Electoral Reforms In India

Need for a Common Electoral Roll

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Common Electoral Roll

Mains level : One Nation One Election Idea

The Prime Minister’s Office earlier this month held a meeting with representatives of the Election Commission and the Law Ministry to discuss the possibility of having a common electoral roll for elections to the panchayat, municipality, state assembly and the Lok Sabha.

Try this question:

Q.Discuss how a common electoral roll and simultaneous elections are ways to save the enormous amount of effort and expenditure on Elections in India.

Electoral Rolls in India

  • In many states, the voters’ list for the panchayat and municipality elections is different from the one used for Parliament and Assembly elections.
  • The distinction stems from the fact that the supervision and conduct of elections in our country are entrusted with two constitutional authorities — the Election Commission (EC) of India and the State ECs.
  • Set up in 1950, the EC is charged with the responsibility of conducting polls to the offices of the President and Vice-President of India, and to Parliament, the state assemblies and the legislative councils.
  • The SECs, on the other hand, supervise municipal and panchayat elections. They are free to prepare their own electoral rolls for local body elections, and this exercise does not have to be coordinated with the EC.

So do all states have a separate voters list for their local body elections?

  • Each SEC is governed by a separate state Act. Some state laws allow the SEC to borrow and use the EC’s voter’s rolls in toto for the local body elections.
  • In others, the state commission uses the EC’s voters list as the basis for the preparation and revision of rolls for municipality and panchayat elections.
  • Currently, all states, except UP, Uttarakhand, Odisha, Assam, MP, Kerala, Odisha, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and the UT of Jammu and Kashmir, adopt EC’s rolls for local body polls.

Why need a common electoral roll?

  • First, the common electoral roll is among the promises made by the govt. in its manifesto for the Lok Sabha elections last year.
  • It ties in with the party’s commitment to hold elections simultaneously to the Lok Sabha, state assemblies and local bodies, which is also mentioned in the manifesto.
  • The incumbent government has pitched a common electoral roll and simultaneous elections as a way to save an enormous amount of effort and expenditure.
  • It has argued that the preparation of a separate voters list causes duplication of essentially the same task between two different agencies, thereby duplicating the effort and the expenditure.
  • The pitch for a single voters list is not new. The Law Commission recommended it in its 255th report in 2015. The EC too adopted a similar stance in 1999 and 2004.

How it can be implemented?

  • In the meeting called by the PMO, two options were discussed.
  • First, a constitutional amendment to Articles 243K and 243ZA that gives the power of superintendence, direction and control of preparation of electoral rolls and the conduct of local body elections to the SECs.
  • The amendment would make it mandatory to have a single electoral roll for all elections in the country.
  • Second, to persuade the state governments to tweak their respective laws and adopt the Election Commission’s (EC) voters list for municipal and panchayat polls.
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