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) is followed by all the political parties and all the candidates.
  • Advises the President and Governor under its advisory jurisdiction on matters relating to the disqualification of the members of the Parliament and State Legislature respectively.
  • Supervises election machinery in order to ensure free and fair elections.
  • Cancels polls in the event of irregularities and wrongdoings during an election.
  • Advises the President whether the elections can be held in a state under President’s rule.

 

 

INDEPENDENCE OF ECI
  • The Chief Election Commissioner can be removed from office only through a process of removal similar to that of a Supreme Court judge on the basis of a resolution passed to that effect by both the Houses of Parliament on grounds of ‘Proved misbehaviour or incapacity’.
  • The service conditions of the chief election commissioner cannot be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment.
  • Any other election commissioner or a regional commissioner cannot be removed from office except on the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner.

 

LIMITATION AND FLAWS
  • The Constitution has not prescribed the qualifications (legal, educational, administrative or judicial) of the members of the Election Commission.
  • The Constitution has not specified the term of the members of the Election Commission.
  • The Constitution has not debarred the retiring election commissioners from any further appointment by the government.
  • Over the year’s influence of money and criminal elements in politics has increased along with violence and electoral malpractices resulting in criminalization of politics. (Eg -Delhi elections goli maro launching of Namo tv, freebies, biopic, ASAT mission, etc.) The ECI has been unable to arrest this deterioration.
  • There has been rampant abuse of power by the state govt who at times make large-scale transfers on the eve of elections and posts pliable officials in key positions, using official vehicles and buildings for electioneering, flouting the ECI’s model code of conduct.
  • The ECI is not adequately equipped to regulate the political parties. The ECI has no power in enforcing inner-party democracy and regulation of party finances.
  • In recent years, an impression is gaining ground that the Election Commission is becoming less and less independent of the Executive which has impacted the image of the institution.
  • One of the major institutional drawbacks is non- transparency in election of CEC and other two commissioners and is based on the choice of presiding government.
  • There have been allegations of EVMs malfunctioning, getting hacked and not registering votes which corrodes general masses’ trust from the institution.
  • Anonymous feature of Electoral Bonds, in which neither the donor nor the political party is obligated to reveal whom the donation comes from defeats the fundamental principle of transparency in politics.

 

 

NATIONAL PARTY STATUS

A party is recognized as national party by the Election Commission if it fulfils at least one of the following qualifications:

  1. If it secures six per cent of valid votespolled in any four or more states at a general election to the Lok Sabha or to the legislative assembly; and, in addition, it wins four seats in the Lok Sabha from any state or states; or
  2. If it wins two per cent of seats in the Lok Sabha at a general election; and these candidates are elected from three states; or
  3. If it is recognized as a state party in four states.

National People’s Party

  • Got the National Party status from ECI in 2019
  • Recognised as a State Party in 4 states namely Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland & Meghalaya.
  • First political party from North East to get the status of National Party.
  • 8th Party to get the National Party status after INC, BJP, BSP, NCP, CPI, CPI(M) and TMC.

EC, however, has no power to de-register political parties.

 

ELECTIONS AND ELECTORAL REFORMS
  • 324-329 of Part XV deals with the electoral system in our country.
  • 324 provides for an Independent Election Commission.
  • There is one general electoral roll for every territorial constituency.
  • This electoral role is used for both center and state legislatures.
  • The Constitution has abolished the system of communal representation and separate electorates.
  • The Constitution has accorded equality to every citizen in the matter of electoral franchise.
  • Elections are done on the basis of adult franchise (61st Amendment Act 1988 reduced the voting age from 21 to 18 years)
Conditions to vote
1Citizen of India
218 years of age
3Should not be disqualified on grounds of Non Residence, Unsound Mind, Crime or corrupt or illegal practice.

 

  • Parliament can make provision relating to electoral rolls, delimitation of constituencies and other matters necessary.
In this regard govt has enacted Representation of People Act 1950 dealing with:-
1Qualifications of voters
2Preparation of electoral rolls
3Delimitation of constituencies
4Allocation of seats in Parliament and State Legislatures

 

Parliament has also enacted Representation of People Act 1951 dealing with:-
1Administrative machinery dealing with elections
2Election offenses
3Election Disputes
4By-elections
5Registration of Political Parties

 

THE REPRESENTATION OF THE PEOPLE ACT
  • The holding of free and fair electionsis the sine-qua-non of democracy. To ensure the conduct of elections in a free, fair and impartial manner, the Constitution – makers incorporated  324-329 in the constitution and empowered Parliament to make laws to regulate the electoral process.
  • The ECI is the watchdog of freeand fair elections in the country and  324 of the Constitution provides for its establishment.
  • In this context, the Parliament has enacted the Representation of the People Act (RPA), 1950 and Representation of the People Act,1951.
Recent Cases related to RPA 1951 are
1Hate Speech in Delhi Election {RPA Section 123(3A)}
2The RPA, 1951 provides that only those political parties which are registered under section 29A of the RPA, 1951 are eligible to receive electoral bonds, thus providing a mechanism to track the source of political funding and ensuring transparency in electoral funding.
3Section 10A of the Representation of Peoples Act 1951 and Section 77 of the Representation of Peoples Act 1951 to contain the menace of Paid news during elections.

 

Differences between RPA 1950 and RPA 1951

RPA, 1950RPA, 1951
●       The allocation of seats in, and the delimitation of constituencies for the purpose of election to the House of the People and the Legislatures of States;

●       The qualification of voters at such elections;

●       The methodology of preparation of electoral rolls;

●       The manner of filling seats in the Council of States

●       Methodology for the conduct of elections of the Houses of Parliament and to the House or Houses of the Legislature of each State;

●       The qualifications and disqualifications for membership of those Houses;

●       The corrupt practices and other offences at or in connection with such elections and;

●       The decision on doubts and disputes arising out of or in connection with elections

 

ISSUES WITH RPA
  • False Disclosures – Even after the provision of the declaration of assets and liabilities in the RPA act, candidates do not disclose all the assets and provide wrong and incomplete information regarding their assets, liabilities, and income and educational qualifications.
  • The Bureaucratization of Politics – In spite of the inclusion of several provisions aimed at making the ECI as an independent body, it is still dependent on the Union for financial mattersthat paves the way for political parties to manage to get the officers in their favour through money and muscle power.
  • Dual Responsibility of the ECI – The ECI does not have independent staff of its own so whenever elections take place, it has to depend upon staff of Central and State Governments hence the dual responsibility of the administrative staff, to the govt for ordinary administration and to the ECI for electoral administration is not conducive to the impartial and efficient functioning of the Commission.
  • Misuse of Government Machinery – The RPAs lack clear provisions and guidelines on the matters related to the misuse of official machinery that gives an unfair advantage to the ruling party at the time of elections and leads to the misuse of public funds for furthering the prospects of candidates of a particular party.

 

SectionsApplications
Section 8(1)A person convicted of an offence punishable under certain provisions of Indian Penal Code, Prevention of Corruption Act 1988, etc. shall be disqualified from contesting election.
Section 11Empowers the Election Commission to remove or reduce the period of disqualification.
Section 126Prohibits election campaign activities through public meetings, processions, etc., and displaying of election matter by means of television and similar apparatus 48 hours before voting day
Section 29ARegistration of political parties by the Election Commission.
 

Section 123(3A)

Prohibits promoting feelings of enmity or hatred between different classes of the citizens of India on grounds of religion, race, caste, community, or language

 

STAR CAMPAIGNERS
  • Recently, Election Commission (EC) ordered the removal of two senior BJP leaders from its list of star campaigners for Delhi assembly elections on the ground that comments made by them violated the Model Code of Conduct (MCC).
  • A recognised political party can have 40 star campaigners and an unrecognised (but registered) political party can have 20.
  • The list of star campaigners has to be communicated to the Chief Electoral Officer and Election Commission within a week from the date of notification of an election.
  • The expenditure incurred on campaigning by such campaigners is exempt from being added to the election expenditure of a candidate. However, this only applies when a star campaigner limits herself to a general campaign for the political party she represents.
  • Candidates cannot afford to breach their expenditure limit.
DELIMITATION COMMISSION

NEWS – Delimitation will be done in Jammu and Kashmir based on the Census of 2011 in accordance with the provisions of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019.

  • Delimitation is the redrawing of the boundaries of parliamentary or assembly constituencies to make sure that there are, as near as practicable, the same number of people in each constituency.
  • Article 82Parliament enacts a Delimitation Act after every Census which establishes a delimitation commission.
  • Article 170States also get divided into territorial constituencies as per Delimitation Act after every Census.
  • The Delimitation Commission is appointed by the President of India and works in collaboration with the Election Commission of India.
  • Equally populous constituencies allow voters to have an equally weighted vote in the Legislature.
  • It is a high power body whose orders have the force of law and cannot be called in question before any court.
  • These orders come into force on a date to be specified by the President of India on this
  • The orders are laid before the Lok Sabha and the respective State Legislative Assemblies. However, modifications are not permitted.
  • Delimitation commissions have been set up four times in the past — 1952, 1963, 1973 and 2002 — under Delimitation Commission Acts of 1952, 1962, 1972 and 2002
  • The Delimitation Commission in 2002, undertook readjustment and rationalization of territorial constituencies in states based on Census 2001, without altering the number of seats allotted to each state.

Government froze delimitation in 1976 until after the 2001 Census by the 42nd constitutional amendment (1976). This freeze was extended to 2026 by the 84th constitutional amendment (2002).

The aim of this move was to promote family planning and population stabilization in the country. Thus an incentive was given to states towards working for family planning programs, without worrying about changing their political representation in the Lok Sabha.

ISSUES WITH DELIMITATIONS

  • Violates concept of equal representation – Current representation deviates from the core principle of universal adult suffrage as a voter representation from Kerala (6.3 MPs per crore persons) is 42% higher than that of a Rajasthani voter (4.4 MPs per crore persons).
  • Poor Urban Governance – Lack of proportional representation of cities in Parliament (largest city having over three million electors, and the smallest less than 50,000 ) leading to lack of funding and paucity of infrastructure development
  • Fixed allocation of seats – Basing the 1971 Census figure of 54.81 crore to represent today’s population (121 crore) presents a distorted version of our democratic polity and is contrary to what is mandated under Article 81 of the Constitution.
  • Freezing seats did not solve the problem – Concerns expressed by the States in 1976 which necessitated the freezing of seat allocation on the basis of 1971 population figures would appear to hold good even today.
  • Increase in the number of Parliamentary members would make it a difficult task for the presiding officer to ensure smooth functioning of the House.
  • Delimitation may favour one party over another, as in the case mentioned above in Sikkim’s attempt to reduce the representation of racial minorities.

 

WAY FORWARD
  • Delimitation provisions of Articles 82 & 327 and related Articles are not specific. Thus, principles governing the procedure for periodic delimitation need to be enriched.
  • Provision of strict procedures and guidelines to ensure administrative process of delimitation not liable for political interference.
  • Provision for judicial review where erroneous process is found in delimitation of constituency.
  • Increasing the seats in Lok Sabha and State Assembly according to the population ratio.
  • Provision for reservation for women in proportion to their population.

 

DEMAND FOR CONTEMPT POWER BY ECI
  • The Election Commission is unlikely to reiterate its demand for powers to initiate contempt proceedings.
  • This was to be done against people and parties for making allegations against them without credible evidence.
  • In a letter in April, the Commission had urged the law ministry to amend the election laws so that it could use the ‘Contempt of Courts’ Actagainst such parties
  • It had pointed out that several election management bodies, including those in Kenya and Pakistan, have “direct powers” to initiate contempt proceedings.
ARGUMENTS IN FAVOUR AND AGAINST OF CONTEMPT POWERS

 

In FavourAgainst
●       International examples – Election management bodies (Kenya, Pakistan) have direct power to initiate contempt proceedings.

●       To Maintain Credibility – Certain allegations affect the credibility of the commission as one of the important guardians of the democratic process.

●       Knee-Jerk Response: It is an unwarranted and poorly thought-out response to

●       some strident accusations of partisan functioning

●       Need transparency– The body, custodian of secret ballot, should choose transparency rather than contempt powers to maintain its track record of honesty and fairness.

●       Undemocratic – Contestation is part and parcel of elections. Thus, powers to Silence criticism will undermine this democratic process.

●       Against freedom of expression – Because of this reason even big democracies such as the USA and Canada have not given contempt powers to election panels.

●       Rejected earlier – Dinesh Goswami committee on electoral reforms, three decades earlier, had rejected this proposal.

●       Satisfaction of people is supreme – EC does not have to satisfy every

politician. It enjoys public confidence and a reputation of impartiality. Thus, it just needs to reach out to people and explain the process transparently.

 

MODEL CODE OF CONDUCT

NEWS – In the run up to the Indian General Election for the 17th Lok Sabha, various instances of violations of the Model Code of Conduct were witnessed.

  • It is a set of guidelines laid down by the Election Commission to govern the conduct of political parties and candidates in the run-up to an election.
  • This is in line with Art. 324 of the Constitution, which gives the Election Commission the power to supervise elections to the Parliament and state legislatures.
  • It comes into force the moment an election is announced and remains in force till the results are declared. This was laid down by the Supreme Court in the Union of India vs. Harbans Singh Jalal and Others Case.
  • It is intended to provide a level playing field for all political parties, to keep the campaign fair and healthy, avoid clashes and conflicts between parties, and ensure peace and order. So, there are guidelines on general conduct, meetings, processions, polling booths, observers, election manifesto of political parties.
  • Its main aim is to ensure that the ruling party, either at the Centre or in the states, does not misuse its official position to gain an unfair advantage in an election. There are guidelines on conduct of ministers and other authorities in announcing new schemes, using public exchequer for advertisements etc.

 

EVOLUTION OF MODEL CODE OF CONDUCT
  • The origins of the MCC lie in the Assembly elections of Kerala in 1960, when the State administration prepared a ‘Code of Conduct’ for political actors.
  • Subsequently, in the Lok Sabha elections in 1962, the ECI circulated the code to all recognised political parties and State governments.
  • Implementation of MCC up to 1991 was not up to the mark as it was largely ignored by the political parties who often resorted to corrupt electoral practices such as populist announcements and fielding pliant officials, in lieu of fierce political competition.
  • At the time of the Lok Sabha elections, both the Union and state governments are covered under the MCC.

 

LEGAL STATUS OF MODEL CODE
  • The MCC is not enforceable by law. However, certain provisions of the MCC may be enforced through invoking corresponding provisions in other statutes such as the Indian Penal Code, 1860, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, and Representation of the People Act, 1951.
  • The Election Commission has argued against making the MCC legally binding – stating that elections must be completed within a relatively short time (close to 45 days), and judicial proceedings typically take longer.
  • In 2013, the Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, recommended making the MCC legally binding and the MCC be made a part of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

 

IMPACT OF MCC ON DEVELOPMENT AND GOVERNANCE
  • As there are restrictions on the working of the ruling governments when the MCC is in place, there is a debate whether it impedes the governance of state as-
    1. The govt. cannot announce any new project, scheme or policy.
    2. Politicians who hold portfolios cannot combine official visits with campaigns.
    3. Any campaign by the government cannot be done at the cost of the public exchequer.
    4. The ruling government cannot make any ad-hoc appointments in Government, Public Undertakings etc.
  • Recently, the Law Commission raised such observations, but the ECI has brushed aside arguments that the model code of conduct brings governance to a halt during polls.
  • Further, the ECI also highlighted that as and when government departments approach it with ‘references’ to clear proposals and schemes during poll time, it takes a fast decision understanding the urgency involved.

 

CONTEMPORARY CHALLENGES IN IMPLEMENTING MODEL CODE OF CONDUCT
  • Manipulation through the media – The misuse of the media is difficult to trace to specific political parties and candidates.
  • Weakened capacity of the ECI to respond to violations of MCC
  • Weak or Delayed Response by ECI – to inappropriate statements by powerful political actors. Consequently, political actors are regaining the confidence to flout the MCC without facing the consequences.
  • Digital Content – Most of the (election-related) information flow does not happen via the IT cells of political parties, but through third-party contracts. Even though the ECI has evolved a self- regulatory social media code for major players, still many platforms such as Telegram are becoming increasingly relevant for political mobilization.
  • Debate over some issues – such as national security, disaster management. Some political parties alleged that the ruling party has misused such issues. But, the Election Commission has said that these issues do not fall under the ambit of MCC.

 

PROS AND CONS OF MCC
ProsCons
EC ensures free and fair election.It hinders the developmental projects.
In case of any electoral malpractices EC takes action against the violatorsProjects and schemes which may influence the voter cannot be announced.
Anyone can report the violations or approach the courtDespite being around for 4 decades the MCC is not legally enforceable.

 

IMPLICATIONS OF POLL CODE VIOLATIONS
  • Weakens the position of Election Commission– whereby the credibility and authority of the commission is undermined.
  • Erodes the principle of free and fair elections– whereby incidents such as use of money power or muscle power, does not allow equal competition between all participants.
  • Shifts the narrative from performance to identity– whereby political parties ignore the MCC guidelines against using caste and communal feelings to secure votes.
  • Erosion of public trust in Indian democracy– as the promise of free and fair elections is seemingly defeated.

 

WAY FORWARD
  • Need to include people in the MCC– through mobile apps such as ‘cVIGIL’ to enable citizens to report on violation of election code of conduct. If people reject candidates and parties that violate MCC, it will create an inherent pressure on contestants to abide by MCC.
  • Fast Track Court for Election Dispute– so that whenever, the ECI takes a punitive action, its final order is obtained as soon as possible.
  • Strengthening Election Commission of India– by greater transparency in appointments and removal of the election commissioners, reducing dependency on Central Government for paramilitary forces among others.

 

ELECTRONIC VOTING MACHINE (EVM)
  • EVMs were 1st used in 1982 Kerala Assembly elections (by-election). However, SC struck down the election since Representation of People Act, 1951, and Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, did not allow use of EVMs.
  • RP Act 1951 was amended in 1988 to allow usage of EVMs.
  • In 1999, they were used for the 1st time in the entire state for Goa Legislative Assembly elections.
  • In 2004, EVMs were used for the 1st time in Lok Sabha elections.
  • EVMs are electronic voting machines which enable the voter with a button for each choice of candidate. It is attached by a cable to an electronic ballot box.

 

EVM comprises two units
Control unitThe Control unit is with the Election Commission selected polling officer
Balloting unitThe Balloting Unit is in the voting section into which the voter enters to cast their vote in secret by pressing the button against the name and sign of the candidate of their choice

 

EVM runs on a single alkaline battery fitted in the control unit, and can even be used in areas that have no electricity. They are manufactured by Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) and Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL).

 

SAFETY FEATURES WITHIN EVMS
  • No external communication
  • Non-reprogrammable
  • Secure Source Code
  • It allows a voter to cast the vote only once.
  • Time stamping of votes
  • Secure against post-manufacturing tampering
  • There are also various procedural checks and balances (Standard Operating Procedure)

 

ARGUMENTS FOR GOING BACK TO BALLOT SYSTEM
  • Not transparent: An electronic display of the voter’s selection may not be the same as the vote stored electronically in the machine’s memory. To bridge this gap, VVPATs were introduced.
  • Not verifiable: Only the vote number can be verified and not the voting choice.
  • Not secret: Counting in EVMs is equivalent to booth-wise counting, which allows one to discern voting patterns & renders marginalized communities vulnerable to pressure.
  • Possibility of hacking: Accusations of EVMs getting hacked or even the possibility of them being hacked creates a mistrust about electoral processes in the minds of the public.
  • Malfunctioning EVMs: Though provided with specific training for correct usage of EVMs, officers sometimes don’t pay attention & connect machines in wrong order.

 

ISSUES WITH EVM
Security

 

▪        Not easily, but can be hacked and tampered with.

▪        The time gap between the voting and the counting of votes is a risk to possible tampering, as the ballots are physically stored after votes

Technical Issues

 

▪        Malfunction in the software can give out errors.

▪        Hardware can cause issues too if the EVM is not handled with care.

 

ARGUMENTS IN FAVOUR OF CONTINUING WITH EVMS
  • Ease of use and accessible: EVMs are found to be easy to use, even by illiterate voters who just need to recognize the symbols of the parties. Electronic voting makes voting more accessible for e.g. enabling disable people to vote independently.
  • Safe and secure: The instances of booth capturing, rigging and stuffing ballot boxes with ink have been checked by the use of EVMs.
  • Further, the EVMs in itself is a secure machine which is highly improbable to be hacked.
  • Faster results and build trust: For other countries, particularly large ones like Brazil, India and the Philippines, electronic voting and electronic counting means that people can get official election results within hours, instead of weeks.
  • Completely auditable: One of the reasons our electronic voting system has been praised so highly is that it’s designed around the idea that all parties, citizens and election commissions are able to audit the electoral process at every stage, including before an election has even begun.
  • Elimination of the possibility of invalid and doubtful votes which, in many cases, are the root causes of controversies and election petitions.
  • Reduction in the use of paper during the elections.

 

WAY FORWARD

Cost and efficiency considerations are secondary to the integrity of the election. EC must ensure that any unjustified suspicion in the minds of public is removed through:

  • 100% deployment of VVPAT in all elections and by-polls and on detection of any faulty EVM in a constituency must entail the VVPAT hand-counting of all the EVMs in that constituency.
  • EC must introduce Totalizer Machines for counting of votes. It increases the secrecy of voting by counting votes polled at 14 polling booths together, as against the current practice of announcing booth-wise results.
  • Regular demonstrations must be organized by EC in all the poll-going States to reduce the information gap on EVMs.
  • EC should provide training to officers in small batches and focus on hands-on-learning.
  • As a long- term structural reform, EC must be provided with an independent secretariat so that it can have a dedicated cadre of officers.

 

VOTER VERIFIED PAPER AUDIT TRAIL (VVPAT)
  • VVPAT is an independent verification printer machine and is attached to electronic voting machines.
  • It allows voters to verify if their vote has gone to the intended candidate.
  • When a voter presses a button in the EVM, a paper slip is printed through the VVPAT. The slip contains the poll symbol and name of the candidate.
  • After being visible to the voter from a glass case in the VVPAT for seven seconds, the ballot slip will be cut and dropped into the drop box in the VVPAT machine and a beep will be heard.
  • VVPAT machines can be accessed by polling officers only.

 

SUPREME COURT’S ORDER ON VVPAT
  • Earlier, VVPAT slips from only one Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) in every Assembly segment/constituency was subjected to physical verification.
  • SC has now directed that in general elections, VVPAT slips of five EVMs in each Assembly segment of a Parliamentary Constituency would be subjected to physical counting.
  • In State Assembly elections, this would extend to five random EVMs in each Assembly constituency.
  • Notably, there was a demand from Opposition parties for VVPAT verification in 50% or 125 polling booths in each constituency.

 

NONE OF THE ABOVE (NOTA)
  • The NOTA option was introduced in India following a 2013Supreme Court directive in the People’s Union for Civil Liberties v Union of India.
  • NOTA option aims to allow voters to disapprove all the candidates while delivering their vote. SC remarked that NOTA will indeed compel the political parties to nominate a sound candidate.
  • Its symbol was introduced in 2015.
  • However, NOTA in India does not provide for a ‘right to reject’. The candidate with the maximum votes wins the election irrespective of the number of NOTA votes polled.
  • The NOTA votes have not been counted while calculating votes polled by candidates for making them eligible (1/6th of valid votes) for getting back their security deposits.
  • ECI currently has no plenary power to call a fresh election even if NOTA secures the highest
  • SC has ruled that NOTA option is applicable only for direct elections and not indirect elections such as the Rajya Sabha polls.
  • To give greater sanctity to NOTA and even order a fresh election, Rule 64 of Conduct of Election Rules will have to be amended and can be done by the law ministry. It will not require Parliament sanction.

Rule 64 – It refers to “declaration of result of election and return of election”. But the rule does not consider a situation where NOTA votes may be higher than those polled by any candidate.

 

NOTA IN RAJYA SABHA ELECTIONS
  • The Supreme Court scrapped the use of ‘None Of The Above’ (NOTA) option in Rajya Sabha polls.
  • SC held NOTA option is meant only for universal adult suffrage and direct elections.
  • So, it is not for polls held by the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote as done in the Rajya Sabha.
  • NOTA can harm an electoral process where open ballot is permissible and party discipline reigns.
  • NOTA will destroy the concept of value of a vote and representation and encourage defection that shall open the doors for corruption which is a malignant disorder.

NOTA vs Right to Reject

  • NOTA in India does not provide for a ‘right to reject’.
  • The Election Commission currently has no plenary power to call a fresh election even if NOTA secures the highest
  • The candidate with the maximum votes wins the election irrespective of the number of NOTA votes polled.
  • Whereas in “right-to-reject” system, if the
    majority of voters opt for “none of the above”
    option, no candidate will be declared the winner and a fresh election will be called.
  • Also, the NOTA votes have not been counted while calculating votes polled by candidates for making them eligible (1/6th of valid votes) for getting back their security deposits.

 

 ARGUMENTS ON NOTA IN FAVOUR AND AGAINST
In FavourAgainst
Apex court held that not allowing a person to cast a vote negatively “defeats the very freedom of expression and the right ensured in Article 21 i.e., the right to liberty.”

NOTA option will encourage the voters to exercise their franchise even if they are not satisfied with any of the candidates contesting.

 

Negative voting will lead to a systemic change in polls as political parties will be forced to project clean candidates. This may also help in controlling the criminalisation of politics.

NOTA gives an option to the voters to express their disapproval of all the candidates contesting in the election and provide a way to express their disenchantment in the contemporary political system of the country.

Colombia, Ukraine, Brazil, Bangladesh, Finland, Spain, Sweden, Chile, France, Belgium and Greece allow their voters to cast NOTA votes. The US also allows it in a few cases.

There are some scholars of the opinion that NOTA is a waste of votes since it does not hold any electoral value.

NOTA would be meaningless if no mandatory re-election was held in cases where NOTA polled the majority of votes.

 

When NOTA was introduced, some political leaders said that voting should be made mandatory to enhance the effect of the NOTA option.

In 2016, a PIL was filed in the Madras High Court seeking the full ‘right to reject’ instead of NOTA.

There have also been suggestions that candidates rejected should not be allowed to contest for a fixed period of time.

Another suggestion is that political parties whose candidates lose to NOTA should bear the cost of re-election.

 

 

INTERNAL DEMOCRACY IN A POLITICAL PARTY

Internal democracy in political parties, also known as intra-party democracy, refers to the level and methods of including party members in the decision making and deliberation within the party structure.

 

SIGNIFICANCE
  • The quality of a democracy ultimately depends on internal democracy (or the lack of it) in political parties.
  • One should assess the importance of intra-party democracy in the success of a democracy.
  • In its 170th report in 1999, the Law Commission of India underscored the importance of intra-party democracy by arguing that a political party cannot be a “dictatorship internally and democratic in its functioning outside”.
  • Intra-party democracy is essential to sustain broader political democracy in a country.

 

CRIMINALISATION OF POLITICS
  • The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered political parties to publish the entire criminal history of their candidates for Assembly and Lok Sabha elections along with the reasons that forced them to field suspected criminals.
  • The order was a reply to the contempt petition about the general disregard shown by political parties to a 2018 Constitution Bench judgment (Public Interest Foundation v. Union of India)to publish the criminal details of their candidates in their respective websites and print as well as electronic media for public awareness.
  • The SC passed an order while exercising powers under  129 and 142 of the Constitutionwhich deals with the contempt power of the Supreme Court and enforcement of its decrees and orders.
  • According to the prevalent law, the lawmakers and candidates are barred under the Representation of Peoples Act (RPA) from contesting elections only after their conviction in a criminal case.
  • The current verdict was pronounced on a question whether lawmakers facing criminal trial can be disqualified from contesting elections at the stage of framing of charges against them.
ROLE OF JUDICIARY IN DECRIMINALISING POLITICS
Declaration on AffidavitIn 2002, the Supreme Court provided that candidates shall declare details of criminal cases pending against them on an affidavit to returning officer. This can help educate electorate and elicit informed choice, at the same time, it can dissuade candidates from fielding tainted candidates
Lily Thomas Case (2013)SC held that legislators would incur immediate disqualification if convicted effectively eliminating the protection of 90 days provided in Section8(4) for appealing the conviction
Public India Foundations Case (2014)SC ruled that criminal trials particularly those involving heinous offences and corruption involving elected representatives should be completed in a year
PIL seeking life ban on convicts (2017)SC asks the centre to set up a mechanism for speed trial of lawmaker pointing out that it takes years to complete trial of politicians by which time they would have served as law makers or ministers several times over.

 

 

RECENT SUPREME COURT JUDGEMENT ON CRIMINALISATION OF POLITICS
  • A two-judge Bench of Supreme Court recently delivered a judgment on the contempt petitions regarding the criminalization of politics in India and the non-compliance of the directions of a Constitution Bench of Supreme Court in Public Interest Foundation and Ors. v. Union of India and Anr (2018) case.
  • The Court issued the following six directions(though these directions were given in 2018, they were not followed by the parties).
  • It shall be mandatory for political parties to upload on their website detailed information regarding candidates with pending criminal cases along with the reasons for such selection.
  • The reasons as to selection shall be with reference to the qualifications, achievements and merit of the candidate concerned, and not mere “winnability” at the polls.
  • This information shall also be published in:
  • One local vernacular newspaper and one national newspaper;
  • On the official social media platforms of the political party, including Facebook & Twitter.
  • These details shall be published within 48 hours of the selection of the candidate or not less than two weeks before the first date for filing of nominations, whichever is earlier.
  • The political party concerned shall submit a report of compliance with these directions with the Election Commissionwithin 72 hours of the selection of the said candidate.
  • If a political party fails to submit such compliance report,the Election Commission shall bring such non-compliance by the political party concerned to the notice of the Supreme Court.

 

REASONS FOR CRIMINALISATION  POLITICS
  • Vote Bank: As the SC has observed that we as a voter are not yet organically evolved, therefore, majority of the voters are manoeuvrable, purchasable.
  • Corruption: The past three Lok Sabhas have seen an increasing number of legislators with criminal background or pending cases against them 🡪124 in 2004, 162 in 2009 and 182 in 2014.
  • Loopholes in The Functioning of Election
    Commission
    : For the past several general
    elections there has existed a gulf between
    the Election Commission and the voter.
    Model Code of Conduct is openly flouted by candidates without any stringent repercussions.
  • Denial of Justice and Rule of Law: Toothless laws against convicted criminals standing for elections further encourage this process. Only 40 percent of pending cases have been transferred to special courts — of which judgments have been pronounced in just 136 cases (11%).
  • Though the Representation of the People Act (RPA) disqualifies a sitting legislator or a candidate on certain grounds, there is nothing regulating the appointments to offices within the party.

 

IMPACT OF CRIMINALISATION OF POLITICS
  • Lawbreakers get elected instead of lawmakersADR data for the 17thLok Sabha, 43% of the elected members of parliament have criminal cases pending against them pointing to the great danger of criminalization of Indian politics.
  • Loss of Public Faith in Judiciary – De- politicization is an imminent requirement to ensure the survival of judicial system as well as to arrest the decreasing trust of common citizens in judiciary for politicized police systems hamper the delivery of justice the most.
  • Violates the spirit of Democracy – conducting free and fair elections is one of the most important priorities of healthy democracy, but the growing criminal activities in electoral process hinders the very idea of democracy.
  • Criminalization of politics perpetuates itself and deteriorates the overall electoral culture.

 

COMMITTEES ON CRIMINALISATION OF POLITICS
The Santhanam Committee Report 1963It referred to political corruption as more dangerous than corruption of officials and recommended for Vigilance Commission both at the Centre and in the States.
Vohra Committee Report (1993)

 

It studied the problem of the criminalization of politics and of the nexus among criminals, politicians and bureaucrats in India. However, even after the submission of the report 25 years ago, the report has not been made public by the government.
Padmanabhaiah Committee on Police Reforms

 

It found that Corruption is the root cause of both politicization and criminalization of the police.

Criminalization of police cannot be de-linked from criminalization of politics. It is the criminalization of politics, which has produced and promoted a culture of impunity that allows the wrong type of policeman to get away with his sins of commission and omission.

 

WAY FORWARD
  • There is a need to curb the high cost of campaigning to provide a level playing field for anyone who wants to contest elections.
  • As recommended by the Law Commission of India’s report on Electoral Disqualifications, by effecting disqualification of tainted politicians at the stage of framing of charges, with adequate safeguards, the spread of criminalisation of politics may be curbed.
  • Filing of a false affidavit should qualify as a ‘corrupt practice’ under the Act. Conviction on the charge of filing of a false affidavit must be grounds for disqualification as recommended by the Law Commission.
  • The Election Commission must take adequate measures to break the nexus between the criminals and the politicians.

 

SPECIAL COURTS FOR TRYING POLITICIANS
  • The Centre should frame a central scheme for setting up of special criminal courts exclusively to deal with criminal cases involving political persons.
  • The directive for a commoncentral scheme comes with the Centre’s argument that setting up such courts would depend on the availability of funds with the States.
  • The court also said that the scheme should provide details of the funds required to set up such courts.
  • These courts would function on the lines of the fast track courts.
  • The Centre should also submit a report card on the status of around 1500 criminal cases pendingagainst MPs and MLAs at the time of the 2014 elections.
  • It is also required to report if the court’s earlier orderto complete the trial in all these cases within a year’s time had been complied with or not.
  • Besides, the SC said that it would directly interact with the State governmentson issues regarding such special courts.

 

VOTE BANK POLITICS
  • The term ‘vote-bank politics’ was first used in a research paper in 1955 by noted sociologist MN Srinivas.
  • He used it in the context of political influence exerted by a patron over a client.
  • Caste-based vote-bank politics, rather than economic issues and social policy have determined India’s electoral choices. .
  • By participating in the modern political system, caste is now exposed to divisive influences and a new form of integration resulting from a new scheme of universalistic-particularistic relationships.
  • It denotes the voting behaviour of the people on the basis of their identity and how political parties try to influence voters on such basis.

 

NEGATIVE SIDE OF VOTE BANK POLITICS
  • Reduces the identity of a citizen- No self-respecting citizen wants to be seen only as a voter with a community stereotype.
  • Used as a market tool- where, a political party or leader sees the masses merely as voters, who are a tool to elect, re-elect or defeat the contestants during elections once in five years.
  • Ignores voting based on performance- such as on promises, infrastructure, poverty alleviation, access to basic facilities among others for people of the constituency.
  • Allures parties towards win-ability of candidates- as locally powerful individuals are approached by the political parties to mobilise voters of their caste/community. It has also led to criminalization of politics.
  • Voter Appeasement- through the use of freebies, pampering of segments using unjust means and creating a spiral of counter-appeasements by other political parties.
  • Could lead to bad economics- due to promises like loan waivers, freebies, income support schemes which have a huge burden on the financial discipline of the state exchequer.
  • Halts the long-term vision for the nation- as the parties make tall promises to win the immediate elections. This does not allow the election discussion to focus on long term goals for the nation such as defence procurement, national security strategy, electoral reforms, environmental conservation.
  • Creates fractures in the society- based on class, caste, creed, race, religion, region, language etc which leads to factionalism in the society.

 

POSITIVE SIDE OF VOTE BANK POLITICS
  • Increases both the individual and collective bargaining power – when a particular group aligned on the basis of caste, sect, religion, or language is recognised by one or more political party, the chances of their demands and aspirations getting fulfilled are much higher than that of a group or community that is not recognised as a vote bank. E.g. Persons with disabilities, Women.
  • Helps address diverse needs- especially in a country like India, where uniform policies may ignore critical issues. E.g. Gender Budgeting has ensured that women are given a particular portion of resources, which they might not reap due to social subjugation and economic dependency.
  • Leads to effective representation in legislature-as people from all segments of society like minorities, transgender, farmers, traders make it to the law making process, which reflects in the holistic nature of the acts made in a country.
  • Helps safeguard constitutional provisions- such as abolition of untouchability, elimination of manual scavenging. If the ruling party and legislature is dominated by upper caste/ class/ elites, which disregard lower strata of society, then the constitutional safeguards may be ignored by the administration. This pressure ensures that there is no dilution in peoples’ rights.
  • Help better distribution of resources- through welfare economics such as subsidies, interest subvention which help poorer segments of society to rise above the poverty line.
  • Makes parties more and more inclusive- as parties try to field candidates so as to include all available vote banks in a state. The parties try to portray an inclusive image.

 

WAY FORWARD
  • Given its potential for cynical misuse, vote- bank politics should be seen as an instrument to be deployed by citizens, and not by the political class. Vote-bank must develop on issues and people should decide what should be the discourse of an election. New issues such as environment conservation, electoral reforms, movement against criminalization of politics could be asked by citizens. It can lead to a healthy democracy practice.

 

FEMINISATION OF POLITICS
  • According to a list compiled by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU)Rwanda ranks first with 61% of its lower house representatives being women.
  • As a region, Nordic countries (relating to Scandinavia, Finland, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands) are leaders with an average of about 40%. The UK and the US are relative laggards with 32% and 23%, respectively.
  • Even Pakistan with 20% participation from women is ahead of India.
  • In India, the 17th Lok Sabha will see the highest number of women parliamentarians, 78 in all.
  • Women’s representation has steadily increased in the Lok Sabha. In the first-ever election, only 5% of the House consisted of women. Now, that has increased to 14%

 

NEED FOR WOMEN IN POLITICS
  • Constitutional and International Mandate – The Constitution of India promises in the Preamble to secure to all its citizens ‘JUSTICE, social, economic and political’, as well as ‘EQUALITY of status and of opportunity’.
  • Valid indicator of the efficacious growth of democracy in any country.
  • India has ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly.
  • Controlling corrupt practices in politics – In terms of corruption, the rate at which women accumulate assets while in office is 10 percentage points lower per year than among men.
  • Economic Aspect: Raising the share of women is not only likely to lead to better representation of women’s and children’s concerns in policymaking, it is also likely to lead to higher economic growth.
  • The roles of women in the decision making process in the society is critical to strengthen women’s agencies for building a progressive society with equality of opportunities among all citizens.

 

STRATEGIES FOR ENHANCING PARTICIPATION OF WOMEN IN POLITICS
  • Women’s Reservation in Politics: There have been proposals for introducing reservation of seats (33%) in legislative bodies for women. Such steps have already been taken at local level governance (PRIs).
  • Improving capacity building, gender training and awareness raising is also crucial. For instance, a new scheme called ‘Nai Roshni’ to empower and grow confidence among minority women, including their neighbours from other communities living in the same village/locality.
  • Further it is important to improve their access to education and work on gender sensitization of both girls and boys at the educational level.

 

FACTORS RESTRICTING WOMEN’S PARTICIPATION IN POLITICS
  • Slow Parliamentary Procedures/ Lack of Political Will
  • Illiteracy: Lack of education and leadership training often act as a barrier in women participation in politics
  • Lack of Understanding: Lesser exposure to politics often considered as a liability in some parts of the country and they do not know about their basic and political rights, hence most of the political decision are being taken by the male member of the family.

 

Work and Family: uneven distribution of household work between men and women also one of the important factors in this regards.

  • Social and Cultural Norms: In few parts of the country the age old patriarchal mentality treat women as second class citizen and think women are only for domestic responsibilities.
  • Lack of financial support: Women do not get adequate financial support from the political parties to contest the elections.
  • Prevailing cultural attitudes regarding the roles of women in society

 

WAY FORWARD
  • It is theneed of the hour in a country like India to have equal participation of women in mainstream political activity.
  • Society needs to deconstruct the stereotype of womenas limited to household activities only.
  • All political parties have to arrive at a consensus and ensure the passage of Women’s Reservation Bill,which calls for reserving 33 percent of seats in Parliament and all state legislative assemblies for women.
  • Around the world, more countries follow the idea of reservation in political parties. Sweden, Norway, Canada, the UK, and France are examples.

 

PAID NEWS
  • Press Council of India – defines paid news as “any news or analysis appearing in any media (print & electronic) for a price in cash or kind as consideration”.
  • It is considered a “grave electoral malpractice” on the part of candidates to circumvent expenditure limits. However paid news is not an electoral offence yet.
  • The news is much like an advertisement but without the ad tag.
  • The payment modes for paid tax usually violate tax laws and election spending laws.
  • More seriously, it has raised electoral concerns because the media has a direct influence on voters.

 

REASONS FOR RISE IN PAID NEWS

 Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology in its report titled “Issues Related to Paid News” identified following reasons for paid news: –

  • Corporatization of media, desegregation of ownership and editorial roles, decline in autonomy of editors/journalists due to emergence of contract system and poor wage levels of journalists.
  • Inadequate punitive powers of statutory regulators like the PCI and Electronic Media Monitoring Centre (EMMC).
  • The conflict of interest inherent with appointment of media-owners as members of the PCI or self- regulatory bodies.
  • Inaction by Government: on various recommendations of the PCI and Election Commission of India (ECI).
  • Concentration of media ownership: The lack of restriction on ownership across media segments (print, TV or internet) or between content and distribution gives rise to monopolistic practices.

 

CONSEQUENCES OF PAID NEWS
  • Disturbs level playing field for candidates
  • The electorate get misinformed
  • Increases the role of money in politics
  • Against free and fair elections and disturbs the democratic credentials of the country
  • Eroding image of media.
  • Paid News causes undue influence on voters and also affects their Right to Information.

 

RECOMMENDATION
  • The Press Council of India has recommended amendment to the Representation of the People Act, 1951 in order to make the incidence of paid news a punishable electoral malpractice.
  • The ECI has also recommended for including paid news in the category of corrupt practices or electoral offences.
  • Law commission recommendations: Report on “Electoral Reforms” 2015 – The definitions of “paying for news”, “receiving payment for news” and “political advertisement” should be inserted in the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
  • Adoption of international best practices: On the lines of the Justice Leveson Report on the press and existing regulatory structure in the UK.

 

CHANGING NATURE OF ELECTION

 

Changes

 

●       Electoral campaigning is becoming more personality based where political parties are focussing on individual leadership rather than local issues and local representatives.

●       Narrative capture where election outcome is decided by “artificial issues” rather than state specific or local issues and diversion of attention from genuine public concerns.

●       Change in voters’ attitude as an issue of national leadership is central in determining voter decisions. Voters know which individuals it wants but not necessarily which parties or policies.

●       Weak political culture, weak opposition also limit the scope for genuine public debate.

Concern

 

●       Undermining parliamentary systems where voters elect local representatives, on the basis of local concerns, to make laws.

●       No genuine separation of powers- The legislature cannot truly hold the executive accountable since electors have won in the name of their leader. It leads to undermining the legislature. Frequent disruptions in the Parliament further aggravate this problem.

●       Turncoat candidates (persons changing parties) who found it difficult earlier to get elected are now overpowering the personality of the leader makes it easier for them to get elected. This leads to corruption, criminalisation, and a fall in ethical values in politics.

●       Populism and personality-based politics weaken the spirit of democracy and reduce space for critical debate.

 

ELECTORAL REFORMS BEFORE 1996
  • Lowering of Voting Age –
  • The 61st Constitutional Amendment Act(1988) reduced the voting age from 21 years to 18 years for the Lok Sabha and assembly elections.
  • Deputation to Election Commission –
  • A provision was made in 1988 which said that the officers and the staff engaged in preparation, revision and correction of electoral rolls for elections will be considered to be on deputation to the Election Commission for the period of such employment.
  • Increase in Number of Proposers –
    • There was an increase in the number of proposers for election to Rajya Sabha and Legislative councils in 1988.
    • The proposers (number of electors who are required to sign in nomination papers) for elections to the Rajya Sabha and state legislative council had been increased to 10 percent of the electors of the constituency or ten such electors, whichever is less.
  • Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) –
    • The use of EVMs in elections was enabled by a provision in 1989.
    • The EVMs were used for the first time in 1998on an experimental basis in selected constituencies in the elections to the State assemblies of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi.
    • The EVMs were used for the first time in the general elections (entire state) to the Assembly of Goa in 1999.
  • Booth Capturing –
    • A provision was made in 1989 for adjournment of poll or countermanding of elections in case of booth capturing.
  • Booth capturing involves –
  • seizure of a polling station and making polling authorities surrender ballot papers or voting machines;
  • taking possession of polling station and allowing only one’s own supporters to exercise their franchise;
  • threatening and preventing any elector from going to polling station; and
  • seizure of the place being used for counting of votes.
  • Elector’s Photo Identity Card (EPIC)
  • The use of electors’ photo identity cards by the Election Commission is surely making the electoral process simple, smoother and quicker.
  • A decision was taken by the Election Commission in 1993 to issue photo identity cards to electors throughout the country to check bogus voting and impersonation of electors at elections.

 

ELECTORAL REFORMS IN 1996
  • Listing of Names of Candidates –
  • The candidates contesting elections are to be classified into three lists –
  1. Candidates of recognised political parties.
  2. Candidates of registered-unrecognised political parties.
  3. Other (independent) candidates.
  • Their names in the ballot papers have to appear separately in the above order.
  • In each category these have to be arranged in the alphabetical order.
  • Disqualification for Insulting the National Honour Act –
  • A person who is convicted for the following offences under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act of 1971 is disqualified to contest in the elections to the Parliament and state legislature for 6 years
  • Offence of insulting the National Flag.
  • Offence of insulting the Constitution of India.
  • Offence of preventing the singing of the National Anthem (not national song!!)
  • Prohibition on the Sale of Liquor –
    • No liquor or other intoxicants are to be sold or given or distributed at any shop, eating place, hotel or any other place whether public or private within a polling area during the period of 48 hours ending with the hour fixed for the conclusion of the poll.
    • Any person who violates this rule is to be punished with imprisonment up to 6 months or with fine up to Rs. 2,000 or with both.
  • Number of Proposers –
    • The nomination of a candidate in a Parliamentary or assembly constituency should be subscribed by 10 registered electors of the constituency as proposers, if the candidate is not sponsored by a recognized political party.
    • In the case of a candidate sponsored by a recognized political party, only one proposer is required.
  • Death of a Candidate –
  • Earlier, in case of death of a contesting candidate before the actual polling, the election used to be countermanded and the election process used to start all over again in the concerned constituency.
  • Now, the election would not be countermanded.
  • If the deceased candidate belonged to a recognised political party, the party concerned would be given an option to propose another candidate within seven days.
  • Time Limit for By-Elections –
  • Now, by-elections are to be held within six months of occurrence of the vacancy in any House of Parliament or a State Legislature.
  • This condition is not applicable in two cases –
  1. where the remainder of the term of the member whose vacancy is to be filled is less than one year; or
  2. when the Election Commission in consultation with the Central Government, certifies that it is difficult to hold the by-elections within the said period.
  • Holiday to Employees on the Polling Day –
  • The registered voters employed in any trade, business, industry or any other establishments are entitled to a paid holiday on the polling day. This rule applies even to the daily wagers.
  • Contestants Restricted to Two Constituencies –
  • A candidate would not be eligible to contest from more than two Parliamentary or assembly constituencies at a general election or at the by-elections which are held simultaneously.
  • Prohibition of Arms –
  • Entering into the vicinity of a polling station with any kind of arms is to be considered a cognizable offence, punishable with imprisonment of up to two years or with fine or with both. Further, the arms are to be confiscated and the related license is to be cancelled.
  • These provisions are not applicable to the returning officer, presiding officer, any police officer or any other person appointed to maintain peace and order at the polling station.
  • Effective Campaigning Period Reduced –
  • The minimum gap between the last date for withdrawal of candidature and the polling date has been reduced from 20 to 14 days.

 

ELECTORAL REFORMS SINCE 2010
  • Restrictions Imposed on Exit Polls –
  • According to Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 2009, conducting exit polls and publishing results of exit polls would be prohibited during the election to Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies.
  • Time-Limit for Submitting a Case for Disqualification –
  • Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 2009 made a provision for simplification of the procedure for disqualification of a person found guilty of corrupt practices.
  • 3 months’ time was provided to specified authority who will have to submit the case of a person found guilty of corrupt practice to the President for determination of the question of disqualification.
  • All Officials Included in Corrupt Practice –
  • Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 2009 made a provision for the inclusion of all officials, whether in the government service or not, appointed or deputed by the Election Commission in connection with the conduct of elections, within the scope of corrupt practice.
  • Increase in Security Deposit –
  • Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 2009 increased the amount of security deposit to be paid by the candidates contesting elections to the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assembly too. This was to check the multiplicity of non-serious candidates.
  • Appellate Authority within the District –
  • Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 2009 made a provision for appointment of an appellate authority within the district against the orders of the Electoral Registration Officers, instead of the Chief Electoral Officer of the state.
  • A further appeal will now lie before the Chief Electoral Officer of the state.
  • Voting Rights to Citizens of India Living Abroad –
  • Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 2010 made a provision to confer voting rights to the citizens of India residing outside India.
  • Ceiling on Election Expenditure Increased –
  • In 2011, the Central Government raised the maximum ceiling on election expenditure by candidates for a Lok Sabha seat and Assembly seat.

 

VARIOUS COMMITTEES ON ELECTORAL REFORMS
DINESH GOSWAMI COMMITTEE

In 1990, Dinesh Goswami Headed a Committee made the following recommendations –

  • The ordering of re-poll or countermanding should not only be on the report of the returning officer, but also otherwise and, also to give the Election Commission the requisite powers to appoint investigating agencies, prosecuting agencies and constitution of special courts.
  • There is a need for an amendment to the anti-defection law to restrict disqualification only to those cases, where an elected member voluntarily gives up his membership of the political party, or when he votes or abstain from voting contrary to party whips, directions etc. only in respect of motion of vote of confidence. The question of disqualification of members should not be decided by the speaker or the Chairman of the concerned House.
  • Changes in the voting pattern and shift to proportional representation of the list system, instead of present voting system should be made (However, this matter was to be further discussed amongst exports
  • There should be fresh delimitation on the basis of 1981 census and there should be a provision for rotation of reserved seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
  • No candidates should be allowed to contest an election from more than two constituencies. The age of Candidates for assembly seats should be reduced to21 and for the Council to 25.
  • A model code of conduct be framed which would include issues relating to-the use of official machinery, transport, media, funds etc
  • There should be a ban on transfer of officials and staff concerted with the elections.
  • There should be a six month time limit for holding bye-elections.
  • Army and Para-military personnel, diplomats and others placed outside India should be allowed proxy voting.
  • Extensive restructuring of the accounting of election expenses is needed.
  • Speedy trial of election disputes through the help of ad-hoc judges should be ensured.
  • EVM should be used to put an end to manipulating and tempering.

 

JEEVAN REDDY COMMITTEE

Justice Jeevan Reddy has proposed far reaching Electoral Reforms. The Following are the Highlights-

  • The Commission advocated a total ban on splits and mergers of political parties during the term of the Lok Sabha or Legislative Assembly.
  • Once a member has been elected on a ticket of a particular recognized party, then he should remain in that party till the dissolution of the House or till the end of his membership by resignation or otherwise.
  • The Commission has recommended an adequate representation.
  • To curb criminalization of politics, the Commission has suggested that a person should be disqualified from contesting elections to the Lok Sabha or an Assembly if a court has ordered framing of charges in respect of offences listed in the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

 

TARKUNDE COMMITTEE

Tarkunde Committee made the following recommendations:

  • The election Commission should be a three member body.
  • The minimum age for voting should be 18 years.
  • The TV and Radio should be placed under the control of autonomous statutory corporations.
  • The committee recommended the formation of a voter’s council in as many constituencies as possible which can help in free and fair elections.
HYBRID SYSTEM
  • A hybrid/mixed system refers to an electoral system in which two systems are merged into one combining the positive features from more than one electoral system.
  • In a mixed system, there are two electoral systems using different formulae running alongside each other. The votes are cast by the same voters and contribute to the election of representatives under both systems.
  • One of those systems is a plurality/majority system (or occasionally an ‘other’ system), usually a single member district system, and the other a List PR system.
  • There are two forms of mixed system –
  • Mixed Member Proportional
  • Parallel System

Various types of Electoral Systems

  • First Past The Post System
  • Proportional Representation
  • Mixed systems also sometimes referred to as Hybrid System

** In India we follow both FTP & PR. FTP in Lok Sabha Election and PR in Rajya Sabha, President & Vice President Election

Why did we chose FPTP?

  • Simplicity – As, most of the population was not literate at the time of independence, PR SYSTEM would have been complex to understand.
  • Familiarity – Before independence several elections were held regularly on FPTP basis.
  • Favour to stability – PR system seemed unsuitable to the parliamentary government due to the tendency of the system to multiply political parties leading to instability in government.
  • PR SYSTEM establishes the party as a major centre of power whereas FPTP gives an individual as a representative of the people of a certain specific area. Given India’s condition at the time of independence this was a big concern for our leaders as people connected more to their leaders rather than a certain political party.

 

Comparison of FPTP and PR system of election

 

                     FPTP                        PR
The country is divided into small geographical

units called constituencies or districts.

Large geographical areas are demarcated as constituencies. The entire

country may be a single

constituency

Every constituency elects  one representativeMore than one representative may be

elected from one

constituency

Voter votes for a candidateVoter votes for the party
A party may get more seats than votes in the legislatureEvery party gets seats in the legislature in proportion to

the percentage of votes

that it gets

Candidate who wins the election may not get of

majority (50%+1) votes

Candidate who wins the elections gets majority votes.
Examples: U.K., IndiaExamples: Israel,

Netherlands

 

WHY IS THERE DEMAND FOR HYBRID ELECTION SYSTEM?
  • According to some Parliamentarians, “majority aspirations”and the “actual will of the people” is not getting reflected in election results
  • The first-past-the-post systemhad worked well in the beginning because there was one-party domination (of the Congress)
  • Earlier, the voting percentagewas also very high. But now because of a division of votes, a party with even a 20% share does not get a single seat.
  • This system is followed by various European countries successfully.
  • The Law Commission’s 170th and 255th report also suggested that 25% or 136 more seats should be added to the present Lok Sabha and be filled by Proportional Representation.
  • Many point out that the current system reflects a “Minority democracy” which has been ruling the country since independence.

 

SIMULTANEOUS ELECTION
  • The “One Nation, One Election” idea envisages a system where elections to all state assemblies and the Lok Sabha will have to be held simultaneously.
  • It means structuring the Indian election cycle in a manner that elections to Lok Sabha and State Assemblies are synchronized together under which voters in a particular constituency vote for both State Assembly and Lok Sabha the same day.
  • It does not mean that voting across the country for Lok Sabha and State Assemblies needs to happen on a single day
  • Earlier, SEs were held in India till 1967 which was disrupted due to premature dissolution of Assemblies.
  • Elections to the third tier of democracy cannot be included in SE because it is a part of state list as well as the number of local bodies is huges

 

ADVANTAGES OF SIMULTANEOUS ELECTIONS
  • It will reduce enormous costs involved in separate elections.
  • It will reduce the burden on the manpower deployed.
  • The system will help ruling parties focus on governance, instead of being constantly in election mode.
  • It reduces the distractions from long-term planning and policy goals.
  • It will boost voter turnout, according to the Law Commission.
  • It would increase convenience for the Election Commission. Since voters, polling personnel, and polling booths are all the same, it does not matter if the voter is casting her vote for one election or two or three.
  • Frequent elections lead to disruption of normal public life and impact the functioning of essential services. Also, during elections caste, religion and communal issues gain attention and frequency in the process perpetuates such dividing issues across the country.

 

DISADVANTAGES OF SIMULTANEOUS ELECTIONS
  • Holding simultaneous elections is likely to affect the judgment of voters as the national and state issues are different.
  • It will reduce the accountability of the government to the people as the elections will be held once in five years. But repeated elections keep legislators on their toes and increase
  • It may curtail or extend the tenure of State legislatures to bring their elections in line with the Lok Sabha poll dates.
  • There is a serious question of what happens if the government at the Centre falls.
  • There will be a blow to democracy and federalism when the President’s rule will have to be imposed in the interim period in a state. This may be due to the postponement of election in a State until the synchronised phase arrives.
  • In a Parliamentary democracy, the legitimacy of the executive is responsible to the legislature would be undermined by taking away the legislature’s power to bring down a minority regime by mandating a fixed tenure.
  • It will, in all probability, benefit the dominant national party or the incumbent at the Centre while disadvantaging the smaller regional party and issue.

 

ELECTORAL FUNDING REFORMS 

Money is central to the issue of political corruption in India and political parties are suspected to be the largest and most direct beneficiaries.

Corruption in elections reduces accountability, distorts representation, and introduces asymmetry in policymaking and governance.

The issues in electoral funding in India are: –

  • Opacity in donations: Political parties receive the majority of their funds through anonymous donations (approximately 70%) through cash.
  • Lack of action against bribes: The EC sought insertion of a new section, 58B, to RPA, 1951 to enable it to take action if parties bribe voters of a constituency, which has not come to light.
  • Unlimited corporate donations: The maximum limit of 7.5% on the proportion of the profits a company can donate to a political party has been lifted, thus opening up the possibility of shell companies being set up specifically to fund parties.
  • Allowing foreign funding: Amendment of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) has opened the floodgates of foreign funding to political parties, which can lead to eventual interference in governance.
  • Lack of transparency: Despite provisions under section 29 of RPA, 1951, parties do not submit their annual audit reports to the Election Commission. Parties have also defied that they come under the ambit of RTI act.

 

CONSEQUENCES OF LACK OF TRANSPARENCY IN ELECTORAL FUNDING
  • Quid pro quo: Donors to political campaigns can demand for favourable laws and policies, favourable government contracts, and exceptionalism in law enforcement as returns on their investments.
  • Hampers political equality: Lobbying for advantageous laws can simply redistribute advantages to particular groups instead of allocating them more fairly and productively. This hampers political equality as money power determines legal rules which could otherwise be formulated with broader concern for all the members of an electorate.
  • Criminalization of politics: When black money becomes the source, it brings the criminal elements into the fold of politics.
  • Free and fair elections cannot happen if political outcomes are determined by the financial capacity of candidates. This discourages genuine candidates from contesting, and winning elections.

 

THE CASE FOR STATE FUNDING OF ELECTIONS

Various committees have suggested state funding of elections as a way to reduce the role of money in elections. Recently, a private member’s bill has also been introduced that seeks implementation of state funding of elections.

 

ARGUMENTS IN FAVOUR OF STATE FUNDING OF ELECTIONS
  • State funding increases transparency inside the party and also in candidate finance, as certain restrictions can be put along with state funding.
  • State funding can limit the influence of wealthy people and rich mafias, thereby purifying the election process.
  • It will check quid-pro-quo and can help curb corruption.
  • Through state funding the demand for internal democracy in party, women representations, representations of weaker sections can be encouraged as it gives a level playing field to all.
  • In India, with high levels of poverty, ordinary citizens cannot be expected to contribute much to the political parties. Therefore, the parties depend upon funding by corporate and rich individuals.
  • Various committees including Indrajit Gupta Committee 1998, Law Commission of India, 2nd ARC, National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution, have favored state funding.

 

ARGUMENTS AGAINST STATE FUNDING OF ELECTIONS
  • Through state funding of elections, the taxpayers are forced to support even those political parties or candidates, whose view they do not subscribe to.
  • State funding encourages a status quo that keeps the established party or candidate in power and makes it difficult for the new parties and independent candidates.
  • State funding increases the distance between political leaders and ordinary citizens as the parties do not depend on the citizens for mobilization of party funds.
  • Political parties tend to become organs of the state, rather than being parts of the civil society.
  • It may lead to candidates running for elections just for the sake of availing monetary benefits.
  • There is a possibility of state funding being used as a supplement and not as a substitute for a candidate’s own expenditure.

 

ELECTORAL BONDS
  • According to an ADR (Association of Democratic Reforms) analysis, 69% of the total income of national and regional parties between 2004-05 and 2014-15 was contributed through funding from unknown sources.
  • The 255th Law Commission Report on Electoral Reforms observed that opacity in political funding results in “lobbying and capture” of the government by big donors.
  • Electoral bonds were announced in Union Budget 2017-18 and the required amendments in Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934 (Section 31(3)) and the Representation of People Act, 1951 were made through Section 133 to 136 of Finance Bill, 2017.

 

PROS OF ELECTORAL BONDS 
  • Tackling Black Money in Political Funding: As electoral bonds will be purchased through KYC compliance therefore it would induce funding through clean money.
  • Increasing Transparency and Accountability – Filing of returns is a welcome step in evaluating the quantum of money received by political parties as donations.
  • Anonymity – will help guard against India’s “vindictive” political culture in which parties could penalise donors for funding rival political forces.
  • Short span of 15 days for redeeming the electoral bonds will prevent it from being a parallel currency.
  • Stringent clauses of eligibility will filter out political parties that are formed on the pretext of tax evasion.

 

CONS OF ELECTORAL BONDS
  • Opacity – The knowledge of the quantum
  • Political parties are legally bound to submit their income tax returns annually under Section 13Aof the Income Tax Act, 1961. However, the finance bill also sought to exempt electoral bonds from the IT Thus, removing the need to maintain records of names, addresses of all donors.
  • Favours ruling partySBI being a government owned bank will hold all the information of the donors which can be favourable to the party in power and also deter certain entities from donating to opposition due to fear of penalisation.

 

WAY FORWARD
  • Switching to complete digital transactions.
  • Donations above a certain limit are made public to break the corporate-politico nexus.
  • Political parties should be brought under the ambit of RTI as followed in countries like Bhutan and Germany.
  • Establish a National Electoral Fund where donors contribute and funds are distributed among different parties according to their respective performances in the last elections. This will also weed out black money as well as ensure anonymity to donors.
  • State funding of elections has been suggested in the past in response to the high cost of elections.

 

SCHEMES/INITIATIVES OF ELECTION COMMISSION OF INDIA
INTRODUCTION OF THE C-VIGIL MOBILE APP
  1. The c-VIGIL App provides time-stamped, evidence-based proof of the Model Code of Conduct / Expenditure Violation, having live photo/video with auto location data.
  2. Any citizen can lodge a complaint through the Mobile App. Flying Squads will then investigate the matter and the Returning Officer takes the decision.
  3. The status of c-VIGIL can be shared with the c-VIGIL complainant within a specified time limit.

 

SYSTEMATIC VOTERS’ EDUCATION AND ELECTORAL PARTICIPATION PROGRAM-SVEEP
  1. It is the flagship program of the Election Commission of India for voter education, spreading voter awareness and promoting voter literacy in India.
  2. SVEEP’s primary goal is to build a truly participative democracy in India by encouraging all eligible citizens to vote and make an informed decision during the elections

 

PPRTMS

The Election Commission of India has launched a “Political Parties Registration Tracking Management System (PPRTMS)”.

  • The salient feature in the PPRTMS is that the applicant, who is applying for a political party registration from 1st January, 2020 will be able to track the progress of his/her application and will get status updates through SMS and e-mail.
  • Registration of political parties is governed by the provisions of Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

 

POSTAL BALLOT
  • It is also called Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot Papers (ETPB) and under this ballot papers are distributed electronically to electors and are then returned to the election officers via post.

 Beneficiaries

  • Members of the armed forces like theArmy, Navy and Air Force, members of the armed police force of a state (serving outside the state), government employees posted outside India and their spouses are entitled to vote only by post. While prisoners are not allowed to vote, people under preventive detention can cast their votes through postal ballots.
  • Special voters such as the President of India, Vice-President, Governors, Union Cabinet ministers, Speaker of the House and government officers on poll duty have the option to vote by post.

 

FACIAL RECOGNITION IN ELECTION

In the upcoming Telangana urban local bodies polls, the State Election Commission (SEC) will be using a facial recognition app for verification and real-time authentication of voters on the pilot basis in 10 selected

polling stations.

  • The use of facial recognition for election will be a first-of-its-kind in India.
  • It will help to counter impersonation by votersduring polling.
  • The facial recognition is proposed as an additional tool to validate the identity of the voterin addition to the existing procedures prescribed including use of photo electoral rolls, the insistence of photo ID proof in addition to the personal scrutiny by the polling agents appointed by the contesting candidates.

 

SUGGESTIONS FOR STRENGTHENING OF ECI
  • Election commissioners should be given the security of tenure similar to chief election commissioners.
  • ECI should have contempt powers same as the court in India. Frequent contempt affects the dignity of the institution.
  • There should be transparency in the funding of political parties.
  • ECI should be given the power to make rules under Representation of people act 1951.
  • ECI should have the power to audit the accounts of political parties.
  • Election to the legislative assembly and to the parliament should be conducted simultaneously (One Nation, One Vote).
  • Debar the candidate from contesting election if criminal cases are pending against him.
  • Make paid news an offence.
  • Do not allow one candidate to contest from more than one constituency.

 

THE LAW COMMISSION OF INDIA’S SUGGESTIONS
  • The political parties should be brought under the ambit of the RTI.
  • There should be internal democracy in political parties. Introducing internal democracy and transparency within political parties is important to promote financial and electoral accountability, reduce corruption, and improve democratic functioning of the country as a whole
  • Greater financial accountability of parties. Due to under reporting of election expenditure and opacity of political contribution the commission has been realistic in describing the current situation in a sub-section titled Understanding the reality of election financing today,
  • Transparency of Party affairs. It makes extensive and detailed recommendations, maintaining that “Disclosure is at the heart of public supervision of political finance and requires strict implementation of the provisions of the RPA, the IT Act, the Company Act, and the ECI transparency guidelines.”
  • The chapter Paid News and Political Advertising details several “instances (which) highlight the ways in which paid news and disguised political advertisements are growing deep into the process of democratic elections in India. The amount of money being spent on these practices has risen at exponential levels
  • State Funding of election model to check black money in elections; among others.

 

2ND ARC RECOMMENDATIONS
  • A system for partial state funding should be introduced in order to reduce the scope of illegitimate and unnecessary funding of expenditure for election.
  • Enforcement of Code of Conduct for elections binding in all respects, issuing directions regarding timings of campaigns, prohibition of festoons/cut-outs, insistence on daily expenditure statements, appointment of a large number of observers, ordering of re-poll in specific polling booths and other such steps.
  • The issue of disqualification of members on grounds of defection should be decided by the President/Governor on the advice of the Election Commission.
  • The Constitution should be amended to ensure that a common programme is framed before the elections or implicitly while forming the government. If there is realignment midstream with one or more parties outside the coalition, the coalition has to seek a fresh mandate from the electorate.
  • A collegium headed by the Prime Minister with the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Law Minister should make recommendations for the consideration of the President for appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commissioners.
  • Special Election Tribunals should be constituted at the regional level under Article 323B of the Constitution to ensure speedy disposal of election petitions and disputes
  • The term office of profit needs to defined, though the contours of it are set by SC but the law needs to be amended