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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. Profile photo of vishnu hs vishnu hs

    CD’s news seems to be excerpts from iasbaba

    1. Profile photo of khwaab arora khwaab arora

      yea i agree too.

      1. Profile photo of Rahul Jain Rahul Jain

        please share the link

  2. Profile photo of Tien Shang Chang 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. Profile photo of Hemen Parekh 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. Profile photo of SRUSHTI DESHMUKH SRUSHTI DESHMUKH

      Nice Compilation Sir..!

  4. Profile photo of Leenika Sharma Leenika Sharma

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

    1. Profile photo of Leenika Sharma Leenika Sharma

      I mean the amendment affect

  5. Profile photo of Ritesh Sandilya Ritesh Sandilya

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

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

Image Source

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

Image Source

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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