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PM Modi recently advocated for simultaneous elections for the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies. This has set off the debate over the long pending electoral reforms in the country.

Let’s see the historical background of Electoral Reforms

Over the last 6 decades, the Election Commission (EC) had managed to make the world’s largest democratic process free and fair.

It is more often the case in India that the executive had not shown much interest on this very subject, which created space for judiciary to intervene. Experts argue that electoral reforms in India are driven more by judicial pronouncements.

Let’s see some of them –

  • In 2002, SC directed that all the contesting candidates will have to furnish all personal information, including the criminal record at the time of filing nomination papers
  • In 2013, SC held that under Sec 8(4) of RPA, 1951 – A legislator shall be disqualified automatically from being a member of the house, if he is convicted and sentenced for 2 or more years of imprisonment in a court of law < Appeal to higher court will not provide relief to legislator, which was the case earlier >
  • In another judgment in 2013, SC gave the citizens – ‘Right to negative vote‘ during elections, which came to be known as NOTA ( None of the above)
  • In 2014, SC directed the trial court to dispose off the criminal cases involving MPs and MLAs/MLCs within 1 year, after the charges are framed by court of law

So, let’s revisit the recent issues related to electoral reforms, which were making headlines in the country in the recent past:

State Funding of Elections

It basically means that govt. extending financial assistance (cash/kind) to political parties (partly/fully) for contesting elections. The objective is to control and eliminate outside pressure over govt. policies and functioning by vested interests.

It will also help in controlling the flow of unaccounted money and muscle power during elections and control the levels of corruption in public life.

Compulsory Voting

The voting in elections to Lok Sabha and Assembly are optional in India, but it is compulsory in 33 countries of the world including Brazil, Australia, Egypt, etc

The Gujarat Local Authorities Law ( Amendment) Act 2009, has made voting compulsory in local bodies election.

Bringing Political Party under RTI Act

In 2013, Central Information Commission (CIC) held that National Political Parties (NPP) are public authorities within the meaning of Sec 2(h) of RTI Act and directed them to appoint public information officer to provide necessary information as required by the citizens.

However, all the 6 NPP had defied the direction of CIC on the ground that they are not public authorities within the meaning of RTI Act.

Financial Restriction on Spending

The basic rationale behind imposing the official limits on expenditure is to provide a level playing field. This is criticized as the resources are limited, candidates are not able to convey their message and thus voters are not able to make informed choice.

The bigger problem is that candidates rely almost completely on unaccounted cash from undisclosed donors. This also negates the transparency initiatives of the EC.

Voting Rights for Prisoner’s

According to a SC judgment, prisoner’s are second-class citizens and therefore it is necessary to exclude their polluting influence from the sanctity of democratic process. It is criticized on the account that there is no-offence/ sentence based classification. It does not distinguish between prisoners, under-trials and those in lawful custody.

Use of Aadhaar

The Aadhaar no. has the potential to resolve the issue of migration and thus avoiding duplication < It makes possible to enrol a person in one polling station and simultaneously remove his name from a different polling station. Currently, this process is very cumbersome, giving rise to multiple voter cards for a single person>

It will also facilitate easy incorporation of minors in the electoral rolls, once they turn 18 < Aadhaar is also issued to Minors>

Paid News

It is basically the commercialization of news content for revenue generation by print/electronic media. It is essentially a advertisement which is disguised as professional news and published in media with the purpose of misleading the general public.

EC wants the paid news to be made electoral offence with not less than 2 years of imprisonment so that such individuals are disqualified from contesting elections.

Now, let’s come to recent issue of simultaneous elections

Debate on Simultaneous Elections?

Current System: The current system of election increases accountability as representatives are worried about fighting elections and winning it. It also gives boost to the economy, creating work opportunities for people at different levels, especially the grassroots section.

Need : Administrative issues arising out of frequent and successive elections such as the provision of Model Code of Conduct comes into play. The cost of election has also gone up along with issues such as communalism, caste conflicts, crony capitalism, etc.

Challenge: Constitutionally, it will be impossible to implement this mandate as issues like this come up, where central govt. falls, then entire state assemblies have to be dissolved too or vice versa.

Sources: Ref1 | Ref 2 | Ref3 | Ref4
Published with inputs from Pushpendra

Any doubts?


  1. vishnu hs

    CD’s news seems to be excerpts from iasbaba

    1. khwaab arora

      yea i agree too.

      1. Rahul Jain

        please share the link

  2. Tien Shang Chang

    A Balanced Ballot is a ballot where a voter has the option to vote Against instead of For. Each voter still has only one vote, each Against vote is counted as minus one. Winner is the person who gets higher net positive votes.

    Rand Corporation survey showed that if voters had the option to vote NO, Trump would have received net negative votes, more important, voter participation would have increased 7.2%.

    I have been invited to make a presentation on this topic at the World Forum for Democracy (Nov. 8-10) in Strasbourg, France.

    Adoption of the #BalancedBallot which includes the option to vote AGAINST can IMPROVE all election systems: FPTP, PR, RCV, etc…, if you accept higher voluntary participation is good for democracy, if you accept more transparent expression of voters’ wishes is good for democracy.

    I plan to start a citizens’ initiative in Berkeley to seek the adoption of this concept in that city.
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/BalancedBallotBerkeley/

    Welcome any feedback.

    Sincerely yours,

    Sam Chang
    President
    Negative Vote Association
    Taipei

    https://www.negativevote.org/pagesen.html?lang=en
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/NegativeVote//

  3. Hemen Parekh

    Electoral Reforms Capsule : A Bitter Pill ?

    If the disease is dreadful , a bitter pill is must

    Especially if the disease is eating into body vitals and headed for a “ terminal illness “ !

    Even as Punjab and Goa went to polls two days ago , it seems all the organs of our Electoral System are failing . Not one after another, but simultaneously !

    Following is a brief listing of the PROBLEMS of our Electoral Ailment and my SUGGESTIONS , for each

    PROBLEM :
    Elections are taking place , all around the country and almost every week
    This costs crores of rupees and totally disrupts administration – apart of a loss of billions
    of man-hours of productive time

    SOLUTION :
    Conduct simultaneous elections for Lok Sabha and ALL State Assemblies , on a single day , once every 5 years
    I suggest 02 Oct 2019 / 2024 / 2029 …. ( Birthday of Mahatma Gandhi )
    This can be easily done using Mobile App , “ VotesApp “
    { http://myblogepage.blogspot.in/2012/12/votesapp.html }

    Read its feasibility at :

    • HONEY , I SHRUNK THE EVM !
    { http://myblogepage.blogspot.in/2015/10/honey-i-shrunk-evm.html }

    • How to save Rs 5511 Crores
    { http://myblogepage.blogspot.in/2015/12/how-to-save-rs-5511-crores.html }

    • One Day Polling is Possible
    { http://myblogepage.blogspot.in/2016/03/one-day-polling-is-possible.html }

    • ONE POLL ; ONE TIME ?
    { http://myblogepage.blogspot.in/2016/09/one-poll-one-time.html }

    • One Nation , One Vote ?
    { http://myblogepage.blogspot.in/2016/11/one-nation-one-vote.html }

    • Reforming Elections and Lok Sabha [ REaL ]

    • { http://myblogepage.blogspot.in/2016/12/reforming-elections-and-lok-sabha-real.html }

    PROBLEM :
    Code of Conduct paralyses decision making / policy announcements , of governments

    SOLUTION :
    Once every 5 year , Code of Conduct will remain in force between 17 Sept and 02 Oct
    During this period , there will be no session of Lok Sabha / State Assemblies

    PROBLEM :
    Cash donations to Political Parties breed corruption / black money

    SOLUTION :
    • All donations ( even Re ONE ) to be made officially / digitally

    • A single Election Commission web site with a drop-list of political parties

    • Donors ( after entering their details / Aadhar Number ), can select any party and any amount and make online payment using Credit Card

    • Similar arrangement can be made through BHIM App

    • CEC will transfer donations received to designated bank accounts of each party

    • On 1st of each month , parties will be allowed to withdraw CASH equal to 5 % of the Credit Balance in their accounts . They can use this for small expenses

    • All parties to pay for goods / services through bank account for major expenses

    • With the data furnished by concerned banks and the data available from its own “ Donation Web Site “ , CEC to publish a MONTHLY statement of donations and expenses for each party with bank balance in each account

    Read :
    • Let Us begin at the Beginning
    { http://myblogepage.blogspot.in/2016/12/let-us-begin-at-beginning.html }

    PROBLEM :
    Inadequate remuneration of MPs / MLAs
    This prevents good / honest ( but low income / low wealth ) citizens to come forward to contest elections
    This also breeds corruption among elected representatives

    SOLUTION :
    • Abolish all different kinds of “ Allowances / Reimbursements / Subsidies “

    • Raise salaries as follows :
    MPs… Rs 5 lakhs/month ( Fixed Salary ) + Rs 10 lakhs/month ( Variable )
    MLAs.. Rs 2 lakhs/month ( Fixed ) + Rs 4 lakhs/month ( Variable )

    • Pay scales to include an annual Salary Increment = GDP percentage of the preceding financial year ( hopefully , this will motivate them for constructive debate and quick passage of economic reforms ! )
    There will be a provision to “ freeze “ the salary ( no annual increment ) for those whose performance is judged “ poor “ , as explained later
    • All must pay appropriate Personal Income Tax on their salary income

    • Variable Salaries to be based on Performance of concerned MP / MLA
    • { Just like the compensation of a CEO of any large listed company }

    • A “ Performance Survey “ to be conducted using Mobile App ( RepReward ) , at the end of each year

    • Voters of each Representative’s constituency to be eligible to “ Rate “ ( select the Variable Pay Amount figure ) . Average will be taken for rewarding

    PROBLEM :
    Poor productivity of Lok Sabha / State Assemblies due to unruly / obstructive behaviour of Members
    Poor participation of Members in debates / Poor attendance / Abysmal performance of duty as a representative of citizens

    SOLUTION :
    A legally binding provision on the Speaker / Election Commission to disqualify members , based on the outcome of a periodically conducted online POLL / SURVEY , of all the Members’ performance , through a Mobile App called :
    • ROMP – A Panacea ?
    { http://myblogepage.blogspot.in/2015/08/romp-panacea.html }

    • Same survey could be used to “ freeze “ the Annual Salary Increment of a Member

    PROBLEM :
    Voters do not have readily available info / data on sitting Members and candidates contesting elections , in order to decide who to vote for ( or NOTA )

    SOLUTION :
    A Mobile App based around ;
    • Filtering Candidate Information ?
    { http://myblogepage.blogspot.in/2016/09/filtering-candidate-information.html }

    PROBLEM :
    Pre-poll surveys are “ sponsored “ by political parties ( of course , at a huge cost ) , to dish out “ Voter Preference “ statistics , favouring the party footing the bill

    SOLUTION :
    Ban all pre-poll surveys for 6 months preceding the elections ( ie: from April 2019 )
    If any survey gets conducted earlier , citizens are bound to forget those statistics !
    Even if conducted before April 2019 , results cannot be published / debated after April 2019

    PROBLEM :
    Exit polls ( of voters coming out of polling booths after casting their votes ) , tend to influence other voters who have yet to cast their votes

    SOLUTION :
    Although this is currently banned , it can get worse when there are no polling booths , nor a single voter on the street ( if voting gets done through Mobile App “ VotesApp “ )

    Political parties interested in influencing the voters can enable “ fictitious polls “ to go viral on Social Media ( especially WhatsApp )

    There is no particular difficulty for the Government to persuade the Social Media to go “ Offline “ for the day of voting through “ VotesApp “

    PROBLEM :
    Political parties “ bribe “ poor voters with promise of freebies / gifts in their Election Manifestos or Vision Documents

    SOLUTION :
    Strict implementation of the Supreme Court directive in this matter

    Since next simultaneous election is proposed for 02 Oct 2019 , all political parties must first submit their Manifestos to the Election Commission , latest by April 2019 , for approval

    CEC will return the Manifestos to Political Parties , after removing all “ freebie promises “

    Only thereafter , parties can release / publish their Manifestos

    Read :
    • We are not bribing the Voters !
    { http://myblogepage.blogspot.in/2017/01/we-are-not-bribing-voters.html }

    • Model Code of ( Hypocrite ) Conduct ?
    • { http://myblogepage.blogspot.in/2017/01/model-code-of-hypocrite-conduct.html }

    • A Freebie That Cannot Be Faulted ?
    • { http://myblogepage.blogspot.in/2016/12/a-freebie-that-cannot-be-faulted.html }

    • One Up on Free Wi – Fi ?
    • { http://myblogepage.blogspot.in/2015/02/one-up-on-free-wi-fi.html }

    • Bribing the Voters ?
    • { http://myblogepage.blogspot.in/2014/03/bribing-voters.html }

    • Selling Rainbows ?
    • { http://myblogepage.blogspot.in/2014/01/selling-rainbows.html }

    • Perennial Poll Promises
    { http://myblogepage.blogspot.in/2013/12/perennial-poll-promises.html }

    • Selling Dreams ?
    • { http://myblogepage.blogspot.in/2013/11/selling-dreams.html }


    PROBLEM :
    Members of Lok Sabha / State Assemblies , having court cases pending against them for serious crimes , continue to occupy their seats with scant regard / fear of law

    SOLUTION :
    As directed by Supreme Court , constitute 15 SPECIAL COURTS , exclusively for trying and completing these pending cases WITHIN ONE YEAR

    Read :
    • All Seasons Are Election Seasons

    { http://myblogepage.blogspot.in/2014/05/all-seasons-are-election-seasons.html }
    • Sun never Sets
    { http://myblogepage.blogspot.in/2014/04/sun-never-sets.html }

    • Crime Does Not Pay ?
    • { http://myblogepage.blogspot.in/2013/10/crime-does-not-pay.html }

    • Your Move
    { http://myblogepage.blogspot.in/2013/10/your-move.html

    PROBLEM :
    Irrespective of the merits of a Government proposal , opposition parties believe that their job is to “ Oppose – Anything and Everything “ !
    Most of the time, they are thinking about “ empowering “ their parties and their members and refuse to act so as to “ Empower the People / the Nation “

    SOLUTION :
    We must find a method whereby all parties cooperate with the government , to expeditiously pass legislation that solves problems of our country

    Such a solution must give to all parties , a “ Sense of Enlarged Participation “ in the process of governing the country / building the Nation

    And that solution is :

    A GOVERNMENT IN WHICH , ALL OPPOSITION PARTIES GET “ MINISTERIAL POSITIONS “ , IN PROPORTION TO THEIR PERCENTAGE STRENGTH IN THE LOK SABHA / STATE ASSEMBLIES !

    For details , read :

    • A Constitutional Coalition Government ?
    • { http://myblogepage.blogspot.in/2016/10/a-constitutional-coalition-government.html }

    • Constitutional Coalition Aftershocks !
    • { http://myblogepage.blogspot.in/2016/10/constitutional-coalition-aftershocks.html }

    Dear Narendrabhai :

    As of now , people of India have lost all trust in “ Elections as a Process “

    Unless our political parties agree to swallow the bitter pill described above , I am afraid our citizens will lose all faith in “ Democracy as concept of Good Governance “

    06 Feb 2017
    http://www.hemenparekh.in / blogs

    1. SRUSHTI DESHMUKH

      Nice Compilation Sir..!

  4. Leenika Sharma

    SIR How FCRA 2010 willll affect there contri to CSR ????

    1. Leenika Sharma

      I mean the amendment affect

  5. Ritesh Sandilya

    It would be more useful if you put current affairs along basic information about that. Thank you

SC clears 12 special courts to try cases against politicians

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Fast-track courts, provisions related to election of convicted persons to Parliament/legislative assemblies

Mains level: Electoral reforms being brought about by Judiciary


News

SC nod to set up 12 fast track courts 

  1. The Supreme Court gave the green signal for the Centre’s scheme to set up 12 fast-track courts
  2. These courts will exclusively prosecute and dispose of 1,581 criminal cases pending against Members of Parliament and State Legislative Assemblies within a year
  3. The States shall, in consultation with the High Courts concerned, make the courts operational by March 1, 2018

About the scheme

  1. These 1,581 criminal cases were declared by politicians in their nominations during the 2014 general elections
  2. The scheme proposes to club the cases of several politicians together and have one court hear them
  3. This way it is expected that a special court would finish at least 100 cases a year
  4. The Supreme Court directed the High Courts, acting through the various trial courts, to trace out from the case records the criminal cases pending against politicians and transfer them to the special courts concerned for adjudication

Read more about the issue here

Electoral bonds likely to carry validity of 15 days

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Electoral bond, promissory note

Mains level: Black money usage in elections and ways to reduce it


News

Guidelines for electoral bonds

  1. To prevent misuse of proposed electoral bonds, the government is likely to cap the validity at 15 days within which such bonds — bearer in nature — have to be redeemed by political parties
  2. Such bonds would be bearer in nature so that those having it can encash through only one notified account within stipulated time
  3. As per the electoral bond mechanism, the proposed bonds will resemble a promissory note and not an interest-paying debt instrument

What does this mean?

  1. Each party will have one notified bank account
  2. All bonds are to be deposited in that particular account
  3. It is a paper currency and needs to be encashed in 15 days, otherwise, it loses validity

Effort to reduce black money usage in elections

  1. The short duration of bonds will ensure these cannot be misused and the objective of reducing the incidence of black money in political funding is achieved

Special courts to try politicians, Centre informs SC

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Provisions related to elections

Mains level: Electoral reforms by judiciary


News

12 special courts to be set up

  1. The Centre informed the Supreme Court that it will set up at least 12 special courts to try exclusively criminal cases involving MPs and MLAs
  2. The scheme had been given in-principle approval by the Finance Ministry on December 8

Why this move?

  1. The court on November 1 had directed the Centre to place before it details of 1,581 cases involving MPs and MLAs,
  2. This had to be as per the declaration by the politicians at the time of filing their nominations during the 2014 general elections
  3. Supreme Court had directed in November to the government to frame a Central scheme for setting up special courts across the country exclusively to try criminal cases involving “political persons”

[op-ed snap] The one-election idea is a farce

Image Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: The newscards discusses arguments against simultaneous elections in India, which is a much discussed issue.


News

Four reasons cited by the PM in support of Simultaneous Elections

  1. Massive expenditure
  2. Diversion of security and civil staff from primary duties
  3. Impact on governance due to the model code of conduct
  4. And disruption to normal public life

Data on Election Cost

  1. The Election Commission incurs a total cost of roughly Rs. 8,000 crore to conduct all State and federal elections in a span of five years, or roughly Rs. 1,500 crore every year
  2. Nearly 600 million Indians vote in India’s elections, which means, it costs Rs. 27 per voter per year to keep India an electoral democracy
  3. All the States and the Centre combined incurred an expenditure of nearly Rs. 30 lakh crore in FY2014
  4. Surely, 0.05% of India’s total annual expenditure is not a large price to pay for the pride of being the world’s largest and most vibrant electoral democracy

Effect of frequent model code of conducts

  1. The model code of conduct for elections was agreed to by political parties in 1979
  2. And prohibits the ruling party from incurring capital expenditure for certain projects after elections are announced
  3. We can counter this issue with “cooperative federalism”, where more development projects are taken by State Governments rather than Central Government
  4. And if all political parties still feel the need to reform the code, they are free to do so. The solution is to reform the code and not the electoral cycle

Other issues cited by the expert against simultaneous elections

  1. Diversion of civil staff and disruption of public life were the two other reasons cited
  2. These two reasons are very weak when measured against the costs of limiting electoral opportunities for citizens
  3. Issue of voting to the same party: all simultaneous elections to State Assemblies and Parliament between 1999 and 2014 shows that simultaneous elections do have an impact on voter behaviour
  4. In 77% of these constituencies, voters chose the same political party for both State and Centre
  5. When elections were held even six months apart, only 61% chose the same political party
  6. When elections became disparate, there was no evidence of the voter choosing the same party

Simultaneous elections will affect political autonomy of states

  1. Simultaneous elections impinge on the political autonomy of States
  2. Today, any elected State government can choose to dissolve its Assembly and call for fresh elections
  3. If elections are to be held simultaneously, States will have to give up this power and wait for a national election schedule

The way forward

  1. There is still much that is wrong with our nation in its governance and elections
  2. But disparate elections to States and Parliament are not one of them
  3. There is much to improve in terms of efficiency of our governance. But “oneness” is not the desired path to efficiency in a diverse polity such as India

‘Way to remove poll commissioners vague’

Note4Students

Mains Paper2: Powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: Election Commission

Mains level: The news card talks about the issue of vagueness in the procedure for of removal Election Commissioners as the Constitution only provides safeguard to CEC from the arbitrary removal.


News

Context

  1. The Supreme Court on Friday sought the Attorney-General’s assistance on a PIL petition pointing out the vagueness in the procedure for removal of Election Commissioners, saying it affects the Election Commission’s autonomy.
  2. A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra asked for a copy of the petition to be served on Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal so that he could address the court on the issue which is due to come up after three weeks.

The Petition

  1. The petition filed by Supreme Court advocate argued that though the proviso to Article 324 (5) of the Constitution safeguards the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) from arbitrary removal, the same provision is silent about the procedure for removal of the two Election Commissioners.
  2. It only provides that they cannot be removed from office except on the recommendation of the CEC.
  3. The petition said the ambiguity about the removal procedure of the Election Commissioners may affect the functional independence of the Commission.
  4. It contended that the rationale behind not affording similar protection to Election Commissioners is not explicable.
  5. The element of independence sought to be achieved under the Constitution is not exclusively for an individual alone but for the institution.
  6. The petition, in short, has asked the Supreme Court to provide Election Commissioners with the same protection against arbitrary removal as the Chief Election Commissioner.

Same powers

  1. The CEC and the Election Commissioners enjoy the same decision-making powers which are suggestive of the fact that their powers are at par with each other.
  2. However, Article 324(5) does not provide similar protection to the Election Commissioners and it merely says that they cannot be removed from office except on the recommendation of the CEC.

Tenure

  1. The CEC and the Election Commissioners have tenure of six years, or up to the age of 65, whichever is earlier.
  2. Also, they enjoy the same status and receive salary and perks as available to Supreme Court judges.

 

 

 

 

SC notice to EC on plea to ban convicts from running parties

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Powers available to EC under various constitutional and statutory provisions, Quasi judicial bodies

Mains level: Electoral reforms and role of judiciary in it


News

Notice issued by SC to Election commission and Central govt

  1. The Supreme Court issued notice to the Centre and Election Commission on a Public Interest Litigation that sought a ban on convicted persons from forming political parties or becoming office-bearer of a party

What will SC decide in PIL?

  1. SC will examine if the Election Commission was empowered under Section 29A of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951 to derecognise a political party so formed or to disqualify the person
  2. Section 29A deals with registration of political parties

Provisions in RP Act and other judgments

  1. There are certain provisions under the 1951 Act which disqualify people from contesting the election
  2. A 2002 judgment of the apex court in Indian National Congress (I) vs Institute of Social Welfare & others, which spoke about “three exceptions” in which the Election Commission can review its order on registering a political party
  3. It is a duty of the Election Commission to exercise a quasi-judicial power

Contradictions in law

  1. By virtue of sections 8, 8A, 9, 9A, 10 and 11 of the Act of 1951, it has already been held that candidates convicted under criminal laws are disqualified from contesting elections with immediate effect
  2. Section 29 A is in total conflict with this objective to decriminalise politics in so far as it does not debar such convicts from making, operating and running a political party

What does PIL seek?

  1. It wants the court to declare unconstitutional Section 29A
  2. Also, to authorise the ECI to de-register political parties taking in account the reports by the Goswami Committee on electoral reform

Electoral bonds: Govt, RBI finalising norms; unveiling likely by year-end

Note4Students

Mains Paper2 | Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: Electoral Bonds

Mains level: This news card talks discusses Electoral Bonds and some concerns regarding them.


News

Context

The government is expected to unveil the electoral bonds scheme by the end of next month as the finance ministry and the Reserve Bank of India are close to finalising the norms for these bonds.

Background

  1. Finance minister during his Budget speech, had proposed steps for cleansing political funding, including a ban on cash donations of over Rs 2,000 to a political party from any individual.
  2. He had also announced the proposal to issue electoral bonds through which a donor could buy bonds from authorised banks against cheques and digital payments that would be redeemable only in the designated account of a registered political party.

Electoral Bonds

  1. These bonds are likely to be issued by the RBI and some public sector banks and will have a limited validity during which these can be deposited into designated accounts of the political parties.
  2. The government has taken into consideration the issues of transparency raised by the Election Commission and other stakeholders.
  3. These bonds will not be allowed to be traded.
  4. The smallest bond may be of Rs 1,000 denomination and donors can buy them in multiples.

Other changes related to Electoral Bonds

  1. The government had also introduced omission of the first proviso in Section 182 of the Companies Act, 2013, which consequently removed limits on corporate donations to political parties.
  2. Under Section 29C of the Representation of the People (RP) Act, political parties have to file contribution reports complete with details of donors for any contribution above Rs 20,000.
  3. This was amended in the Budget session this year to introduce a proviso and explanation that exempts political parties from disclosing donations received from electoral bonds, even if it is above the prescribed limit.
  4. According to Finance Bill amendments, the previous limit of 7.5 per cent of the average three-year net profit for donations has been removed and companies are no longer required to name the parties to which contributions are made they will be required to disclose the amount.

Concern raised by EC regarding Electoral Bonds

  1. Former Chief Election Commissioner had expressed concerns saying that electoral bonds would impact transparency negatively and the poll panel had not been consulted.
  2. But the government has reiterated the need to cleanse the entire system of political funding.

 

 

No fresh polls if NOTA votes exceed candidates’

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NOTA option

Mains level: Reforms in election process


News

PIL rejected

  1. Supreme couert rejected a public interest litigation petition suggesting fresh elections whenever the public chose overwhelmingly the “None of the Above” (NOTA) option
  2. The court said a voter had the right to express his dissent by staying at home

Arguments put forward by SC

  1. Let us say the highest percentage of votes polled by a candidate is 40 and the rest goes to NOTA
  2. Does this mean we subject this candidate to another election
  3. This means there should be an election each time a candidate gets less than 51% of the votes polled
  4. Saying this will be crossing a constitutional barricade

Back2Basics

NOTA option

  1. “None Of The Above”, or NOTA for short, also known as “against all” or a “scratch” vote, is a ballot option in some jurisdictions or organizations, designed to allow the voter to indicate disapproval of all of the candidates in a voting system
  2. It is based on the principle that consent requires the ability to withhold consent in an election, just as they can by voting “No” on ballot questions
  3. When “None of the Above” is listed on a ballot, there is the possibility of NOTA receiving a majority or plurality of the vote, and so “winning” the election
  4. In such a case, a variety of formal procedures may be invoked, including having the office remain vacant, having the office filled by appointment, re-opening nominations or holding another election (in a body operating under parliamentary procedure), or it may have no effect whatsoever, as in India

[op-ed snap] The danger of electoral bonds

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Citizens charters, transparency & accountability & institutional & other measures

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Law Commission, Association of Democratic Reforms, Representation of the People Act, The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA)

Mains level: Funding to political parties


Context

  1. Transparency in political funding is the global norm
  2. 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
  3. The lower the transparency in political funding, the easier it is for the super-rich to buy the kind of government they want

Funding to political parties

  1. According to the NGO, Association of Democratic Reforms, 69% of the income of political parties is from unknown sources
  2. Even the 31% from known sources pertains only to the income that the parties declare to the Income Tax (IT) department
  3. The real incomes of political parties are far greater than their declared income, all due to black money
  4. Not only is the source unknown for the greater chunk of a party’s income, even the very existence of this income is ‘unknown’, as it is not captured in any official record

Declaration norms

These are traditionally governed by four legislations

  1. The Representation of the People Act (RPA),
  2. The IT Act,
  3. The Companies Act, and
  4. The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA)
  • Under these laws, political parties have to declare the source and the amount donated for all contributions above ₹20,000
  • Political parties cannot accept foreign contributions
  • Similarly, companies have to declare in their profit and loss (P&L) statement the party-wise break-up of political donations
  • Also, a company must be at least three years old to contribute to a party
  • Its contribution cannot be more than 7.5% of its average net profit in the three preceding years

Making way for Electoral bonds

  1. The government set the ball rolling with the Finance Act 2016, which amended the FCRA to allow political parties to accept donations from foreign companies
  2. This year, the Finance Act 2017 did the rest, by amending the RPA, the Companies Act, and the IT Act
  3. The Reserve Bank of India Act was also amended to enable the issuance of electoral bonds, which would be sold through notified banks

What electoral bonds do?

  1. Electoral bonds are essentially bearer bonds that ensure donor anonymity
  2. They are like cash, but with an expiry date.
  3. Let’s say company ‘X’ wishes to contribute ₹100 crore to political party ‘Y’
  4. It could buy ten electoral bonds of ₹10 crore each from bank ‘A’
  5. These bonds would carry only a serial number and not the identity of the buyer
  6. X would have these bonds deposited in Y’s designated account with bank ‘B’
  7. B would know that this money belongs to Y but it doesn’t record the fact that it has come from X

Changes in donation limitations via Electoral bonds

  1. The cluster of amendments around electoral bonds eliminate the 7.5% cap on company donations
  2. This means even loss-making companies can make unlimited donations
  3. The requirement for a company to have been in existence for three years is also scrapped
  4. Companies no longer need to declare the names of the parties to which they have donated
  5. As for political parties, they no longer need to reveal the donor’s name for contributions above ₹20,000, provided these are in the form of electoral bonds
  6. A foreign company can anonymously donate unlimited sums to an Indian political party without the EC or the IT department ever getting to know

Danger to democracy

  1. The most pernicious feature of electoral bonds is their potential to load the dice heavily in favor of the ruling party
  2. Banks receiving donation amounts on behalf of political parties as well as companies report to the RBI which, in turn, is subject to the Central government’s will to know
  3. So, only the ruling party — and no one else — can ascertain which companies donated to the Opposition parties
  4. It is then free to use the organs of the state to gently dissuade (or retaliate against) these misguided donors
  5. Only the government is in a position to harass, or alternatively, protect, donors from harassment by non-state harassers

Way forward

  1. Former Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi has suggested an alternative worth exploring
  2. A National Electoral Fund to which all donors can contribute
  3. The funds would be allocated to political parties in proportion to the votes they get
  4. Not only would this protect the identity of donors, it would also weed out black money from political funding

[op-ed snap] Making party bosses give up their powers

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Law Commission of India, MPLADS and MLALADS

Mains level: Reforms required in political party structure in India


Context

  1. Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a debate on levels of intra-party democracy in different political parties in India
  2. He also stressed that the quality of a democracy ultimately depends on internal democracy (or the lack of it) in political parties

Importance of intra-party democracy in the success of a democracy

  1. In its 170th report in 1999, the Law Commission of India underscored the importance of intra-party democracy
  2. It argued that a political party cannot be a “dictatorship internally and democratic in its functioning outside”

Is central control inevitable?

  1. The opacity of political financing necessitates “unhindered top-down control” and “absolute loyalty down the line”
  2. The fear of party fragmentation, not uncommon in India, also drives the desire for centralized control

Anti-defection law is also responsible for low intra-party democracy

  1. By making it mandatory for the legislator to vote along her party line, this law has done immense damage to both intra-party democracy and the accountability of a legislator towards her constituency
  2. It also skews the balance of power between the executive and the legislature
  3. The legislator is no longer empowered to act as an effective check on the government of the day

Patronage politics increases due to MPLADS and MLALADS

  1. Local area development schemes like MPLADS and MLALADS that vest an annual sum with the members of Parliament and legislative assemblies for development work in their constituencies skew the balance in favor of state and Central legislators
  2. This is at the expense of city- and village-level administrators
  3. These schemes unjustly favor the incumbent representative and also exacerbate the problem of patronage politics

Way forward

  1. Unlike some countries like Germany and Portugal, India has no legal provision for enforcing internal democracy in a political party
  2. There are some related provisions in the Election Commission guidelines but those are neither adequate nor enforceable
  3. Anti-defection law should be done away with, especially for those votes where the survival of the government is not at stake
  4. MPLADS and MLALADS should be scrapped
  5. A partial state subsidy should be provided to fund elections and political parties, which will increase accountability

[op-ed snap] In defence of the Election Commission

Image Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Issue is related to the transparency of the Election Commission.


News

Context

  1. The article talks about the recent controversies related to the Gujarat’s elections date and some historical controversies related to various elections.

Recent controversy of dates of Gujarat Election

  1. In the time between the announcement of the election dates for Himachal Pradesh and the Gujarat, the state’s BJP government has come up with a raft of sops and schemes
  2. Former chief election commissioner T.S. Krishnamurthy has rightly called it an avoidable controversy

People’s trust in the ECI

  1. The comprehensive three-year State of Democracy in South Asia project begun in 2004 found that the ECI stood second only to the army among state institutions when it came to public trust
  2. There is substantive reason for such trust
  3. As with so many foundational aspects of the state, the liberal democratic instincts of the Constitution’s framers, who established the ECI as a constitutional body and gave it a robust mandate
  4. And of the country’s first prime minister who scrupulously guarded that mandate and the ECI’s authority—have stood the country in good stead

1991 controversy with the Haryana government

  1. In 1991 and the Haryana government was not pleased with T.N. Seshan
  2. The new CEC was taking on all comers
  3. In a clash over pre-poll transfer orders, Seshan announced that “when an irresistible force meets an immovable object, one has to yield”
  4. The irreverence and chutzpah neatly summed up Seshan’s tenure at the helm of the EC

Positive consequences of these controversies

  1. This gets to the heart of the ECI’s role in the Indian political system
  2. Its normative authority lends legitimacy to a political establishment that has often struggled for public trust
  3. The prickly independence that irks political parties also sustains them
  4. For this, the executive, legislature and judiciary must all share the credit
  5. Even with numerous confrontations, they have conspired to protect the ECI’s authority—a welcome display of institutional wisdom

Current situation

  1. The ECI is still a work in progress
  2. It has stumbled badly at times
  3. The ugly spat in 2009 between then CEC N. Gopalaswami and EC Navin Chawla, with the former recommending the latter’s removal on grounds of partisanship, damaged the institution’s credibility
  4. And its seeking contempt powers earlier this year was an egregious overstepping of bounds worthy of Seshan

The way forward

  1. By and large, the ECI functions effectively as a deterrent in India’s political system
  2. Political parties play along even when it inconveniences them because they understand that they will some day require the protection it affords weaker actors from the stronger—those in power
  3. They should remember this when they are tempted to undermine its authority

[op-ed snap] The mandate, the mirror

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Indian Constitution- significant provisions and basic structure.

 

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: First Past the Post System

Mains level: Electoral reforms in India

 


News

Context-

  1. The article discusses pros and cons of various electoral systems like the First Past the Post, Preferential ballot system and List system.
  2. The author also argues that it could be a good idea to have additional seats in Lok Sabha for smaller parties that poll significant votes but fail to get any seats.

 

What is First Past the Post (FPTP) System?

  1. In this voting method voters indicate on a ballot thecandidate of their choice, and the candidate who receives most votes wins.

Criticisms of FPTP-

  1. Reflects ground reality unfairly: It allows a disproportionate relation between the votes a party polls and the seats it garners. This disproportion is two-fold: Some parties suffer due to an adverse ratio between votes and seats while some benefit from it and win too many seats.

Explained: In the last parliamentary elections, for instance, the BJP polled under one-third votes and managed to win more than 50 per cent of the seats. In contrast, the Congress polled under one-fifth votes but it could win just 8 per cent seats.

  1. Two, the winning candidate does not necessarily have a real (that is, absolute) majority in the constituency.

 

Counter-arguments-

  1. The system that is sometimes erroneously seen as unfair might actually be articulating the reality a bit more sharply and correctly. This can be justified by the following facts. During the period of 1989-2014, there is a decreasing trend in the Congress’s votes and seat share (both) and increasing trend of the same for the BJP in the same period. Also, this period is widely accepted as the period of decline of the Congress and the rise of the BJP. So, the FPTP in turn quite accurately reflects the ground reality.
  2. Not absolute but relative majority: The logic behind the present system of plurality is that it is adequate if a candidate is “more” popular than any other contestant. To expect a candidate always to have clear or absolute majority would be unrealistic and unnecessary as a democratic precondition.

 

Alternative to Vote-Seat inconsistency: List System-

PROS-

  1. Adopt a List System: In this system parties are allotted seats in proportion to the votes they poll. In case of parties that are new entrants or parties who have very narrow support base (community based) such a system could be a good alternative to win seats.
  2. A list system would genuinely encourage a multi-party system whereas the plurality system is often supposed to encourage two-party system.

CONS-

  1. Our present system is based on the idea of constituency-level representation. The list system would nullify that or, at best, craft huge (often state-wide) multi-member constituencies and even then, the relation between the voter (the constituency) and the candidate (representative) would be snapped.
  2. The grip of the party over legislators would possibly become vicious because the candidature of a particular person would be less important than the party leader and the party brand name.

 


Back2basics

  1. Preferential Voting System: It is a system of voting in which voters indicate their first, second, and lower choices of several candidates for a single office. If no candidate receives a majority, the second choices are added to the first choices until one candidate has a majority.

 

Simultaneous polls feasible: EC

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Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Structure of the Election commission, Representation of People’s Act, etc.

Mains level: Simultaneous elections are directly related to the Representation of People’s Act, which is specially mentioned in the syllabus. Also, it is a much debated topic in politics.


News

Elections Commission on simultaneous elections

  1. Election Commission is favoring simultaneous elections
  2. But it said, all political parties need to be brought on board before such an exercise was carried out

Why is EC favoring this?

  1. Simultaneous elections will give enough time to the incumbent government to formulate policies and implement programmes continuously for a longer time
  2. It will also decrease the interruptions caused by the imposition of the model code of conduct

How can it be possible?

  1. The step would be possible only when necessary changes were carried out in the Constitution and the Representation of the People Act
  2. Existing legal and constitutional provisions mandate that elections are to be held within six months ahead of the end of the term of an Assembly or the Lok Sabha

Back2basics

For a comprehensive reading on the Representation of People’s act, Click here

One nation, many polls

Note4Students

Mains Paper 2 | Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure.

Prelims: Procedure of Elections to the Lok Sabha and State legislative assemblies.

Mains level: This a hot topic for Mains 2017, has been in news for a while. This article lists out the merits and concerns regarding simultaneous polls for Lok Sabha and State legislative assemblies.

 


News

Context

  1. The idea of simultaneous elections to Parliament and state assemblies has been around for some time now.
  2. It has been examined by the parliament standing committee and the Niti Aayog. Prime Minister has also advocated it.
  3. Now, the Election Commission has said it would be possible, logistically, to hold simultaneous polls to the central and state legislatures by September 2018.
  4. However the idea remains contested one, drawing some valid discontent and the solution it offers is problematic anti-democratic.

Concerns about election process in India-

There are genuine concerns about the unrelenting election calendar in India, with a poll always around the corner-

  1. It takes a toll in terms of the mounting costs — the growing sums of money spent by the candidates, political parties and government, and the routine flouting of all caps and limits on expenses.
  2. A price is also to be paid on the governance front, with ruling parties succumbing to the populist promise and scheme because of an impending election.
  3. The government slows to a standstill after the code of conduct comes into force ahead of over-long multi-phase polls.

Concerns regarding simultaneous elections-

  1. Elections to assemblies who have not completed their five year term yet that is, if simultaneous elections are to be held in 2018-19, what happens to assemblies in states that went to polls last year or this year?
  2. Mid term Polls– After simultaneous polls are held, what if a full five-year term is interrupted by political realignments in an assembly, or assemblies?  In a vigorous and diverse democracy, there is no guarantee, either, that the Lok Sabha will run for its full term.
  3. Insistence on uniformity and tidiness would only undermine the people’s will by making politics more unresponsive and unrepresentative.
  4. Democratic politics must not be circumscribed by an artificial fixity of tenure of the legislature. Holding elections simultaneously will impact basic ethos of democracy.

Divergence from simultaneous polls after first elections in Independent India

  1. The first election in independent India was held simultaneously at the Centre and in the states.
  2. But election cycles soon diverged once the realities of mid-term polls, a multi-party system, coalition politics and a federalising politywere realized.
  3. The federalisation of the polity has deepened democracy in India, with every state evolving its own specific format and time-table of political competition, and throwing up its own set of priorities and issues.
  4. The parliamentary, federal system has worked well for a country of diverse voices and many minorities.

 


Conclusion

The idea of simultaneous polls — one nation, one polls — threatens to re-arrange, curb and flatten out this plural and layered federal system by giving it a more presidential and unitary character. It must be resisted.

 

Q.)Discuss the merits and demerits of conducting simultaneous elections for State Assemblies and Parliament.

First-past-post: House panel asks parties if election system should change

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Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: FPTP, Electoral Bonds

Mains level: A possible future Electoral Reform


News

 Discussions on “different systems of elections”

  1. An all-party Parliamentary panel is exploring “different systems of elections”, other than the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system
  2. FPTP is currently followed in the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls
  3. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, has sent a six-page “Questionnaire on Electoral Reforms” to all parties and the Election Commission

What is ‘First Past the Post’ system?

  1. A first-past-the-post (abbreviated as FPTP, 1stP, 1PTP or FPP) voting method is one in which voters indicate on a ballot the candidate of their choice, and the candidate who receives most votes wins
  2. First-past-the-post voting is one of several plurality voting methods
  3. It is a common, but not universal, feature of electoral systems with single-member electoral divisions; in fact, first-past-the-post voting is widely practiced in close to one third of the world’s countries
  4. Some notable examples include the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, India and most of the colonies and protectorates either currently or formerly belonging to these countries

Why is the PSC exploring different systems of elections?

  1. According the PSC, in recent years the FPTP system is not the best suited system as is evident from the recent Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh
  2. Many Opposition leaders have reminded the BJP that it won the 2014 Lok Sabha polls because of the FPTP system
  3. As the party polled only about 31 per cent of the vote share

Other issues discussed by the panel

  1. The views of parties and the EC have been sought under five heads: (1) ‘Electoral Funding’, (2) ‘Systems of Elections’, (3) ‘Media/ Free Airtime’, (4) ‘Internal Democracy in Political Parties’, and (5) ‘Miscellaneous’
  2. On the issue of electoral funding, the panel has sought views on the electoral bonds and on the proposal regarding state funding of elections

Government clears proxy vote move for NRIs

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Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Indian Diaspora

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: What is proxy voting?

Mains level: Important electoral reform. One should go through its benefits for Mains paper 2


News

Changes in Electoral Laws

  1. The Government has approved changes in electoral laws to permit Non-Resident Indians to cast their vote in assembly and Lok Sabha elections from overseas
  2. If the proposal passes in Parliament, NRIs will be able to exercise their voting rights through “proxy
  3. Currently, only service personnel are permitted to vote through proxy

Why is proposed facility of proxy for NRIs different from service personnel?

  1. The facility for NRIs will not be the same as that enjoyed by service personnel
  2. For example, voters in the armed forces can nominate their relatives as permanent proxy to vote on their behalf
  3. Facility for NRIs: Overseas electors will have to appoint a nominee afresh for each election
  4. One person can act as proxy for only one overseas voter

EC must consider state funding of polls: Nirmala

  1. Source: Commerce & Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman
  2. She said the Election Commission of India (ECI) needs to look into the proposal for state funding of elections
  3. Reason: To combat the influence of cash and black money in them

Note4students:

State funding of elections and other electoral reforms such as one state and national election have been in the news frequently these past few months. They are important for mains.

Back2basics:

State funding essentially means the state shall provide funds to political parties to contest elections, and in return, there are restrictions on their accepting funds from public sources. State funding is a concept designed to reduce corruption. Some govt committees which have looked at state funding of elections in the past are:

1. The Committee on Constitutional Reforms and the Law Commission (2015)

2. Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2008)

3. National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (2001)

SC declines to go into Hindutva verdict

  1. The SC declined a plea of social activist Teesta Setalvad to check the “devastating consequences” of its 1995 judgment defining Hindutva or Hinduism as a “way of life”
  2. The Bench clarified that it is presently only examining what constitutes corrupt electoral practices under Section 123 (3) of The Representation of the People Act, 1951

Era of e-postal ballots dawns, courtesy EC’s new initiative II

  1. The change will go a long way in easing logistical issues involved in ensuring that the ballot paper of the constituency, where a voter is eligible to vote, is sent in time
  2. With the new rule, the returning officer can send it through a web portal with a ‘One Time Password’ to voters. The voter needs to download the ballot for voting
  3. Postal ballots: In India, postal ballots have played a critical role in extending the electoral process to voters unable to exercise their franchise
  4. This is due to either the nature of their job or geographical location of their posting. The armed forces best illustrate the point

Era of e-postal ballots dawns, courtesy EC’s new initiative I

  1. Event: A change in ‘The Conduct of Election Rules, 1961’
  2. Result: This allows a returning officer in any constituency, to send postal ballots to an eligible voter “by electronic means as specified by the Election Commission”
  3. In the 2014 general elections, over one million voters used postal ballots
  4. Previously: Till now, postal ballots were sent through the Department of Posts

Hindutva as ‘way of life’ challenged

  1. Event: Case before SC Constitution Bench on how parties and candidates misuse religion to swing votes
  2. What: Three citizens urged the SC to undo the “devastating consequences” of its 1996 judgment defining Hindutva as a way of life
  3. The 1996 case is the Dr. Ramesh Yeshwant Prabhoo versus Prabhakar K. Kunte judgment
  4. 3 applicants, including anti-Godhra activist Teesta Setalvad, argued that Hindutva has become a mark of nationalism and citizenship
  5. According to them the 1996 interpretation has curtailed faith in secularism, which is the basic feature of the Constitution

Compulsory voting is not practical in India, says Zaidi II

  1. The CEC said the Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation project has over the years given creditable gains in a relatively short period of time
  2. There was a 66.4% voter turnout in an electorate of 834 million in the national elections held in 2014, the highest in 6 decades
  3. Women’s participation was at a record high of 65.6 per cent

Compulsory voting is not practical in India, says Zaidi I

  1. Source: Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Nasim Zaidi
  2. He said the idea of compulsory voting has not been found so practical in India
  3. However, comparative benefits of compulsory voting and education-led mobilisation of voters will be worth examining
  4. The government had earlier said it would not be possible to bring in a law that punishes those who do not vote
  5. The govt. statement had been in reference to a private members Bill in the LS on compulsory voting

SC’s poser on misuse of religion in elections

  1. Event: SC hearing on the practice of using the mass appeal of religious leaders to canvas votes for candidates
  2. Case is being heard by a seven-judge Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice T.S. Thakur
  3. Issue: The Bench is testing the limits of Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act
  4. It is looking to give an authoritative pronouncement on what are the various means by which misuse of religion or faith of the masses for electoral gains can be categorised as a corrupt practice
  5. Previous SC judgments: 1995 judgment, delivered by Justice J.S. Verma
  6. The 1995 verdict held that canvassing votes in the name of ‘Hindutva/Hinduism’ did not prejudicially affect any candidate as Hindutva is a way of life of the people in the sub-continent and ‘a state of mind’

[op-ed snap] The case against simultaneous polls

  1. Theme: Simultaneous polls at national and state level
  2. Background: Online public consultation has been initiated by the Central Government to seek inputs about the desirability of simultaneous elections for the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies.
  3. Various arguments for and against simultaneous polls: Simultaneous polls will help in saving a lot of money. But imposing simultaneous elections to cut costs, privileges monetary concerns over democratic principles.
  4. With multiple elections, the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) is in force for much of the time which slows down development work. Simultaneous polls will thus result in better governance. But, a better solution would be to make changes in the MCC so that it comes into force on notification rather than on announcement of elections.
  5. Also, there is already a provision in the MCC that the Election Commission can permit the Government to take policy decisions that are not likely to have any implications for the electoral outcome.
  6. And, MCC applies only to the State where Assembly elections are to be held. It should not impact governance in the rest of the country and at the Centre.
  7. Imposing simultaneous elections would undermine the federal structure of our country that the Constitution envisages.
  8. When elections are held simultaneously, there is a tendency among the voters to vote for the same party both for electing the State government as well as the Central government. It would thus go against the political diversity which is essential for addressing the social diversity of India.
  9. Other issues with implementing simultaneous elections include: the feasibility of constitutional amendments required; State governments agreeing to the untimely dissolution of the Assemblies; and the question of what happens if a government falls without completing its term.

HC seeks Centre’s response on plea for electoral reforms- III

  1. The petition: Political parties should have the responsibility and maintain proper accounts of their income and expenditure and get them annually audited by agencies specified by the ECI
  2. Enhancement of punishment from fine or one year imprisonment to two year jail term for electoral offences like undue influence and bribery at polls and publishing a false statement in connection with an election
  3. Other issues: Proliferation of non-serious parties, process of recognition and de-recognition of political parties, as well as disclosure of assets and liabilities of parties

HC seeks Centre’s response on plea for electoral reforms- II

  1. The petition: Suggested implementation of electoral reforms proposed by the Election Commission and Law Commission
  2. The bodies also favour disqualifying a lawmaker even prior to his conviction, at the stage when charges are framed
  3. This would be for offences which carry a punishment of imprisonment for five or more years
  4. Sought directions from Govt to set minimum educational qualifications and maximum age limit for contesting candidates

HC seeks Centre’s response on plea for electoral reforms- I

  1. The petition: Setting aside of the six-ear cap on the period of disqualification from contesting polls on being convicted and sentenced to two years or more etc.
  2. The restriction of six years on the period of disqualification of a legislator is ultra vires of the Constitution
  3. It sought that two sections of Representation of the People Act (RPA) be declared void
  4. Why? They restrict disqualification period upto six years only and allow convicted person to contest Parliament and state assembly elections

Use violet sketch pen for RS polls: EC

  1. Election Commission: Integrated violet sketch pen of specific design and manufactured by a particular firm, both approved by the Election Commission of India, shall be used in all future elections to Rajya Sabha and Legislative Councils
  2. What’s the issue? Two months back, votes of 12 Congress legislators marked using a wrong pen were declared invalid in Rajya Sabha polls in Haryana
  3. It led to the defeat of independent candidate R.K. Anand, who alleged conspiracy

Totaliser machines- what & why?

  1. What? It mixes votes from various booths for counting
  2. Why? In the current system, votes from each EVM are counted separately & thus it reveales the voting trends in each polling station
  3. This leaves the voters in that vicinity open to harassment, intimidation and post-election victimisation
  4. Advantages: Prevent disclosure of voting patterns across polling stations
  5. This will allay the fears of voters against any pre-poll intimidation or post-poll victimisation by any candidate

Centre moves on vote totaliser machines

  1. News: Union government has set up a ministerial team to take a final decision on the issue of introducing totaliser machines
  2. Context: Election Commission had proposed totaliser machines in November 2008 & the proposal was seconded by the Law Commission in 2015

EC to now review national, State status of political parties every 10 years

  1. News: Election Commission has amended Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968
  2. Review: EC will now review the national and state party status of political parties every 2 consecutive Lok Sabha or assembly elections instead of one
  3. However, the criteria of being recognised as a national and state party will remain unchanged
  4. Why? To ensure that ruling parties do not lose their status due to anti-incumbency factor after every election
  5. At present, BSP, BJP, Indian National Congress, NCP, CPI and CPI(M) are the six recognised national political parties & 64 recognised state parties in India

Outcome Budget of Law Ministry

  1. News: According to the Financial and Outcome Budget released by the Law Ministry, it has been allocated about Rs.4,112 crore under the non-plan and Rs.900 crore under the plan revenue heads
  2. Elections: Almost 73% of the Rs.5,011 crore budgetary allocation to the Ministry of Law and Justice for the current financial year has been earmarked for election-related expenses

Background to ECI’s demand for more teeth

  1. The ECI’s demand comes after it rescinded the poll notification for two Tamil Nadu Assembly constituencies, Aravakurichi and Thanjavur
  2. Why? Reports of large-scale distribution of money and gifts to voters by the candidates and political parties
  3. The action was taken under Article 324 of the Constitution
  4. A 324: The superintendence, direction & control of the preparation of the electoral rolls for, and the conduct of, all elections to Parliament, state legislatures, President, Vice-President shall be vested in ECI
  5. ECI is yet to announce the fresh dates for elections in the two constituencies

Election Commission seeks more teeth

  1. Context: The Election Commission of India (ECI) has written to the Centre seeking amendment to the Representation of the People Act (RPA)
  2. Why? To confer specific powers on the ECI to postpone or countermand polls based on evidence that money power was used to influence voters
  3. Currently, there is no specific provision in the law to this effect & the Constitutional provisions need to be invoked sparingly
  4. Clause 58 A of the RPA empowers the Election Commission to cancel polls only if there is an evidence of booth-capturing or use of muscle power to influence the outcome of elections

When NOTA becomes a whipping boy

  1. NOTA accounted for 1.3% (5,61,244 votes) of the total votes polled in Tamil Nadu in recent Assembly election
  2. The number of NOTA votes exceeded the margin of the defeat of at least 25 second-placed candidates
  3. In their respective constituencies
  4. In the Lok Sabha elections in 2014, 1.4% of the voters (5,82,062 people) exercised the NOTA option

Development determines voting- II

  1. Context: The results of assembly elections to 4 states and 1 Union Territory
  2. West Bengal and Assam: Delivery of services and development have become the dominant axis affecting voting behaviour
  3. The behaviour of the Muslim voter also showed no monolithic pattern
  4. Therefore the way in which identities were being mapped with respect to political parties have changed
  5. This can be said to be an era of a post-Mandal politics

Development determines voting

  1. Context: The results of assembly elections to 4 states and 1 Union Territory
  2. The results shattered many electoral myths and traditions across the country, eluding easy answers
  3. National Trend: The elections have several national trends to their credit
  4. Expectations: The results were not expected to have a national impact, barring Assam where the two big national parties, BJP & Congress were in the fray

The need for FCRA amendment

  1. Context: Amendment to Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 2010 through the Finance Bill route
  2. The amendment provides for uniform definition of a foreign source
  3. Currently, different definitions of foreign-origin company existed in Companies Act 2013, FCRA 2010 and FDI policy of govt
  4. There is also complexity in classification of listed companies as foreign or domestic as their shareholding changes daily
  5. This also affects in their contribution towards Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Foreign firms can now fund parties

  1. Context: Amendment to Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 2010 through the Finance Bill route
  2. Amendment: It will legalise Foreign funding to NGOs as well as to the political parties
  3. Issues: Such funding will bypass govt scrutiny
  4. Also, the Representation of People Act bars parties from receiving foreign funds
  5. Such funding will increase foreign influence in Govt
  6. The amendment through money bill route is a way to bypass Rajya Sabha scrutiny

India Post pushes the envelope

  1. Context: India Post delivering message of importance of voting during Puducherry elections
  2. Nearly 2,000 delivery staff members are involved in the campaign
  3. Many of them went on rallies and are distributing pamphlets while delivering mail
  4. The State Election Commission, Puducherry, used Post services to print three lakh Meghdoot postcards with messages

HC dismisses plea on parties’ de-registration

  1. Context: Delhi High Court has dismissed a petition seeking cancellation of registration of political parties having connotation of religion, caste, creed, god or community in their names
  2. History: After 2005 ECI has not registered any political party having such connotations
  3. Citizen Right Foundation: Demanded to prevent such political parties from participates in elections

Views on validity NoRKs commission

  1. Election Commission: Ordered deferring the constitution of the commission
  2. Decision to constitute the commission was taken a day before the coming into force of the model code of conduct
  3. Also, Indians residing abroad could be enrolled in electoral rolls as overseas electors in terms of the Section 20A under the Representation of the People Act, 1951
  4. Therefore, setting up a new commission for the welfare of the non-resident Keralites at this stage would be contrary to the spirit of the the model code of conduct
  5. Petitioner: Contended that the Act relating to the commission as well as the decision of the State Cabinet had been made prior to the coming into force of the poll code

HC allows formation of NoRKs commission

  1. Context: Kerala High Court allowed the State Govt to issue a notification constituting a Non-Resident Indian (Keralites) Commission
  2. Why? The government was free to constitute the commission as the model code of conduct would not apply to implementation of legislative actions
  3. The 1.6 million Keralite NRIs would be benefited on account of the constitution of the commission
  4. Background: A four-member commission was constituted by Kerala Govt to look into the grievances of the Non-Resident Keralites (NoRKs) and protect their rights, interests, and properties
  5. However: The government was not able to implement the decision in view of the coming into force of the model code of conduct

Financial transparency for political parties

  1. A copy of the party’s audited report for the year is to be submitted to the Election Commission
  2. Political parties are required to disclose details of donors who have contributed in excess of Rs. 20,000 in a financial year
  3. Unknown sources: Income declared in their IT returns but without giving the source
  4. Usually, such income comes from donations less than Rs. 20,000

Parties and their sources of income: ADR Report

  1. Context: A report by Association for Democratic Reforms
  2. More than half of the total income of political parties in the financial year 2014-15 came from unknown sources
  3. Congress is the only party that has not yet submitted a copy of its audited report for the year
  4. BJP received Rs. 940 crore in donations, of which nearly half were from donors who gave less than Rs. 20,000

Green protocol for elections in Kerala

  1. Emboldening steps taken towards best practicies during elections
  2. The districts are to follow an environment-friendly policy in election-related activities
  3. Political parties have been told to avoid plastic material for campaigning
  4. An award will be given to those officials who set up the best model polling station

Solar powered polling booth for voter awareness

  1. What? A solar-powered model polling station to facilitate the general public to have a feel of the actual voting experience
  2. Why? As part of the Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation initiatives to spread voter awareness
  3. Where? Puducherry
  4. How? Built on a lorry and provided with the infrastructure and amenities that would be available in a real polling station

Lok Sabha passes Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2016

  1. Purpose: To grant voting rights to people who became citizens of India following the exchange of enclaves between India and Bangladesh
  2. Context: Bill seeks to amend the Representation of the People Act (RPA), 1950 and the Delimitation Act, 2002
  3. Relevance: These Acts regulate allocation of seats to the Lok Sabha and state legislatures and delimitation (fixing boundaries) of parliamentary and state assembly constituencies
  4. Aim: To empower the Election Commission of India (ECI) to carry out delimitation in areas that were affected by the enactment of Constitution (100th Amendment) Act, 2015
  5. Under the 2015 Act, enclaves were exchanged between India and Bangladesh
  6. Bill empowers ECI to amend the delimitation order for –
  • Include in the relevant constituencies the Bangladeshi enclaves that were transferred to India
  • Exclude of relevant constituencies in the Indian enclaves that were transferred to Bangladesh

What is New Delhi Declaration on Poltical Finance?

  1. The New Delhi Declaration on Political Finance Regulation in South Asia 2015, is for strengthening the regulation of political finance.
  2. It will ensure level playing among all political parties and ultimately serve the welfare of public rather than special interests.
  3. It has 9 regulations and implementing guidelines on maintaining reasonable levels of spending.
  4. The provisions include regulation of private contributions, public funding for political parties, prevention of abuse of state resources, etc.
PIB

Adoption of the New Delhi Declaration 2015

  1. A regional conference on The Use of Money in Politics and Its Effects on People’s Representation culminated in the New Delhi Declaration 2015.
  2. The Conference was jointly organized by the Election Commission of India, International IDEA and India International Institute of Democracy and Election Management.
  3. IDEA is an intergovernmental body wherein India is one of the founding members.
  4. This was first time stakeholders discussed issues and solutions on political finance regulation at a regional level.
PIB

What’s all the fuss with NOTA?

  1. In a major electoral reform, in 2014, SC mandated Election commission to introduce NOTA on the EVMs.
  2. NOTA = None Of The Above, EVM = Electronic voting machine
  3. The EVMs now have the NOTA option at the end of the candidates’ list.
  4. Earlier, in order to cast a negative ballot, a voter had to inform the presiding officer at the polling booth.
HT

Intensify NOTA promotion for local body elections: Gujarat HC to SEC

The Gujarat HC directed the State Election Commission (SEC) to further promote the NOTA option among the voters in the coming local body polls.

  1. Earlier, the HC had ordered the SEC to bring the NOTA option for the voters in local body elections.
  2. State govt. was asked to assist the commission to create awareness among the voters.
  3. Poll panel had informed court about promotional activities through TV, radio, newspapers.

Give NOTA option in civic polls: Gujarat HC

  1. The HC directed the State Election Commission to implement the NOTA option in the municipal and panchayat elections in the State.
  2. The State poll panel was reluctant to implement the option.
  3. The Bench also modified its previous order that stayed a plan for compulsory voting in these polls.

Election Commission sets up committee to allow migrants to vote

  1. After the government’s green light to NRIs to cast their votes from abroad – EC is mulling over the idea of empowering migrant voters.
  2. Under the present law, a person can be enrolled only at the place he is residing.
  3. This would need to amend the Representation of the People Act.
  4. Relaxation of the present law will benefit parties to keep vote bank intact.

Make paid news a poll offence: Law panel

  1. Newspaper advertisements on the eve of elections to be banned.
  2. Independent candidates to be barred from contesting elections as mostly they are dummy candidates with no chances of winning.
  3. If any candidate indulges in paid news – disqualify him.
  4. Make it compulsory for parties to declare all donations, even if less than Rs.20,000, if total 20 crores or 20% of party contribution comes from such small amounts.

Justice A.P. Shah submits report on Electoral Disqualifications (2/2)

  1. To check on the validity/evolution of current disqualification stages
  2. Disq. @ Conviction –  long delays in trials and rare convictions are prevalent.
  3. Disq. @ Report Filing – filing of the police report, there is no application of judicial mind. So, that cannot be a disq. stage.
  4. Disq. @ Framing – this is based on adequate levels of judicial scrutiny. Hence, put additional safeguards at this stage and go for it!

    Discuss: What can be the safeguards put into the disq. clause so that no one abuses it? Entertain only major offences, Charges filed >1 year before nomination should not be taken up, etc. 

Justice A.P. Shah submits report on Electoral Disqualifications (1/2)

  1. Report about electoral reforms (following the SC directive issued in Dec 2013, in the PIL related to decriminalisation of politics).
  2. Examined issues related to – Disqualification of candidates with criminal background & Consequences of filing false affidavits.
  3. Commission examined the different stages at which disqualification may be triggered, and decided upon the stage of framing of charges.


:( We are working on most probable questions. Do check back this section.







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