Electoral Reforms In India

Election Commission can not breach Fundamental Rights


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: ECI

Mains level: Election Commission , Electoral reforms and related issues



  • Preparations are going on in full swing for the upcoming Assembly elections in Gujarat. Election Commission had signed MoUs with over 1,000 corporate houses undertaking to monitor electoral participation of their workforce and publish on their websites and notice boards those who do not vote.


  • In June, the EC had asked central and state government departments, public sector units and corporate entities with over 500 employees to appoint nodal officers to identify employees who take leave on polling day but do not vote, The Indian Express reported.
  • The Chief Electoral Officer of Gujarat has said that the employees of state public sector units and government departments who don’t vote will also be tracked.
  • The report also mentioned that on a recent visit to Gujarat, the CEC himself had said that though the commission cannot enforce compulsory voting, it “wanted to identify workers in big industries who don’t vote despite availing the holiday”.

All you need to know about Election Commission of India

  • The ECI is a constitutional authority whose responsibilities and powers are prescribed in the Constitution of India under Article 324.
  • In the performance of its functions, the Election Commission is insulated from executive interference.
  • It is the Commission that decides the election schedules for the conduct of elections, whether general elections or by-elections.
  • ECI decides on the location of polling stations, assignment of voters to the polling stations, location of counting centers, arrangements to be made in and around polling stations and counting centers and all allied matters.

Importance of Election Commission of India

  • Conduction of Election: The ECI has been successfully conducting national as well as state elections since 1952.
  • Electoral participation: In recent years, however, the Commission has started to play a more active role to ensure greater participation of people.
  • Discipline of political parties: It had gone to the extent of disciplining the political parties with a threat of derecognizing if the parties failed in maintaining inner-party democracy.
  • Upholds federalism: It upholds the values enshrined in the Constitution viz, equality,
    equity, impartiality, independence; and rule of law in superintendence, direction, and control over electoral governance.
  • Free and fair elections: It conducts elections with the highest standard of credibility, freeness, fairness, transparency, integrity, accountability, autonomy and professionalism.

What is the criticism over the EC’s move to track who do not vote?

  • Unethical and against the democracy: Any coercion particularly coercion of the kind being proposed by the EC in this case betrays an authoritarian approach that is not only antithetical to democracy but is directly violative of the Constitution and the laws of the land.
  • Against the freedom of Expression: Constitution provides a fundamental right of freedom of expression. (Article 19). It is individual’s choice to cast their Right to vote or not to vote.
  • Revealing Identity would be violative of Article 14: Protection of elector’s identity and affording secrecy is therefore integral to free and fair elections and an arbitrary distinction between a voter who casts and a voter who does not cast his vote is violative of Article 14. Thus, secrecy is to be maintained for both categories of persons.” the list of non-voters be put up on a company’s notice board or website? It will clearly be contempt of court.
  • Supreme Court’s judgement on NOTA and mandatory voting: The Supreme Court, in PUCL vs Union of India, 2013, (popularly known as the NOTA judgment) has held that abstention from voting and negative voting are protected as freedom of expression a fundamental right. Earlier, in April 2009, the Court had taken the same view while dismissing a plea that sought to make voting mandatory on grounds of governments not representing the majority because of low turnouts.
  • No of circumstances that one can’t vote on the day: In every election, there will be those who do not vote out of conviction or for ideological reasons. More importantly, there are millions of daily wage workers, and many homeless and ill.


What are the legal and constitutional provisions for a citizen?

  • Section 79 D of RPA Act: Section 79 of the Representation of People Act, 1951 defines “electoral right” to mean the right of a person to vote or refrain from vote at an election”. The law completely enables, but does not force, citizens to vote. The same provision exists in the Indian Penal Code, vide Section 171A (b).
  • Section135B of the RPA Act: Section135B of the Representation of People Act, 1951, grants a paid holiday to every person employed in any business, trade, industrial undertaking or any other establishment.
  • A compulsory paid Holiday: Even a daily wage worker shall be paid for the day.The only exception is essential services Contravention of the law carries a fine for the employer which may extend to Rs 500, which was fixed over 25 years ago.

Rulings of the supreme court on the matter of voting rights

  • Free and fair election is a basic structure: In PUCL vs Union of India, the Court said: “free and fair election is a basic structure of the Constitution and necessarily includes within its ambit the right of an elector to cast his vote without fear of reprisal, duress or coercion.


What does the Election Commission say over this new development?

  • Clarification by Chief Electoral Officer of Gujarat: MoU’s are signed in the form of appeal for increasing registration and voter turnout, establish voter awareness forum in their organizations.
  • To track electoral participation: Election Commission said that it will help to track electoral participation of their workforce.
  • Less voting percentage: Out of seven least voting percentage districts during 2019 general elections, four were metropolitan cities. Voting percentage in urban areas is generally less, pulling down the overall voting percentage.
  • Purpose is to educate voters: CEC clarified MoU’s are only for voter education and facilitation and not for compelling them to vote.


How to address the issue of less participation of voters?

  • Systematic voter education programme: The noble objective of enhanced voter participation can be best achieved through systematic voter education, amply demonstrated by the ECI in elections in all the states and Union territories since 2010 when a voter education division was set up. This soon evolved into its SVEEP programme. This has led to all elections ever since seeing the highest-ever turnouts.
  • Through Motivation and facilitation: The EC’s consistent efforts should be towards motivation and facilitation, rather than compulsion, are the best ways to address the issue.
  • The voter education programme: The voter education programme has sought to motivate the youth to participate in democracy by registering as voters, voting in every election and voting ethically that is, without inducement. It has involved schools and colleges to take the registration facility to the doorstep by introducing voter clubs, and youth icons and placing drop boxes in the public locations and online drop boxes.
  • Awareness in the corporate setup: Employers have been encouraged to create similar facilities in their offices. They are legally obliged to close their establishments on poll day, but this is seldom enforced.


  • The noble objective of enhanced voter participation can be best achieved through systematic voter education, and awareness programs and not the cost of fundamental rights of the citizen which is enshrined the fundamental law of the land. Motivation and awareness could be the way for enhancing voter participation.

Mains Question

Q. What is the role of Election Commission of India? How do you see the compulsory voting in the light of the Constitution of India under the EC’s mandate of free and fair election? Discuss

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