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Time and again, many electoral reforms have been proposed by various committees, Law Commission and ECI itself. They primarily deal with Constitutional Amendments and amendments to RPA 1950 and 1951. We’ve tried to comprehensively list the proposed reforms under various sub-headings. A brute-force memorization of all this information is not required. Go through this list so that you have a background while reading news items on Electoral Reforms and ECI.

 

I.Amendment to the Constitution of India

1. Constitutional protection for all members of the Commission.
2. Budget of the Commission to be ‘charged’ on the CFI.
3. Independent Secretariat for the Commission.

 

II.Electoral Roll Matters

While Army personnel are allowed to vote, Navy and Airforce are not.

There are no provisions for overseas electors to vote despite being eligible to do so. Amendments proposed provide the option of proxy voting or postal ballot voting.

At present, the Electoral Rolls prepared by the Election Commission are not used by the State Election Commissions leading to duplication of effort and errors costing both in terms of time and money. Common Electoral Rolls to be used in local elections was a recommendation endorsed by the Law Commission.

 

III.Election Management Issues

At present, filing false declarations about the background of the candidate attracts penalty under Section 125A of The Representation of the People Act, 1951. The offence is punishable by up to 6 months, or with fine, or with both.

The Commission has proposed that the punishment under section 125A should be increased to 2 years’ imprisonment without the alternative clause of  fine, and also that the offence should be included in the list of offences listed in sub-section (1) of section 8 which would attract disqualification on conviction irrespective of the term if sentence. The Commission also proposed that furnishing of false affidavit or suspension of material information in the affidavit should also be specified as ground for challenging the election under section 100 (1) of The Representation of the People Act, 1951.

In S. Subramaniam Balaji vs Govt. Of T.Nadu & Ors, the SC observed that “although, the law is obvious that the promises in the election manifesto cannot be construed as ‘corrupt practice’ under section 123 of The Representation of the People Act, the reality cannot be ruled out that distribution of freebies of any kind, undoubtedly, influences all people. It shakes the root of free and fair elections to a large degree. In this regard the EC has proposed an amendment to RPA, 1951 allowing Adjournment of poll or countermanding of elections on ground of bribery.

 

IV.Election Officials and Logistics

Use of Totalizer Machines

EVM totalizer can count votes of multiple Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) simultaneously. This way the results of votes in a group of EVMs can be taken without ascertaining the result in individual EVM corresponding to polling booth.

As per the present provisions in The Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, votes in the EVMs are to be counted polling station wise, which leads to situations where voting pattern in various localities/pockets become known to everyone. There is a view that this can result in victimization and/or discrimination and intimidation of electors of particular localities. This issue can be addressed by use of totalizer that can be used for taking out the results of voting in a group of 14 EVMs without revealing the votes in individual EVMs.

 

V.Nomination of Candidates

Contesting the elections from 2 seats  – At present as per RPA 1951, a person is allowed to contest from 2 seats. However it is imperative that he has to vacate one of the two seats should he win both. This leads to holding by-elections which causes inconvenience to voters and financial expenditure. The amendment to RPA 1951 calls for removal of this provision of contesting from 2 seats.

 

VI. De-criminalization of politics

 

VII.Reforms relating to Political Parties

1. De- registration of political parties

2. Tax Relief for Political Parties

3. Compulsory Maintenance of Accounts by Political Parties

4. Accounting and Auditing Report of Political Parties

5. Form 24A under Rule 85B of The Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961

6. Prohibition on Anonymous Donations

7. Sale of Coupons

8. Maintenance of separate bank accounts by each contesting candidate for poll expenses

9. Cap on Expenditure by Political Party on a Candidate for election campaign

10. Ceiling of campaign expenditure by political parties

11. Limit the Number of Star Campaigners

12. Time period for maintaining books of account under section 77 of The Representation of the People Act, 1951

 

VIII.Election campaign and advertisements

1. Ban on exit polls and opinion polls

2. Ban on Government Sponsored Advertisement before elections

3. Section 126 of The Representation of the People Act, 1951

4. Paid news in connection with elections

5. Section 125A of The Representation of the People Act, 1951

 

 

 

 

Any doubts?


  1. Profile photo of vishnu hs vishnu hs

    CD’s news seems to be excerpts from iasbaba

  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

[op-ed snap] Is it time to block and chain the EVMs?

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, following things are important:

Prelims level: What is Blockchain Technology?

Mains level: Article gives effective solutions for countering EVM tempering problem. Points given can be used in Mains Paper 2 and Essay.

News

Context

  1. The Article talks about the EVM tempering problem and its solutions through blockchain technology

Relevance of Blockchain technology to counter EVM Tempering issue

  1. Blockchain technology is in various stages of implementation across the world for voting and other public services
  2. Blockchain can be thought of as a public account ledger, an immutable, transparent and permanent one
  3. With this, each transaction is recorded and stored in the ledger that is out on a public bulletin board

More about blockchain voting

  1. In blockchain voting, each transaction is similar to a vote and through the use of multiple blockchains along with public key encryption, the voting process is secured while protecting the anonymity of voters
  2. The votes can then be randomized more than three times in the digital ballot box so that voters’ identities are not revealed
  3. After the polls are closed, a separate blockchain application is created for the counting of votes in the digital ballot box
  4. That blockchain should match the public bulletin board’s blockchain, proving that the online voting system has operated correctly

Countries using this technology in their voting process

  1. n 2014, Denmark’s Liberal Alliance political party voted in a blockchain-based system for its internal elections
  2. Such systems have also been adopted in Norway and Spain
  3. Malta with a small population of 450,000, is about to embrace blockchain in land registry, voting and other national services

Relevance of blockchain technology in India

  1. In India, blockchain combined with Aadhar could be a practical and feasible tool to fight voter fraud
  2. Aadhaar cards and electronic-know your customer (e-KYC) norms are already becoming mainstream
  3. These critical infrastructure components can be leveraged to implement blockchain solutions in voting

[op-ed snap] The black box

source

Note4students:

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

From UPSC perspective, following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Electoral Bonds, know what’s a shell company

Mains level: Anything related to the RP Act is important for Mains. We have attached this card to our newstrail on “Electoral reforms in India”. Do give that a read as well.


News

  1. What: EC has expressed concern regarding the recent amendments in the Representation of the People (RP) Act and the Companies Act, related to donations made to political parties
  2. These amendments discourage greater transparency in political finance
  3. Major Concern: One of the main concern of the EC is regarding with the provision which exempts political parties from disclosing donations received from electoral bonds
  4. The Act has been weakened to encourage corporate donations(undisclosed) to political parties
  5. Therefore, the EC wants the provision withdrawn

Before and Now – See the subtle difference

  1. Earlier, a company could not contribute more than 7.5 per cent of its net profit over the last three years to parties
  2. The law in the previous form ensured that “only profitable companies with proven track record could provide donations to political parties”
  3. But with the new law, the EC has warned that the change in the law “opens up the possibility of shell companies being set up for the sole purpose of making donations to political parties with no business of consequence”

Back2basics:

Background of the Electoral Bonds

  1. Electoral Bond is a financial instrument for making donations to political parties
  2. These are issued by Scheduled Commercial banks after getting permission from the Central Government to intending donors, but only against cheque and digital payments (it cannot be purchased by paying cash)
  3. These bonds shall be redeemable in the designated account of a registered political party within the prescribed time limit from issuance of bond.
  4. Electoral bond was announced in the Union Budget 2017-18. Required amendments to the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934 (Section 31(3)) and the Representation of People Act, 1951 were made through Section 133 to 136 of Finance Bill, 2017
  5. Electoral Bond is an effort made to cleanse the system of political funding in India
  6. The scheme of electoral bonds addresses the concerns of donors to remain anonymous to the general public or to rival political parties

EC to house panel: State funding won’t help, need radical changes to monitor poll expenditure

Note4students

From UPSC perspective, following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Finance Act, 2016 and the definition of the foreign source under it.

Mains level: Drawbacks of present electoral system, EC’s views on it, what kind of changes EC wants,etc.

News

What?: The Election Commission is against the state funding of elections

Background: During Budget discussion this year Budget in Parliament , Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had also said that while he was “open to the idea” of state funding, the belief and optimism that only state-provided funds would be used in elections and nobody would use private funds was “not consistent with Indian reality”

What EC wants:

  1. “radical changes” in the “provisions regarding receipt of funds” and expenditure by political parties to ensure “complete transparency”
  2. EC also took note of the modification of the definition of “foreign source” under the Finance Act 2016
  3. According to EC, the new modification would allow foreign companies to fund political parties through Indian companies, provided they follow the rules and regulations prescribed under FEMA 1999

 

Back2basics

FEMA

  1. The Foreign Exchange Management Act (1999) or in short FEMA has been introduced as a replacement for earlier Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA). FEMA came into act on the 1st day of June, 2000.
  2. The main objective behind the Foreign Exchange Management Act (1999) is to consolidate and amend the law relating to foreign exchange with objective of facilitating external trade and payments and for promoting the orderly development and maintenance of foreign exchange market in India.
  3. FEMA is applicable to the all parts of India. The act is also applicable to all branches, offices and agencies outside India owned or controlled by a person who is resident of India.

[op-ed snap] What’s wrong with electoral bonds

Context:

  1. Government all set to introduce a scheme offering political bonds as bearer instruments
  2. This will conceal the identity of the bond buyers and enable a process of political donations that will make funding political parties transparent

Flawed argument:

  1. Electoral bonds open up yet another route to further the unholy nexus between corporate houses and political parties, the root of high level corruption in the country
  2. If the Government was genuinely looking for a solution, then this is certainly not it

Opaque practices:

  1. Consider a situation: A large corporate, ‘A’, plans to donate a very large sum to a party, ‘B’, in power but wants no attention from regulators, anti- corruption laws or the judiciary
  2. The Government enacts a law that blacks out the identity of the donor ‘A’
  3. Neither ‘A’, the donor, nor ‘B’, the receiver, is required to share details of the so-called donation
  4. The deal done, the Government goes on to dole out largesse to corporate ‘A’, well surpassing the value of the “donation” so received
  5. The scheme says nothing about the kind of nexus that will drive such donations

Point of worry:

  1. In April 2014, the US Supreme Court had struck down the upper limit of political donation
  2. India is now following suit with a worse model: transparency is being given a go-by and crony capitalism will be institutionalized
  3. This is the full implication of what has been proposed in Budget 2018 through the device of electoral bonds

Many questions:

  1. Businesses and their associations and federations do not want the donors named
  2. The transparency of a system cannot be achieved when donations have no upper limits and names of groups making the payment are blacked out
  3. This will trample upon the free and fair election process that is a basic feature of India’s Constitution
  4. Politicians abhor transparency

The way out:

  1. It requires a split second, not 70 years, to enforce transparency in political funding: ban cash altogether and disclose all sources
  2. If such a simple decision has not been taken in 70 years, then who is responsible but the political establishment
  3. The only message we can draw is that political will is singularly lacking to cleanse the system

Inference:

  1. Even if any such prohibition is imposed under the law, such a law cannot be enforced
  2. Invariably, the donee would get to know who a large corporate donor is
  3. Herein lies the rub: the larger the donation, the deeper the “bond”
  4. So the entire electoral system is sought to be kept in the dark about a merry transaction the doner and donee know all about and this is presented to the nation as a route to transparency
  5. Seen in this light, the electoral bonds give rise to a new source of political corruption in India

Note4Students:

The issue is not cash versus cheque, but the insidious corporate-politico nexus. Even clean money can be (mis)used to induce this unclean nexus; a bribe given with clean money cannot legitimise the bribe. Read the op-ed to critically analyse on the topic political funding and electoral bonds.

Centre promises election reforms

  1. SC: Asked the Centre to file an affidavit during the day on a PIL petition seeking debarring of convicts for life from contesting polls and stopping them from entering the judiciary and the executive
  2. Govt: It has constituted a task force to frame a road map for implementation of the Law Commission’s recommendations on decriminalisation of politics
  3. Disqualification period: The Law Ministry said that the disqualification period specified under the Representation of the People Act, 1951, was a policy decision that had been enacted by Parliament after due deliberations for curbing the entry of persons with criminal antecedents into the political arena
  4. SC has held in a catena of cases that no mandamus can lie to the government for framing law or introducing amendments to existing law as framing of policy, setting standards and the making of law falls within the executive domain of the legislature
  5. It is submitted that the judiciary may step in to fill gaps only where there is a statutory vacuum, but not where a valid law already occupies the field

Note4students:

Note the issue highlighted here. Can be mentioned in the “electoral reforms needed”.

All you need to know about VVPAT

  1. Context: The Election Commission recently received a memorandum from 16 political parties demanding that the paper ballot system be reintroduced for greater transparency during elections
  2. The BSP, the AAP and the Congress have alleged that of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) took place during the recent Assembly Elections
  3. Amid protests by Opposition parties against EVMs without paper trail units, there has been a call for procurement of VVPAT (voter verifiable paper audit trail) machines for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections
  4. What are VVPAT machines? The Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail is a method that provides feedback to voters
  5. It is an independent verification printer machine and is attached to electronic voting machines
  6. It allows voters to verify if their vote has gone to the intended candidate
  7. How do VVPAT machines work? When a voter presses a button in the EVM, a paper slip is printed through the VVPAT
  8. The slip contains the poll symbol and name of the candidate. It allows the voter to verify his/her choice
  9. After being visible to the voter from a glass case in the VVPAT for seven seconds, the ballot slip will be cut and dropped into the drop box in the VVPAT machine and a beep will be heard
  10. VVPAT machines can be accessed by polling officers only
  11. EC stand: The EC has time and again reiterated that EVMs cannot be tampered with
  12. It has made public the findings of inquiries into specific charges of tampering in Madhya Pradesh’s Bhind and Rajasthan’s Dholpur that give a clean chit to the machines
  13. With the Opposition insisting on doing away with the EVMs and the controversy refusing to die down, the EC has now thrown open a challenge, inviting computer experts and political leaders to prove that the machines can be hacked, in the presence of the EVM manufacturers
  14. Meanwhile, Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi has requested the Union Law Ministry for urgent release of funds, given the “prevailing environment,” to facilitate procurement of VVPAT machines for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections
  15. SC stand: The Supreme Court on April 13, 2017, asked the Centre to respond by May 8 to a plea by the BSP to comply with a 2013 Supreme Court directive to introduce paper trail in EVMs
  16. In 2013, the SC had asked the Commission to introduce paper trails in EVMs in a phased manner for the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections
  17. EVMs with VVPAT system ensure the accuracy of the voting system
  18. With an intent to have fullest transparency in the system and to restore the confidence of the voters, it is necessary to set up EVMs with VVPAT system because vote is nothing but an act of expression which has immense importance in democratic system

Note4students:

Important for prelims as well as mains. Note the functions of the these machines, the issues raised and the SC and EC stands.

[op-ed snap] Redefining citizenship

Context:

  1. In March, the Supreme Court requested the government’s views on a PIL seeking to impose a lifetime ban on contesting elections for those sentenced to imprisonment for more than two years
  2. Currently, the ban extends to six years after the completion of a sentence
  3. The proposed change, which is supported by the Election Commission, would effectively end the electoral career of many prominent political leaders

Few previous Amendments in electoral process:

  1. The court held that citizens are entitled to cast a ‘none of the above’ vote,
  2. The prisoners are disqualified from standing for election during periods of incarceration
  3. The concealment of criminal antecedents constitutes a corrupt practice under the law
  4. Electoral appeals to caste and religion are impermissible
  5. Around the turn of the century, the court increasingly began making decisions addressing the ‘criminalisation of politics’
  6. Early decisions focused on disclosure and transparent process — ensuring, for instance, that candidates declared assets and liabilities, educational qualifications, and criminal antecedents
  7. Yet, it was left to the wisdom of the electorate to decide whom to vote for
  8. Similarly, parties were tasked with determining whether it would be appropriate to field candidates with criminal antecedents

Disquieting developments:

  1. More recently, however, the court has gone further; it has attempted to gradually reshape the ballot
  2. At first glance, these come across as welcome developments — after all, who could fault the court for preventing prisoners or those with criminal records from contesting elections?
  3. Yet, they raise fundamental questions about the nature of our democracy, and are deeply disquieting for a number of reasons

What is questionable?

  1. First, the court has increasingly used the regrettable, caste-based taxonomy of ‘purity’ and ‘pollution’ in its decisions
  2. For example, in 2013, it endorsed the decision of the Patna High Court observing that candidates with criminal records pollute the electoral process, affect the sanctity of elections and taint democracy
  3. The court’s language is symptomatic of its conception of its own role — as a sentinel of democracy seeking to ‘disinfect’ the electoral process
  4. This is more than a poor choice of words

A constitutional right:

  1. Second, the court’s recent decisions have meant that whether the right to vote is a constitutional right or merely a statutory privilege is still a matter of contestation
  2. Article 326 of the Constitution provides for universal adult suffrage, but does not specifically mention the right to vote
  3. Rights that are not explicitly set out in the Constitution, such as the right to privacy, have routinely been impliedly read into the text
  4. But the court has refused to categorically recognise the right to vote as an inalienable constitutional right, frequently holding that it is a privilege that can be taken away as easily as it is granted
  5. It is disconcerting that the court still does not clearly acknowledge a constitutional right to vote
  6. Participation in the electoral process is often seen as a gateway right, or a ‘right of rights’
  7. Our only response to citizens whose candidate of choice has not been elected is to point towards their right to exercise that choice in the first place
  8. The absence of a constitutional right to vote has real consequences, for it makes it easier to impose wide restrictions on who can exercise that right, and the circumstances in which they may do so

Alienation:

  1. Closely tied to this refusal to clearly recognise a constitutional right to vote is the court’s endorsement of the embargo on the voting rights of prisoners
  2. Blanket prohibitions on voting are the surest way of alienating a political community
  3. The embargo is particularly draconian, for all prisoners, regardless of the seriousness of their offences or the length of their sentences, are denied the vote
  4. Moreover, prisoners awaiting trial are also denied this ‘privilege’
  5. It is one thing for the court to introduce transparency-promoting measures with a view to allowing change to take place organically, but quite another to change the rules of the game to match its conception of the ideal electoral system
  6. The right to vote and the right to contest elections are fundamental markers of citizenship in a constitutional democracy
  7. Incrementally yet decisively, the court is changing what it means to be a citizen of this country

Note4Students:

An important op-ed on electoral process of the country. Read it carefully for both Prelims and Mains

Govt. favours booth-wise counting of votes in polls

  1. Govt: In favour of the existing practice of booth-wise counting of ballots over using totaliser machines in elections
  2. Why? It helps candidates and political parties in improving their performance
  3. Would bring more developmental activities to the specific region
  4. Election Commission proposal: Use totaliser machines to count votes
  5. Why? The uniform way of declaration of result for the entire constituency as a whole would bring balanced growth and funding and reduce cases fuelled by political vendetta, ill will and hatred
  6. The declaration of result of every polling booth strikes at the root of right to privacy attached to voting

Note4students:

See what is a totaliser machine (click here) for prelims. Note the arguments for and against for mains.

[op-ed snap] A time for electoral reform

Context:

  1. The debate on electoral reforms in the Rajya Sabha on March 22
  2. Members of political parties tend to avoid discussions on electoral reforms, except in private conversations
  3. But the participation in the debate on that day was so enthusiastic that the deputy chairman had to extend the discussion to twice the time that is normally allotted to a short duration discussion — two-and-a half hours to five hours

What caused this debate?

  1. The immediate provocation for the debate was BSP supremo Mayawati’s allegation of manipulation of EVMs in the recent UP assembly elections
  2. While a return to ballot papers was mentioned, most speakers demanded the use of VVPATs (voter-verified paper audit trail) in the forthcoming elections to the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh assemblies, and eventually in the Lok Sabha elections of 2019

Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail:

  1. In a judgement in 2013 (Subramanian Swamy versus ECI), the Supreme Court had commended the Election Commission for taking a series of steps to introduce VVPATs, including conducting an all-party meeting in 2011
  2. The meeting had unanimously approved the idea of introducing VVPATs
  3. The EC had then ordered the two EVM companies to start manufacturing the machines and a field test was conducted in 2011 in five climatic zones
  4. Effort was to introduce these machines in the 2012 UP assembly elections and four other state assembly elections
  5. That couldn’t happen as the field tests revealed snags, which took almost a year to fix
  6. The paper trail is an “indispensable requirement of free and fair elections”, the Supreme Court directed the Government of India to provide the requisite funds for procuring the VVPAT machines
  7. Appreciating the EC’s efforts, the court approved its plan to roll out VVPATs in phases till 2019

Current status:

  1. More than three years after the court’s directive and despite 10 reminders from the EC, the government has not released the requisite funds
  2. So far, the EC has just 52,000 machines (against the nearly 20 lakh that are required in the country) which were deployed in the recent elections
  3. Meanwhile, two contempt of court petitions have been filed against the government and the EC

The issue of paid news:

  1. The other major concern across parties was about paid news
  2. Members demanded that it should be made a cognisable criminal offence
  3. Use of money power in elections was a serious concern as well, with most speakers demanding state funding of elections
  4. They also demanded a ban on corporate donations
  5. Several members demanded a ceiling on expenditure by political parties to bring down the cost of elections
  6. This is essential to ensure a level-playing field for all contestants

First-past-the-post system:

  1. A very significant subject that was discussed was the long-prevalent first-past-the-post system in which the “winner takes all”
  2. There is growing concern that the system can lead to majoritarianism
  3. The members wanted this system to be replaced by the proportional representation system which can ensure that every section of the citizenry gets due representation
  4. It was suggested that this will bring down the cost of holding elections and reduce the divisive nature of electoral campaigns

Simultaneous elections:

  1. The Prime Minister’s proposal for simultaneous elections came in for a lot of attack
  2. It was seen as a surreptitious attempt to bring in the presidential form of government
  3. Some speakers said it is against India’s federal polity, others believed it will go against the basic structure of the constitution

Some other points:

  1. There was unanimity on banning opinion polls
  2. Many members wanted the abolition of the provision that allows a candidate to stand for election in more than one constituency
  3. A few members mentioned reservation for women, voting by NRIs and migrants and the need to make the model code of conduct more liberal
  4. Many members suggested the constitution of a parliamentary committee, with experts from outside parliament, with the mandate of suggesting ways to carry out these reforms
  5. However, nobody was interested in talking about the increasing criminalisation of politics, which is the EC’s — and the nation’s — most important concern

Law Minister’s reply:

  1. The law minister’s reply to the debate, as expected, was largely confined to the EVMs
  2. He defended these machines to the hilt
  3. He did not give any assurance about the release of funds for the VVPAT machines

Election Commission’s proposal:

  1. The EC’s proposals could broadly be divided into three categories
  2. One, reforms to cleanse the electoral system (debarring criminally-tainted politicians from contesting, checking money power, empowering the EC to deregister defunct and dubious parties)
  3. Two, reforms to make the EC stronger and more independent (appointment of election commissioners through a collegium, their elevation to CEC on the criterion of seniority and protecting their tenure by vesting the powers of impeachment on the CEC)
  4. Three, reforms to make the electoral system more efficient (like the introduction of totaliser machines to prevent disclosure of polling patterns in a polling booth)

Note4Students:

Important for mains- electoral reforms. The needs, proposals and lacunae.

[op-ed snap] Cloak of invisibility

Context:

  1. Well before financial year 2017-18 begins, the Lok Sabha has signed off on the Budget with the passage of the Finance Bill of 2017
  2. It includes multiple amendments proposed by the government that did not figure in Arun Jaitley’s speech of February 1, either in letter or in spirit

Amendments made:

  1. While the speech devoted 420 words to proposed measures to improve transparency in electoral funding, amendments have been made to the Companies Act of 2013 that actually turn the clock back on existing disclosure standards
  2. Till now, companies could only contribute up to 5% of their average net profits in the past three financial years to political parties
  3. They were required to disclose in their profit and loss accounts the amount of contributions and the names of political parties to which they were made
  4. The ceiling has now been dropped, paving the way for a firm to deploy unlimited capital into political coffers irrespective of its own financial and operational health
  5. Companies would still have to reveal the extent of their financing of parties, but no longer have to name their preferred parties
  6. Doing away with the limit makes firms susceptible to funding ‘requests’ from local, regional or national political formations while taking away excuses — such as it being a loss-making unit, or breaching the funding cap

New opportunities:

  1. This would open up new opportunities in crony capitalism
  2. Pressure could be exerted on a company awaiting government clearances, or a loan restructuring from public or cooperative sector financiers
  3. Even a publicly listed company can set up subsidiaries just to fund parties
  4. This removes any pretence of transparency in the process as the donor will not have to disclose who he paid; the recipient has no such obligation either

How has this happened?

  1. The abandonment of the 7.5% requisite comes in tandem with the proposal to float electoral bonds to give anonymity to political donors
  2. The scheme for such ‘bearer’ bonds is still being worked out with the central bank, but how this will meet the objective of transparency isn’t clear yet
  3. The push for cashless modes for political contributions sounds worthy, but reducing the ₹20,000 limit on cash donations to ₹2,000 does nothing to guarantee that monetary muscle power will dissipate from electoral processes
  4. Instead of a lakh of such donors, a party can now share 10 lakh random names to justify cash holdings
  5. Transparency is not synonymous with anonymous transactions, unlimited corporate donations, relaxed disclosure norms and the persistence of cash
  6. The Budget’s promise of reform to bring about greater transparency and accountability in political funding, while preventing future generation of black money, truly rings hollow

Note4Students:

The op-ed is a critical analysis of how the government plans to bring about accountability and transparency in electoral funding. It is important for Mains.

[op-ed snap] Why EVMs are win-win

Free and Fair elections:

  1. Free and fair elections to choose political representatives are a cornerstone of a democracy, and a fundamental human right of people
  2. Voting procedures play a significant role in the conduct of free and fair elections in a democracy
  3. These convert voters’ preferences into a political mandate, which forms the basis for policy making
  4. In practice, however, illegal efforts to shape electoral outcomes are not uncommon
  5. Electoral fraud not only undermines public trust in democratic institutions, it also adversely affects the provision of public goods
  6. With electoral fraud, there are no checks on politicians to stop them from spending disproportionately on private goods, at the expense of public goods, to buy the loyalty of a small fraction of people, with whose support they commit fraud

Electoral frauds:

  1. In India, the largest democracy with more than 800 million registered voters, and a complex multi-party system, electoral fraud has been a leading cause for concern
  2. For example, in several constituencies under the paper ballot system, polling booths would be captured and ballot boxes would be stuffed
  3. To address fraud and simplify the electoral procedure, the Election Commission of India (ECI) introduced electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the late 1990s

EVMs:

  1. An important feature of EVMs was that these could register only five votes per minute
  2. This had significant adverse implications for electoral fraud as polling booths had to be captured for a longer period to rig elections, thereby increasing the cost of electoral fraud
  3. Besides enhancing the fairness of the electoral process, the ECI also envisaged that EVMs would improve the efficiency of tallying electoral results, thereby reducing human error
  4. EVMs were introduced on an experimental basis in 1998 in a few constituencies in state assembly elections
  5. Given their preliminary success, they were then rolled out in a phased manner for subsequent assembly elections
  6. Post-2001, EVMs replaced paper ballots for all state elections

Intra- and inter-state variations:

  1. Using state assembly election results between 1976 to 2007 and post-poll survey data, we found strong evidence that the introduction of EVMs led to a significant decline in electoral fraud
  2. In many constituencies under the paper ballot system, polling booths were captured and ballot boxes stuffed with fake ballots, resulting in an unusually high voter turnout
  3. Using state assembly election data, we saw that the introduction of EVMs led to a 3.5% decline in voter turnout — the decline was substantially larger in states prone to electoral fraud, where politicians faced serious criminal charges
  4. These results could also be explained by voters’ negative preference toward voting machines, or the formation of long lines in polling booths due to the upper limit on the maximum votes per minute
  5. The ability of vulnerable citizens (illiterates, females, scheduled castes and tribes) to cast their vote improved significantly after the introduction of EVMs
  6. Furthermore, voters were less likely to report that they did not cast their vote due to fear of violence, vote-capture or that they were prevented from voting
  7. Additionally, EVMs led to a virtual elimination of rejected or error-ridden votes

Electoral goals:

  1. Electoral goals often determine the distribution of discretionary grants and public goods in a democracy
  2. Research shows that swing states in India, where the governing parties are aligned with the central government, receive larger shares of federal grants
  3. The supply of electricity, critical for industry, agriculture and household consumption, had been historically driven by politics
  4. Public utility companies, often called State Electricity Boards, control the distribution of electricity
  5. These are susceptible to political capture as the managers are accountable to elected officials
  6. Fair elections provide the electorate a means to improve the responsiveness of elected officials by making them more accountable

Law and Order:

  1. Maintaining law and order is a fundamental responsibility of the state
  2. In a democracy, where political representatives are elected by the people, it is expected that they will ensure the security of citizens
  3. However, in a rigged electoral system, politicians fail to provide security to ordinary people because they depend on criminal elements in the electoral process
  4. Politicians therefore end up supporting and protecting criminals instead of being able to prevent them from committing crimes
  5. The data suggests a very strong link between the introduction of EVMs and decline in crime, especially related to murder and rape
  6. This effect is stronger in states where a large proportion of legislators have criminal records

Note4Students:

These results suggest that elections became more competitive and less likely to be manipulated by parties in power, which, in turn, had an impact on promoting development by increased provision of public goods. Read the topic for Mains, especially after the recent allegations on EVMs.

Poll panel backs life ban on convicts

  1. PIL: The Election Commission has endorsed a public interest litigation petition in the Supreme Court seeking life-long bar on convicts from contesting polls and entering the legislature
  2. EC: The PIL has been “championing the cause of decriminalisation of politics
  3. It agreed with the petitioner that such a uniform ban would be in the spirit of fundamental rights of the Constitution, including the right to equality
  4. Current law: A person, on conviction, is debarred from contesting any elections for the period of his or her prison sentence and six years thereafter
  5. Other reforms: The Election Commission has already submitted detailed proposal for electoral reforms, which include de-criminalisation of politics, making bribery a cognisable offence
  6. It also includes prohibition on advertisements 48 hours before elections and a strict ban on paid news as recommended by the Law Commission in its 244th and 255th reports

Note4students:

Study the issue of electoral reforms proposed, their need, current law on them- for mains. These are also important for prelims.

How will EC decide on the party symbol row?

  1. Context: The recent political developments within the AIADMK
  2. Question: How does the Election Commission decide which group or faction is the real party?
  3. Legal provisions: The Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 empowers the EC to recognise political parties and allot symbols
  4. Under Paragraph 15 of the Order, it can decide disputes among rival groups or sections of a recognised political party staking claim to its name and symbol
  5. Under Paragraph 15, the EC is the only authority to decide issues on a dispute or a merger
  6. The Supreme Court upheld its validity in Sadiq Ali and another vs. ECI in 1971
  7. Considerations: The ECI primarily ascertains the support enjoyed by a claimant within a political party in its organisational wing and in its legislative wing
  8. Claims: The Commission examines the party’s constitution and its list of office-bearers submitted when the party was united
  9. It identifies the apex committee(s) in the organisation and finds out how many office-bearers, members or delegates support the rival claimants
  10. For the legislative wing, the party goes by the number of MPs and MLAs in the rival camps
  11. It may consider affidavits filed by these members to ascertain where they stand
  12. Ruling: The ECI may decide the dispute in favour of one faction by holding that it commands enough support in its organisational and legislative wings to be entitled to the name and symbol of the recognised party
  13. It may permit the other group to register itself as a separate political party
  14. Ambiguity: Where the party is either vertically divided or it is not possible to say with certainty which group has a majority, the EC may freeze the party’s symbol and allow the groups to register themselves with new names or add prefixes or suffixes to the party’s existing names
  15. Time taken: The EC may take time to gather enough material to decide the question
  16. For immediate electoral purposes, it may freeze the party’s symbol and advise the groups to fight the elections in different names and on temporary symbols
  17. Future settlement between rivals: If reunited, the claimants may approach the EC again and seek to be recognised as a unified party
  18. The EC is also empowered to recognise mergers of groups into one entity. It may restore the symbol and name of the original party

Note4students:

These details here are not found usually in polity books. It may become a prelims question because of the ongoing issues in TN. A similar issue and news article came in January, when the ECI had to assign the Samajwadi Party symbol. Click here to read it.

[op-ed snap] Campaigning on a budget

Context:

  1. There is a considerable body of thinking in India that political funding is the nodal centre of unaccounted and illicit money transfers, and is the primary cause of corruption of the body politic
  2. Party funding is often equated with political funding, as is demonstrated in much of the political rhetoric following demonetisation
  3. Political funding need not be limited to party funding, and may encompass election expenditure of candidates at various tiers, federal, state and local

Corruption:

  1. In India much of the known extent of corruption is strongly associated with the bureaucracy, command organs, public sector, and other constitutional and statutory bodies
  2. Further, even civil society institutions such as the media can act both as the conduit of corruption or harbour it as such
  3. All political corruption involves an unfair, and most often unlawful, use of public office to secure a private gain
  4. In the process common good, which a public office is supposed to serve, is appropriated for partisan ends

Corpus fund of political parties:

  1. Given the fact of competitive electoral democracy, political parties cannot be denied legitimate ways of aggregating their corpus funds
  2. A candidate is entitled to seek resources for his/her elections

Legitimate fund raising:

  1. In India political parties are expected to file their income tax returns every year although they do not have to pay income tax
  2. According to a recent resort to the Right to Information Act, the Association for Democratic Reforms found that the total income of all political parties in India from 2004-05 to 2014-15 was ₹11,367.34 crore, in which the share of the Congress and the BJP was more than half
  3. Till recently political parties were required to disclose donations only for amounts higher than ₹20,000
  4. From such known donors, for the period mentioned above, political parties received ₹1,835.63 crore, i.e. 16%, of their income
  5. Another 15% they raised by way of membership, sale of coupons, interest on deposits, etc.
  6. The rest, i.e. 69%, of the income of political parties came from unknown sources, and this segment has been steadily on the rise during this period

Corporate contribution:

  1. It is also important to bear in mind that the corporate sector in India that contributes to political party kitties has generally not favoured the disclosure of the name of the donor
  2. A large number of multinational companies that have entered India following liberalisation, and have tended to root themselves in a region, may tend to favour a party prominent in the area while not antagonising its national counterparts

Budget on election funding:

  1. The recent demonetisation move has affected the ‘undisclosed’ sources of income of political parties, positioning a ruling party such as the BJP in a much more advantageous position
  2. The recent Budget announcement of the Finance Minister that every cash donation above ₹2,000 needs to be acknowledged in the IT returns further constrains flow of funds to parties other than a ruling party
  3. As a result, political parties that are not ruling parties at present may tend to resort to greater subterfuge in the process
  4. However, it is important to stress that between 2004-05 and 2014-15 the average income of all the political parties in India was just over ₹1,000 crore, and comes to about ₹2,000 crore at present annually
  5. Even the income of large parties such as the BJP and the Congress is just about the budget of a modest university in India
  6. Therefore, while the dossiers of political party funding need to be made transparent, the larger breach may lie elsewhere

Funding of elections:

  1. The big political funding in India, however, goes into election expenditures
  2. The funds that a political party advances to its party candidates in an election vary from one candidate to another, and there is much variation across political parties in this regard
  3. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, 263 members of the House claimed that they received a total of ₹75.59 crore from their parties, which averages out to roughly ₹28 lakh each. These are mere peanuts at the hustings!
  4. We can safely assume that an MLA spends on an average about ₹5 crore to get elected
  5. The legal limit of ₹28 lakh is far off this mark
  6. Assuming that there are five contending candidates in a constituency, and even if each one of them does not spend as much, but just half of their elected counterpart, an amount of about ₹15 crore will be spent in each constituency, which with about 4,215 MLAs in India works out to an about ₹13,000 crore per annum
  7. While the legal limit that a Lok Sabha candidate can spend is ₹70 lakh, a victorious candidate on an average does not spend less than ₹10 crore for the purpose
  8. The Centre for Media Studies estimated that an amount of ₹30,000 crore was spent by the government, political parties and candidates in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections

The way out:

  1. The key to regulate political funding therefore lies in bringing down election expenditure and ensuring that it provides an opportunity to get the best public men and women to participate in the institutional life of Indian democracy
  2. One of the ways suggested for the purpose is holding simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha as well as the State Assemblies
  3. While a return to this practice that prevailed till 1967 is worth exploring for other reasons, it may not lead to any significant reduction in the election expenditure as such
  4. Better and close monitoring of the election process by the Election Commission has ensured that overt modes of violation at the hustings are checked
  5. But political entrepreneurs have always found ways of subverting official vigilance and spend lavishly to gain competitive advantage
  6. Citizen activism that keeps a close watch over campaigning, should be encouraged
  7. In the longer run, political patronage itself needs to be reined in. This calls for not merely a decentralisation of power in more substantive ways, but also reordering the relation between the legislature and executive

Note4Students:

The op-ed brings forth the situation of election funding in India. Note down the points under the last heading, they can be used in Mains answer.

[op-ed snap] NOTA and the Indian voter

Context:

  1. Three years, one Lok Sabha election and four rounds of Assembly elections have passed since the introduction of ‘None of The Above’ (NOTA) option in the Indian electoral system
  2. The 2016 Assembly elections also saw some active canvassing for NOTA, which allows voters to express their dissent against all the contestants
  3. In Kerala, a group of women activists hit the road urging people not to elect any candidate if no woman was present in the fray
  4. In Tamil Nadu, a youth group campaigned for NOTA as a protest vote against corruption

The patterns:

  1. NOTA polling figures are still small
  2. On an average, the maximum NOTA vote share has not crossed 2.02% of the total votes polled in any election cycle

NOTA Statistics:

  1. NOTA button saw its debut in the 2013 Assembly elections held in four States — Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and the former Union Territory, Delhi
  2. In these States and Delhi, NOTA constituted 1.85% of the total votes polled
  3. The average NOTA vote share dropped to 0.95% in the 2014 Assembly elections held in eight States — Haryana, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, Odisha, Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Maharashtra
  4. It increased to 2.02% in the 2015 Assembly elections held in Delhi and Bihar
  5. While Delhi polled a mere 0.40%, Bihar saw 2.49% of NOTA votes, which remains the highest NOTA votes polled so far in any State in Assembly elections
  6. In the 2016 Assembly elections held in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu, NOTA vote share dropped again to 1.6%
  7. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, NOTA constituted 1.1% of the total votes

Inference:

  1. Across the elections, the number of NOTA votes polled was larger than the winning margin in 261 Assembly constituencies which went to the polls since 2013, and in 24 constituencies in the Lok Sabha elections
  2. One can argue that in these constituencies the NOTA votes did make a difference to the election results assuming that in the absence of this option a majority of NOTA voters would have preferred one or the other candidate in the fray

Some early pointers:

  1. First, reserved constituencies have seen a relatively larger number of NOTA votes, which points to the continued social prejudice against political reservation for SC/STs
  2. Second, constituencies affected by left-wing extremism have also recorded higher NOTA performance and here probably it served as an instrument of protest against the State itself
  3. The Assembly constituencies of Gadchiroli, Jhargram, Kalyan Rural, Jagannathpur, Chatra, Umarkote and Chhattarpur figured in the list of top NOTA polling constituencies in the Assembly elections of 2014
  4. In the Lok Sabha elections, Bastar, the Nilgiris and Nabarangpur occupy three top slots in terms of NOTA votes polled
  5. Given the disaffection among the people in these areas against the Indian state, these numbers are expected
  6. At the same time, it is important to note that these voters have used the democratic means of NOTA to express their resentment rather than boycotting the polls outright
  7. Last, NOTA figures are comparatively higher in those constituencies which have seen a direct contest between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party
  8. One may read into this some indication of the people’s disenchantment with two mainstream political parties and yearning for alternatives
  9. Overall, Indian voters seem to be using NOTA not just to show their disapproval of the candidates in the fray but to express their protest against many things they perceive wrong in the political system

Right to Reject:

  1. This electoral option will become a meaningful means of negative voting only if it becomes a ‘right to reject’ rather than being a symbolic instrument to express resentment as it is now
  2. A PIL has already been filed in Madras High Court seeking the full right to reject in place of NOTA

Note4Students:

This op-ed talks about the growing popularity of NOTA and its use as an instrument of protest. The op-ed is important for Mains examination. Read b2b for more information on NOTA.

Back2Basics:

NOTA:

  1. NOTA was introduced in India following the 2013 Supreme Court directive in the People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India judgment
  2. India became the 14th country to institute negative voting
  3. However, NOTA in India does not provide for a ‘right to reject’

The candidate with the maximum votes wins the election irrespective of the number of NOTA votes polled

[op-ed snap] The devil is in the fine print

Context:

  1. Announcement on electoral reforms in the Budget speech
  2. While some considered it as a historic act of cleansing our polity, others saw it as a significant though inadequate step forward in the right direction

The scheme of things:

  1. First, he claimed to follow the Election Commission in proposing a ceiling of ₹2,000 on the amount of cash donation that a political party can receive from one person in a year
  2. Second, he announced that political parties would be “entitled to receive” donations by cheque or digital mode from their donors
  3. Third, he proposed a new scheme of Electoral Bonds
  4. Fourth, he said that every political party would have to file its Income Tax return within the prescribed time limit in order to enjoy exemption from payment of income tax
  5. He insisted that this scheme will bring about “greater transparency and accountability in political funding, while preventing future generation of black money”

Analysis:

  1. The second and the fourth components of this scheme are redundant, as these are no different from what the existing law provides for
  2. It does not require a new law to say that political parties are “entitled” to receive donations by cheque or digitally
  3. They were always entitled to this and were already doing so
  4. What the system needed, was a new law to mandate that the parties would be “required” to receive donations by cheque or digitally
  5. The existing law requires political parties to file their income tax returns to enjoy tax exemption
  6. The Finance Bill now proposes a new proviso in Section 13A clause (d) of the Income Tax Act 1961 that explicitly says that the return should be filed within the stipulated time limit
  7. So far, all major parties have routinely flouted this requirement and no one gets penalised for this non-compliance

Limiting cash donations:

  1. The proposal about limiting cash donations to ₹2,000 has been widely misunderstood and therefore welcomed as a first step in the right direction
  2. Everyone was foxed into believing that the limit for anonymous donations, contributions that are exempt from reporting, has been reduced from the existing ₹20,000 to ₹2,000
  3. This is what the Election Commission (EC) had asked for in its revised compendium of Proposed Electoral Reforms in December 2016

Anonymous donations:

  1. The existing limit of ₹20,000 on anonymous donation as per Section 23 of the Representation of the People Act (RPA) has been left untouched
  2. The Minister has merely proposed a new, additional, clause that limits cash donation from one source to ₹2,000 in one year
  3. Notice that there was and is no requirement to disclose a contribution by cheque or digital transfer up to ₹20,000
  4. There was and is no limit to how much a party can receive from anonymous donations
  5. More importantly, there was and is no limit to how much overall a party can receive in cash from all sources put together
  6. Following the Law Commission’s recommendations, the EC had proposed that no party should be allowed to receive more than ₹20 crore or 20% of its overall donations from anonymous sources. The Minister did not pay heed to this.

What difference will it make?

  1. The proposal is unlikely to make any difference to the business as usual for political parties
  2. The fact is that most political funds remain in the pockets of party leaders. A small amount enters the coffers of the party and becomes party funds
  3. A tiny fraction of party funds is placed in the bank accounts of the party to meet some expenses that cannot remain invisible
  4. Much of what political parties show as donations is black money generated by party leaders which is turned into white money by way of book entries as donations to the party
  5. So far, the accountant who had to covert, say, ₹100 crore had to make sure than the entire amount was broken down into entries of ₹20,000 or below
  6. Now they will absorb the same amount by breaking it down into entries of ₹2,000 or below
  7. All that the proposed law would ensure is more book entries and perhaps a higher fee for the accountant

Trouble with electoral bonds:

  1. Anyone who wants to donate to a political party would be able to purchase bonds from authorised banks
  2. This purchase will have to be in ‘white money’ against cheque and digital payments only
  3. Once purchased, these bonds will be like bearer bonds and will not contain the name of the eventual beneficiary
  4. These bonds shall be redeemable only in the designated account of a registered political party within a prescribed period
  5. So, the donor’s bank would know about who bought how much of Electoral Bonds, but not the name of the party which received it
  6. The party’s bank would know the amount deposited through Bonds, but not the identity of the donor
  7. The Income Tax authorities and the EC would not know anything: reporting of donor, beneficiary, or even the amount of contribution has been exempted by amending the Income Tax Act Section 13A (b) and the RPA, Section 29C
  8. The net effect, and indeed the purpose, of the Bonds will be that no one except the fund giver and the fund receiver would know about this exchange done in white money with full tax exemption
  9. Once introduced, these bonds will mask whatever little transparency exists in the current system
  10. Indeed, the black money in politics might go down, as the white money has been provided a perfect cover of secrecy

Note4Students:

The op-ed is important for an understanding of the electoral reforms in the country. It is important to know what changes will it or will it not bring in the country.

[op-ed snap] Towards Openness

Context:

  1. The 2017-18 Union Budget had an unusual feature, a section titled “Transparency in Electoral Funding”
  2. Many commentators have hailed it as a positive step
  3. In an interview, the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley revealed: “The present system has failed and we are experimenting with a new system”

Transparency in electoral funding:

  1. The “Key Features of Budget 2017-2018” put out by the government contain six statements on transparency in electoral funding
  2. Only two are action-oriented:
  3. Of the two, the first pertains to a reduction in the limit for cash donations to Rs 2,000 from Rs 20,000
  4. The second action-oriented point is, the issuance of electoral bonds in accordance with a scheme that the Government of India would frame and the amendment to the RBI Act to enable this

Reduction from Rs 2,000 to Rs 20,000:

  1. While it looks like a sizeable reduction, it is unlikely to have any real impact
  2. Past experience shows political parties follow the law only in letter and not in spirit
  3. While the existing law required them to disclose donations of more than Rs 20,000 each in order to avail the 100% exemption from income tax, it never forbade them from disclosing donations of less than Rs 20,000

Disparity in theory and practice:

  1. The other concern is the disparity between what ordinary citizens are being exhorted to do and what political parties are being enabled to do
  2. Ordinary citizens are encouraged to make payments using digital means
  3. Political parties, on the other hand, are being allowed to accept donations up to Rs 2,000 in cash
  4. Another point says: “Political parties will be entitled to receive donations by cheque or digital mode from their donors”
  5. This implies that earlier, political parties were not entitled to receive donations by cheque or digital mode

Electoral bonds:

  1. These bonds will be bearer in character to keep the donor anonymous
  2. The problem with political financing is that 75-80% of the declared income of political parties comes from unknown sources
  3. If the objective of the electoral bond scheme is “to keep the donor anonymous”, then it seems to be the very antithesis of transparency

Other two points:

  1. Every political party would have to file its return within the time prescribed in accordance with the provision of the Income Tax Act
  2. Existing exemption to the political parties from payment of income tax would be available only subject to the fulfilment of conditions

Note4Students:

Transparency in political financing will happen when the political establishment realises that the only way to get out of the shackles of big and black money is to become open. The government should bring all political parties under the purview of the RTI Act, in this direction, thus honouring the Central Information Commission’s 2013 decision. This op-ed has good points that can be incorporated in your Mains answers or Essays.

Over 60% of candidates for Goa polls are crorepatis: report

  1. Source: An analysis by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR)
  2. Criminal cases: 38 candidates, or 15% of all, appearing in the coming election in Goa have criminal cases registered against them
  3. 19 of them face serious criminal charges, including those of assault, murder, kidnap and rape
  4. Assets: About 62% of the candidates are crorepatis
  5. There are 30 candidates (12%) who have assets worth Rs. 10 crore or above and 37 (15%) who have between Rs. 5 crore and Rs. 10 crore
  6. The biggest chunk (89) is made up of those having assets worth between Rs. 1 crore and Rs. 5 crore

Note4students:

Not directly important for exam but you should know the trends in case you need to quote in answer.

Don’t disturb level playing field: EC to govt.

  1. The Election Commission: Reiterated that all government references proposed to be placed before the Cabinet or any committee of the Cabinet must be routed to the poll panel through the Cabinet Secretariat
  2. Despite its standing orders beginning March 2014, there was a tendency to flout the instructions
  3. Matters related to the Cabinet were being directly sent to the Commission, that too at the last moment, leaving no time for the EC to appropriately consider the issue
  4. Last month, the EC had written to the Cabinet Secretariat stating that the Ministries of Defence and Finance, besides the NITI Aayog, had taken certain decisions that disturbed the level playing field in poll-bound States

Note4students:

Articles such as these can help you understand the role of bodies like the EC. It does not just set-up polling booths etc, but it also maintains a level playing field.

At the same time, it illustrates how decision making may be impacted/delayed by elections. Hence the govt’s proposals for simultaneous elections.

Election Commission bans exit polls between February 4 and March 8

  1. Context: The Assembly polls in five States and the Amritsar Lok Sabha bypoll
  2. EC: Exit polls cannot be conducted and publicised by means of print and electronic media or dissemination in any other manner starting from February 4, 2017 at 7 a.m. to March 8, 2017 at 5.30 p.m.
  3. Under: Provisions of section 126 A of Representations of the Peoples’ Act, 1951

Note4students: Know about exit polls and opinion polls.

Back2basics:

  1. Exit poll: A poll of voters taken immediately after they have exited the polling stations
  2. It asks for whom the voter actually voted
  3. Opinion poll: Asks for whom the voter plans to vote
  4. A similar poll conducted before actual voters have voted is called an entrance poll
  5. Pollsters, usually private companies working for newspapers or broadcasters, conduct exit polls
  6. Why? To gain an early indication as to how an election has turned out, as in many elections the actual result may take hours or even days to count

National Voter’s Day: What are your voting rights?

  1. 25 January is a National Voters Day
  2. On this day in 1950, the Election Commission of India was founded
  3. The ECI observes National Voters Day to create awareness on voting and voter rights

Note4students: Prelims worthy info.

69% of political funds from unknown sources

  1. Source: An analysis done by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR)
  2. The total income of national and regional political parties between 2004-05 and 2014-15 stood at ₹11,367 crore, with the highest of ₹3,982 crore being the Congress’s share
  3. However, 69% of the income of these parties was from unknown sources
  4. The income of national parties from unknown sources increased by 313% during the decade; for the regional parties, it went up by 652%
  5. The BSP is the only party which has got 100% of its income through donations from unknown sources
  6. Its total income increased by 2,057%, from ₹5.19 crore during 2004-05 to ₹111.96 crore during 2014-15
  7. The details of donors pertaining only to ₹1,835.63 crore were available. The income from other known sources, such as the sale of assets, membership fees, bank interest, the sale of publications and party levy, was ₹1,698.73 crore, about 15% of the total

Note4students: Just know about it in case there is a need to quote from objective sources to support your arguments in such answers.

EC wants no schemes for poll-bound States in Budget

  1. No schemes: The Election Commission directed the Centre not to announce schemes specific to poll-bound States in the Union Budget
  2. No achievements: Also that the government’s achievements in respect of the said five States [Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Punjab, Manipur and Uttarakhand] would also not be highlighted in any manner
  3. The Commission cited a 2009 advisory to all the States and Union Territories on introduction of the Budget (2009-10) in which it had advised that in cases of poll-going States, a vote-on-account should be taken
  4. The Election Commission said the government should maintain a level playing field and not announce any programme that would have the effect of influencing the voters in favour of the ruling party(ies)

Note4students:

If not directly, such directive by EC might form part of a prelims question as to what are its poers or what can it direct to centre or states to ensure free and fair elections. Also revise your budget and election concepts.

Budget on Feb 1, no announcements for poll bound States

  1. What? Govt will present the Union Budget 2017-18 on February 1 but will refrain from making any announcements pertaining to poll-bound States
  2. Why? The government has, before the Election Commission, vehemently defended its move to advance Budget presentation by a month saying it had made clear its intention on this way back in September 2016 so as to help begin the investment cycle right from the first day of the new fiscal, April 1
  3. Opposition parties had approached the Election Commission against presentation of the Budget just hours before the first of the five states goes to poll on February 4
  4. However, in view of the model code of conduct, the budget will not make any announces related to poll-bound States of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur

Note4students:

This is just to be aware of the happenings around important issues. Do brush up your basics about Election Commission and Model Code of Conduct and the debate around giving it legal backing.

ECI Apps launched ahead of assembly polls

  1. The Election Commission (EC) has launched a new integrated mobile application in its push for greater transparency and voter engagement
  2. With a simplified interface, the app suite called ‘ECI Apps’ provides all the key information regarding electioneering, polling day and voter facilitation
  3. This official ECI Apps Suite aims to integrate, organize and streamline all the ECI web and mobile apps and utilities under a single mobile application with several more add-ons
  4. Given that the election season is on and polls to five states, including politically crucial Uttar Pradesh along with Uttarakhand, Goa, Punjab and Manipur were declared a fortnight ago, the app on the counting day of each election will show trends and results too
  5. What is interesting is it is not just for voters but also provides information for polling officials, political parties etc

Note4students:

This can be a tit-bit for prelims or an excellent example of using technology for enhancing transparency in governance or electoral reforms.

So what’s the big deal about advancing the Budget, asks SC

  1. Issue: A PIL petition had sought the postponement of the annual Budget till after the elections are over
  2. Why? It could contain sops to influence the voters in the Assembly elections, and was thus a violation of the poll code
  3. The Supreme Court: It found nothing wrong in the government’s move to advance the presentation of the Union Budget in Parliament by almost a month, on February 1, amid the run-up to the elections in five States
  4. ‘So what provision of law is violated by this statement? What provision of the Indian Constitution is violated here?’

Note4students:

Revise basics of budget. Do understand the pros and cons of advancing the budget date. This can be a question in mains or probably interview too. And also go into other budget reforms like doing away with plan and non-plan expenditure, merging of rail budget with Union budget.

Money power may come under EC lens

  1. What: In a bid to check money power from influencing elections, the Election Commission (EC) suggests bringing under its scanner the sources of income of not only candidates but also their family members
  2. The EC, in an affidavit filed in the SC, said the Representation of the People Act should be amended
  3. Under the amended Act, the disqualification for entering into govt contracts should not be limited to just the candidates but also companies, trusts, firms, Hindu Undivided Family, etc
  4. The panel said the changes recommended in the law were meant as an antidote to “maladies caused by criminal antecedents of candidates and misuse of money”
  5. The affidavit was based on a PIL filed by an NGO called Lok Prahari
  6. The EC said it had already conveyed these recommendations to the govt in Sept 2015

Seeking votes on religious basis a corrupt act: SC

  1. Judgement: The SC held that an appeal for votes during elections on the basis of religion, caste, race, community or language, even that of the electorate, will amount to a ‘corrupt practice’ and call for disqualification of the candidate
  2. It said that religion is a very private relationship between man and his God
  3. Background: The question, referred to the Constitution Bench led by CJI Thakur on a batch of election petitions, was whether the word ‘his’ used in Section 123 (3) of the Representation of the People Act only meant a bar on appeals made in the name of the candidate or his rival or his agent or others in his immediate camp
  4. Or, does the word ‘his’ also extend to soliciting votes on the basis of the religion, caste, community, race, language of the electorate as a whole
  5. The latter would mean a blanket ban on any appeal, reference, campaign, discussion, dialogue or debate on the basis of religion, race, caste, community or language, even if such a debate was on the deprivations suffered by the voters due to these considerations
  6. The majority on the Bench interpreted that Parliament meant by ‘his’ a complete ban on any reference or appeal to religion, race, community, caste and language during elections
  7. This meant the pronoun extended to the social, linguistic and religious identity of the voter also
  8. CJI Thakur said appealing on the basis of religion would amount to “mixing religion with State power”
  9. According to him, “Elections to the State legislature or to the Parliament or for that matter any body in the State is a secular exercise just as the functions of the elected representatives must be secular in both outlook and practice”
  10. Majority view: Justice Lokur said the primary legislative aim of Section 123(3) of the RPA is to “curb communal and separatist tendencies in the country”
  11. He said that by allowing a candidate to take advantage of the voters’ religious identity merely to gain votes would be a disservice to the “little man” and against public interest
  12. Minority view: By Justice Chandrachud, “How can this be barred from being discussed in an election?”
  13. “Religion, caste and language are as much a symbol of social discrimination imposed on large segments of our society”
  14. “They are part of the central theme of the Constitution to produce a just social order. Electoral politics in a democratic polity is about social mobilisation”

Note4students:

This is a very important judgment. It remains to be seen how it will be implemented, and how political parties will deal with it. Also note, the Representation of Peoples Act is the only law mentioned in UPSC syllabus by name. Issues related to it are important.

Back2basics:

The Representation of People Act, 1951 is an act of Parliament of India to provide for the conduct of elections of the Houses of Parliament and to the House or Houses of the Legislature of each State, the qualifications and disqualifications for membership of those Houses, the corrupt practices and other offences at or in connection with such elections and the decision of doubts and disputes arising out of or in connection with such elections. The Act was enacted by the provisional parliament under Article 327 of Indian Constitution, before the first general election.

Who will get ‘cycle’?It’s poll panel’s call

  1. Issue: In the likelihood of a split in the Samajwadi Party, the Election Commission may have to use its plenary powers to decide which of the rival groups is the real SP
  2. Only the “real” SP will be able to contest the UP Assembly elections under the symbol “cycle”
  3. For this, the EC will have to undertake the long-drawn process of the ‘Rule of Majority and Numerical Strength’ envisaged in Paragraph 15 of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968
  4. The first task of the enquiry would be to check if there really are two rival groups, each claiming to be the real SP
  5. Second task: Once the EC is satisfied that there are two splinter factions, the poll body would then “take into account all the available facts and circumstances of the case” and hear the representatives of the groups or any other person
  6. It would finally decide which one of the rival section or none of such rival groups is the recognised political party
  7. The decision of the EC shall be binding on all the groups and conceived as a direction to the Returning Officer
  8. But on the flip side, the entire process may take considerable time. The process of test of majority may extend beyond the poll dates, expected to be announced soon
  9. Relevant SC judgement: Sadiq Ali v. Election Commission of India, 1972
  10. Judgement: The symbol is not a property to be divided between co-owners
  11. The allotment of a symbol to the candidates set up by a political party is a legal right
  12. And in case of a split, the EC has been authorised to determine which of the rival groups or section is the party entitled to the symbol
  13. The EC, in resolving this dispute, does not decide as to which group represents the party, but which group is that party
  14. This verdict dealt with a split in the Indian National Congress following differences over the choice of the Congress nominee for the office of the President of India
  15. In 1969, the Congress split into two groups — Congress ‘O’ and Congress ‘J’
  16. The EC had to use the test of majority to determine “which of the two groups was the recognised political party known as the Indian National Congress for the purpose of the Election Symbols Order”
  17. The SC has time and again upheld the test of majority in the Symbols Order to be a “valuable and relevant test” to decide a dispute between rival groups within a “democratic organisation” like a recognised political party.

‘Need to link Aadhaar with details of voters’

  1. Issue: The SC had asked the Election Commission (EC) to study the possibility for electoral reforms to allow inter-State migrants voting privileges like postal ballot, electronic voting and proxy voting
  2. Such priviliges are available to govt servants at present
  3. The EC concluded that “domestic migrants” do not constitute a “uniquely identifiable and countable class”
  4. It said there was no reliable information or documentation on the number of domestic migrants in the country
  5. The last one on them is the 15-year-old 2001 Census data of 314.5 million
  6. Practical difficulties: Any provision of absentee voting rights to the “loosely defined term domestic migrants” would become a logistical nightmare for the EC
  7. Example, they are so spread out that an election in one Assembly constituency would mean electoral arrangements in 4,120 Assembly constituencies
  8. Enforcement of Model Code of Conduct would suffer and the concept of level playing field would get defeated with national parties having an advantage over State parties
  9. It said multiple vernacular data and “varying patterns of spelling” and difficulty in ascertaining the date of birth of voters had given rise to multiple entries of voters
  10. Several thousands of voters keep on changing their places of ordinary residence frequently making this task even more complex
  11. Solution: It said thus there was a need to ensure that a voter was enrolled only once in the electoral roll by linking his Aadhaar number with the electoral detail
  12. EC said the rights might be extended to a small subset of migrants who formed an identifiable and countable class of electors not delinked from their present place of registration and only “temporarily absent” from their place of ordinary residence

Note4students:

Such news is important for mains.

‘National political parties received Rs. 102 crore in donations above Rs. 20,000’

  1. Source: Report by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and National Election Watch (NEW)
  2. Findings: National political parties received over Rs 100 crore in 2015-16 in the form of donations above Rs 20,000, the limit above which funding sources have to be disclosed
  3. The donations less than Rs 20,000 evade scrutiny
  4. The Election Commission recently has recommended to the govt to ban anonymous contributions of Rs 2,000 and above to the parties
  5. The BJP led the pack at Rs 76.85 crore from 613 donations while Congress declared receiving Rs 20.42 crores from 918 donations

EC seeks end to nameless donations

  1. What: Seeking to stop financing of election campaigns using black money, the Election Commission has urged the govt to amend laws to ban anonymous contributions of Rs. 2,000 and above made to political parties
  2. At present: There is no constitutional or statutory prohibition on receipt of anonymous donations by political parties
  3. But there is an “indirect partial ban” on anonymous donations through the requirement of declaration of donations under Section 29C of the Representation of the People Act, 1951
  4. But, such declarations are mandated only for contributions above Rs. 20,000
  5. Other recommendations: It has also proposed that exemption of income tax should be extended only to political parties that contest elections and win seats in Lok Sabha or Assembly polls
  6. Section 13A of the Income-Tax Act, 1961 confers tax exemption to political parties for income from house property, voluntary contributions, capital gains and other sources
  7. According to the EC, there could be cases where political parties could be formed merely for availing of provisions of income tax exemption
  8. It has also asked the Law Ministry to ensure that political parties are made to register details of donors for coupons of all amounts on the basis of a SC order of 1996
  9. Coupons are one of the ways devised by the political parties for collecting donations and hence are printed by the party itself
  10. There is no limit as to how many coupons can be printed or its total quantum

Note4students:

1. This topic is important for mains.

2. Task for students: Revise the chapters on EC and elections in India from Laxmikanth.

[op-ed snap] Same time, same place


  1. Context: Holding simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies
  2. Election Commission has also supported the idea of holding simultaneous elections
  3. Committee opined there would be a huge reduction in expenditure incurred conducting separate elections
  4. Currently, the country always seems in election mode in one part or another, entailing deploying officers as observers and requiring paramilitary forces to be moved about
  5. Frequent enforcement of the Model Code of Conduct affects many development works
  6. Challenges in holding simultaneous elections: Many EVM and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) Machines will be needed
  7. Whether to locate the EVMs and VVATs in the same polling station or separate ones; given the space shortage in most government schools primarily used for polling, logistics pose a problem
  8. Including local body elections in the same schedule will be a tall order
  9. If any state government loses majority midway, will the resultant fresh election be only for the remaining term?
  10. If so, the period could be as short as one year — this would lead to a waste of money, time and effort
  11. If mid-term elections are for a normal term of five years, we may begin another phase of separate elections — which nullifies the entire exercise
  12. If LS and state assemblies have a fixed five-year term, not subject to early dissolution, there will be nothing like no-confidence motion
  13. eVoting: With India going digital, eVoting (or remote voting on mobile phones), linked to Aadhar numbers, can also be gradually introduced
  14. Cheaper and quicker eVotes will attract even larger participation than conventional voting at polling booths

Note4Students:

The Electoral Reforms are in the pipeline. Keep a track of the developments. We have linked this card to the story so you can surf the older cards as well.

Back2Basics:

  1. Independent India saw its first general election in 1951-52, when the Lok Sabha and all state assemblies went to the polls simultaneously — separate ballot boxes for the Lok Sabha and concerned state assembly were placed in each polling station
  2. This practice continued for the next three elections
  3. Things changed when some state assemblies underwent dissolution before completing their five-year term and disrupted the five-year cycle

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’

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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