Electoral Reforms In India

Sep, 25, 2018

Publishing poll candidate’s propaganda is paid news: Election Commission

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Legal Provisions for disqualification mentioned in newscard.

Mains level: Paid-news debate in India.


News

Paid News vs. Free Speech

  1. Repeated publication of propaganda lauding the achievements of a candidate in an election is nothing but “paid news”, the Election Commission of India has told the apex Court.
  2. Politicians cannot say that it is part of their fundamental right to free speech to spew out “motivated propaganda”.
  3. The EC has asked the court to declare whether it amounts to “paid news” if widely circulated daily newspapers cover statements issued by, and in the name of, a candidate.
  4. Such news are not only laudatory of his or her record and achievements but also are a direct appeal to voters by the candidate.

Unequal advantage

  1. If such motivated propaganda is allowed in the name of free speech during the election period, candidates with a strong network of connections will exploit their sphere of influence in society.
  2. This will have the unequal advantage of encashing such silent services.
  3. The commission has moved the court in appeal against a decision of the Delhi High Court to set aside the disqualification of a MP in Madhya Pradesh.
  4. ECI’s National Level Committee on Paid News found that five newspapers, with a wide circulation, had published 42 news items that were biased and one-sided and aimed at furthering the prospects of the leader.
  5. Some of the reports were advertisements in favour of him. The committee concluded that the items fitted the definition of “paid news”.

Way Forward

  1. The conduct of the eager supporters, whose extensive coverage, as in this case, being dubbed as freedom of expression cannot be termed news.
  2. This is so because ‘news’ is expected to be unbiased and characterized by dispassionate coverage and proportionate space to other contenders.
  3. If the court shut its eye to this case, “the assertion of freedom of speech would become a stock pretence or plea by the service provider and the beneficiary candidate”.
Sep, 05, 2018

Google to help EC track online political ads

Note4Students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: ECI mechanisms to monitor election expenditure.

Mains level: Bringing transparency in the process of election campaigning and expenditure.


News

Eye on Online Ads

  1. Google will soon be helping the Election Commission (EC) keep tabs on online political advertising.
  2. It will develop a mechanism that will not only ensure pre-certification of political advertisements but also enable it to share with the authority, details about the expenditure incurred on its platforms.
  3. A committee has been set up to explore possible modifications in Section 126 (election silence) and other provisions of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 in view of the expansion and diversity of media platforms.

Keeping an eye on Election Expenditures

  1. Google will keep track of political advertisements and ensure that they are pre-certified by the EC’s Media Certification and Monitoring Committees.
  2. This would entail Google asking prospective clients, whenever an order is placed, whether they have been pre-certified.
  3. Google has also assured that it would set up a mechanism for sharing information on the cost of the political advertisements.
  4. The ECI is the nodal body for pre-certification of advertisements of a political nature, released by either an individual or an organisation.
  5. This would be of use to Returning Officers when it comes to calculating the election expenditure of individual candidates.

Present Mechanism

  1. The ECI asks the candidates to declare their official social media accounts.
  2. As soon as someone is declared a candidate for any election, all the money spent by the person for campaigning gets added as election expenditure.

Facebook tools

  1. The EC’s committee has agreed with Facebook to develop tools for removing any content related to election matters during the 48-hour period when the ‘prohibition protocol’ is in place.
  2. It is working on ways to check fake news and share details of expenditure on poll-related advertisements.
  3. During the Karnataka Assembly polls, Facebook tied up with the Indian fact-checking agency, Boom Live, which confirmed over 50 cases of fake news.
Aug, 25, 2018

Poll panel to brainstorm on key issues

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Diverse range of issues need to be addressed before the upcoming general election. These issues are summarized in the newscard very decently.


News

Context

  1. Recently Chief Election Commissioner emphatically ruled out the possibility of holding simultaneous elections to the state assemblies along with the Lok Sabha poll.
  2. However ECI has brought to notice range of issues to various political parties and invited a debate over them.

Various issues and forthcoming Elections

  1. In the times of social media and phased elections, how can campaign silence be maintained during the last 48 hours before the elections?
  2. The Election Commission will be debating this and seven other issues, including limiting of expenditure and increasing participation of women, at a multi-party meeting.
  3. All seven registered national political parties and 51 State political parties have been invited.

Last 48 hours campaigning under radar

  1. The law prohibits canvassing during the last 48 hours before the elections.
  2. This is meant to create an environment of neutrality and “silence” for the voter to exercise his franchise through reasoned reflection rather than be swayed by last-minute appeals by parties and candidates.
  3. The ECI has sought suggestions on how to address the issue of online canvassing to promote or prejudice the electoral prospects of a party/candidate on social media during the last 48 hours.
  4. Many parties in opposition have been consistently asking this question in view of the extensive campaigning on the ground and on social media ahead of each election.

Adding print media

  1. The ECI has asked the parties if the print media should also be brought within the ambit of Section 126(1)(b).
  2. This section lists mediums in which display of election matter is prohibited and includes television, cinematograph or similar apparatus of the Representation of the People Act.

Election Expenditure

  1. The ECI has asked political parties on whether there should be a ceiling on party election expenditure. The present election laws only provide a limit on a candidate’s expenditure.
  2. It has proposed that such ceiling should be either 50% of or not more than the expenditure ceiling limit provided for the candidate multiplied by the number of candidates of the party contesting the election.
  3. The Commission wants to know the views of political parties on bringing a ceiling for expenditure in the Legislative Council elections.
  4. In these elections, huge amounts of unaccounted-for money are often spent by the candidates.

Mainstreaming Migrant Voters

  1. The Commission has asked the parties to take note of alternative modes of voting for domestic migrants and absentee voters, such as postal, proxy and e-voting.
  2. The Commission has proposed five strategies, the agenda note says, to ensure that no migrant worker is left out.
  3. These include developing portability of voting rights by linking voter ID and Aadhaar.
  4. A one-time voluntary registration system for domestic migrants, electoral support services to be provided to migrants at the source and destination areas, raising awareness of voters’ rights and a helpline for domestic migrants are the other measures suggested by the Commission.

Increasing Women’s Representation

  1. The ECI has asked what measures can political parties undertake to encourage enhanced representation of women within the organisation structure of the political party.
  2. It has pulled out embarrassing statistics to build the case for a greater presence of women.
  3. There are only 11.4% women in the 16th Lok Sabha, substantially lower than the global average of 22.9%, the Commission noted.
  4. It has said that at least seven countries have laws reserving seats for women in legislature, including Nepal.
Aug, 23, 2018

SC moots steps to clean up politics

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Legal Provisions for disqualification mentioned in newscard

Mains level: De-criminalizing politics in India


News

Parties must declare antecedents

  1. The Supreme Court proposed to make political parties accountable for criminalizing politics by welcoming in crooks who may later win elections on party ticket and grab power.
  2. The Constitution Bench led by CJI suggested it could direct the EC to insist that parties get new members to declare in an affidavit their criminal antecedents and publish them.
  3. This will enable citizens to know how many criminals (charged) there are in a party.
  4. The court demonstrated that the EC could de-register a party or withdraw its symbol if it refused to comply.

Present Mechanism

  1. The court is hearing a batch of petitions to ban persons charged with heinous criminal charges from contesting elections.
  2. The law presently bars only convicted persons from fighting elections or continuing as law makers. A person is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
  3. The Bench has been steadfast during the past days that it cannot legislate and change the written law.

Argument against the Proposal

  1. A political party has a right to field its candidate.
  2. Mere charges of having committed a crime cannot be used to prevent a person from contesting elections.
  3. The person may have done excellent work for his constituency and the people want to vote for him and the courts suggestion amounts to prematurely disqualifying a candidate.

SC directive

  1. Political party should incorporate a clause in your membership form requiring a member to file an affidavit disclosing his criminal antecedents.
  2. Then party will publish it. If not, party may face de-registration by the Election Commission.
  3. Thus, it is as an alternative measure that the Bench suggested making the political party accountable for giving memberships to persons with a criminal record.

Legal Provisions for disqualification

  1. The Bench based its proposal on the power of the ECI to conduct an election and register/de-register political parties under Article 324 of the Constitution and Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act of 1951, respectively.
  2. The court invoked The Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order of 1968 to clothe the Commission with the power to withdraw a reserved party symbol.
  3. Chief Justice Misra pointed to how Section 29A requires a political party to swear to uphold the principles of socialism, secularism, democracy, sovereignty, unity and integrity of India.
Aug, 22, 2018

SC scraps NOTA option for RS polls

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NOTA option

Mains level: Reforms in election process


News

The SC scraps NOTA

  1. The Supreme Court scrapped the use of NOTA (none of the above) option for Rajya Sabha polls, saying it would usher back the “Satan of defections.”
  2. A Bench, led by CJI held that the option is meant only for universal adult suffrage and direct elections and not elections held by the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote as done in the Rajya Sabha.
  3. The option of NOTA may serve best in direct elections but in the election to the Council of States, it would not only undermine the purity of democracy but also serve the Satan of defection and corruption.

Why is NOTA Counterproductive?

  1. The court pointed out that in the voting in Rajya Sabha elections, there is a whip and the elector is bound to obey the command of the party.
  2. The court observed that while NOTA option looks attractive in Rajya Sabha polls, it actually harms an electoral process where open ballot is permissible and party discipline reigns.
  3. Moreover where the elector’s vote has value and the value of the vote is transferable.
  4. The party discipline in this kind of election is of extreme significance, for that is the fulcrum of the existence of parties.
  5. The Court held that NOTA in an indirect election would not only run counter to the discipline expected from an elector under the Tenth Schedule but also be “counterproductive to the basic grammar of the law of disqualification on the ground of defection.”
  6. NOTA will destroy the concept of value of a vote and representation and encourage defection that shall open the doors for corruption which is a malignant disorder.
  7. This have the effect of overriding the provisions of Article 80(4) — proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote, the provisions of Representation of People Act 1951 and the Conduct of Election Rules 1961.
Aug, 13, 2018

Bill to allow proxy voting by NRIs passed by Lok Sabha

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Bill

Mains level:  Importance of overseas Indian voters in Election


News

Context

  1. A bill to extend the facility of ‘proxy voting’ to overseas Indians, on the lines of service voters, was passed by the Lok Sabha.
  2. Proxy is not a negated word. It is now a legal and defined word.
  3. The Bill was passed by a voice vote in the Lower House, proposes that overseas Indians, who are entitled to vote in India, could now appoint a proxy voter to cast their votes.

Proxy Voting Bill

  1. As of now, overseas Indians were free to cast their votes in the constituencies where they were registered.
  2. The Bill seeks to give them the option of proxy voting, which until now was only available to service personnel.
  3. According to estimates of the Ministry of External Affairs, there are about 10 crore NRIs living in different countries across the world.

Preventing Misuse

  1. While framing the rules, the government will ensure that the system of proxy voting is not misused by anyone.
  2. On the issue of allowing migrant workers to vote without having to travel to their place of residence, Prasad said it was “work in progress our sympathies are with them they should be given the right to vote.” Some members demanded that the facility of postal ballots to be extended to them.
  3. Provision for e-voting has several difficulties in implementing in a large country like India due to security concerns.

Reducing travel expenses

  1. Unofficial data with EC shows that only 10,000 to 12,000 overseas voters have exercised their franchise because they do not want to spend foreign currency to come to India and vote.
  2. The necessary provision of coming to India to cast ballot caused hardship for overseas electors.

Provision related to Spouses of Service Voters

  1. As of now, an army man’s wife is entitled to be enrolled as a service voter, but a woman army officer’s husband is not, according to the provisions in the electoral law.
  2. The bill proposes to replace the term ‘wife’ with ‘spouse’, thus making the provision gender neutral.
  3. Members of the armed forces, central armed police forces, personnel of state police forces posted outside their state and employees of the centre posted outside India are eligible to be enrolled as service voters.

Concerns with the Bill

  1. This facility could be misused by political parties by persuading the proxies appointed by the NRIs.
  2. The foreign missions attempts to elections of India by distributing literature to influence the voting pattern in favour of the ruling party.
  3. There should be e-voting for NRIs to prevent misuse.
  4. As regards migrant workers provisions should be made to allow them to vote at their place of residence.
  5. It could lead to vote to trade.
Jul, 11, 2018

[op-ed snap] Simultaneous elections are a bad idea

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Simultaneous election is a hot topic of discussion these days.


News

The idea is gaining traction: Forthcoming General Elections

  1. A paper put out by NITI Aayog argued in favour of the proposal of simultaneous elections.
  2. More recently, the Law Commission invited political parties to a consultation on the simultaneous elections proposal.
  3. The most attractive argument in favour of simultaneous elections is the allure of the phrase, “one nation, one election”

Arguments in Favour

It was suggested that imposing a uniform calendar on elections for the Centre and the states and holding these synchronized elections every five years would involve:

  • Saving money and administrative expense,
  • Avoid “policy paralysis” caused by elections constantly being fought somewhere or
  • Other issues under the Election Commission’s model code of conduct.

No match with GST Rationale

  1. This matches the “one nation, one tax” rationale for the goods and services tax (GST), which, of course, came into force via its own constitutional amendment on 1 July 2017
  2. Simultaneous elections would sweep away the messiness of a nation always in election mode and replace it with the tidiness of elections everywhere, every five years, like clockwork
  3. “One nation, one election” would make sense if India were a unitary state. But we are a union of states, which is philosophically and politically an essentially different conception of the Indian nation-state

Why can election calendar not be synchronous with Centre?

  1. A government may choose to dissolve itself, or a government may fall if its loses its majority, and then the governor, acting on behalf of the president of the republic, will be obliged either to ask another combine to form a government, or must perforce call fresh elections.
  2. Keeping a hung assembly in a state of suspended animation while the governor rules the state, presumably under guidance from the Centre, until the next predetermined election date rolls around, is nothing other than anti-democratic in spirit.
  3. Suppose a Union government loses its majority within the middle of a fixed five-year electoral cycle. The normal course of events would be for either a new government to be formed, or for fresh elections if that is not possible.
  4. Now, if instead, we have president’s rule for the duration of the five-year period under the advice of a council of ministers drawn presumably from the now-defunct Lok Sabha and the still functioning Rajya Sabha will lead to constitutional oligarchy.

Threat to federal structure

  1. Apart from these philosophical considerations, a move to have simultaneous elections threatens the federal character of our democracy at a more practical level.
  2. It gives pole position to large national parties, such as the current or previous governing party, which govern and campaign at the Centre and in most if not all states.
  3. These parties would reap the economies of scale of one large election every five years, to the disadvantage of regional parties which campaign for Lok Sabha and assembly elections only in their own states.
  4. Likewise, in a single big election, national issues would tend to come to the fore and drown out issues of regional interest.
  5. The latter would presumably dominate an assembly election, which occurs organically rather than one forced to fit the Procrustean bed of a single national election.

Way Forward

  1. In sum, “one nation, one election” will only serve the interests of those bent on further centralization of an already overly centralized union.
  2. It will do a grave disservice to the federal character of our union as envisaged by the founders.
Jul, 04, 2018

[pib] Election Commission of India launches “cVIGIL” Mobile App

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Everything about the cVIGIL app

Mains level: Reforms in the electoral system. 


News

cVIGIL Mobile App

  1. “cVIGIL” is a user-friendly and easy to operate Android application to report MCC violations during elections.
  2. Upon successful completion of the trial that is underway, the application will be made available for general use by all, right from the forthcoming Assembly elections in the States of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram and Rajasthan.
  3. The practical use of the app during these Assembly polls will serve as pilot initiative before it is put to extensive use during the 2019 General Elections.

Working of the App

  1. cVIGIL will allow anyone in the election-bound state to report violations of Model Code of Conduct (MCC) that comes into effect from the date of announcement of elections and goes on till a day after the polls.
  2. By using this app, citizens can immediately report on incidents of misconduct within minutes of having witnessed them and without having to rush to the office of the returning officer to lodge a complaint.
  3. The vigilant citizen has to click a picture or record a video of up to two minutes’ duration of the scene of violations of the model code. The photo or video is to be uploaded on the app.
  4. The automated location mapping will be done by the app using the Geographic Information System.
  5. After its successful submission through the app, the vigilant citizen gets a Unique ID to track and receive the follow-up updates on her or his mobile.
  6. A citizen can report many incidents in this manner and will get a unique id for each report for follow up updates. The identity of the complainant will be kept confidential.

Redressal of the Citizens complaint

  1. Once the complaint is lodged, the information beeps in the District Control Room from where it is assigned to a Field Unit.
  2. A field unit consists of Flying Squads, Static Surveillance Teams, Reserve teams etc.
  3. Each Field Unit will have a GIS-based mobile application called ‘cVIGIL Dispatcher’, which allows the unit to directly reach the location through navigation technology and take action.
  4. If the incident is found correct, the information is sent to the National Grievance Portal of the Election Commission of India for further action and the vigilant citizen is informed about the action taken within a hundred minutes.

No Fake complaints allowed

  1. The app has inbuilt features to prevent its misuse. It will receive complaints only about Model Code of Conduct violations.
  2. The user will get 5 minutes to report an incident after having clicked a picture or a video.
  3. To prevent any misuse, the app will not allow uploading of the pre-recorded or old images and videos.
  4. The app will not facilitate the saving of the photos or videos recorded using the ‘cVIGIL’ app into the phone gallery either.
  5. Further, the application will be active only in States where elections have been announced. The moment a citizen exits an election-bound State, the app will become inactive.

Way Forward- Filling all gaps

  1. So far, the complaints about violations of Model Code of Conduct often could not be followed instantly, leading to the violators escaping detection from the action squads.
  2. Also, the lack of any documented evidence in the form of pictures or videos was seen as a hurdle in verifying a complaint.
  3. Further, the absence of a robust response system to quickly and accurately identify the scene of occurrence of violations with the help of geographical location details hampered election officers’ ability to apprehend the violators.
  4. The new app is expected to fill in all these gaps and create a fast-track complaint reception and redressal system.
Jul, 03, 2018

[pib] ECI to hold a National Consultation on Accessible Elections

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: SVEEP

Mains level: The newscard talks about measure to ensure participation of PwDs in Electoral process. 


News

Elections to be accessible for PwDs

  1. The Election Commission of India (ECI) has organized “National Consultation on Accessible Elections,”
  2. The event is a part of the ECI’s pursuit of its mission ‘leave no voter behind’ with special focus on “Persons with Disabilities” (PwD).
  3. During the inaugural session, a dedicated portal for the ECI’s ‘Systematic Voters Education and Electoral Participation’ (SVEEP) initiative will also be launched.
  4. They are aimed at identifying the barriers or gaps in the inclusion of PwD’s in the electoral process, to assess the existing accessibility initiatives and to find solutions for the challenges being faced by the PwD’s.
  5. The whole exercise is to enhance their participation in the forthcoming state and Lok Sabha elections.
  6. The theme of “Inclusion of PwD’s” has been given a special focus in the ECI’s Strategic Plan 2016-2025.
  7. Besides, “Accessible Elections” has been adopted as its central theme for this year’s National Voters’ Day celebrations (25th Jan)

Back2Basics

Systematic Voters Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP)

  1. SVEEP is a programme of multi interventions through different modes and media designed to educate citizens, electors and voters about the electoral process in order to increase their awareness and participation in the electoral processes
  2. SVEEP is designed according to the socio-economic, cultural and demographic profile of the state as well as the history of electoral participation in previous rounds of elections and learning thereof
  3. Now it includes enhanced interaction with the citizens through social media, online contests and voters’ festivals; awareness about new initiatives of linking EPIC with AADHAAR and National Voters’ Service Portal and a regularised yearly plan of activities
  4. In addition to target groups of women, youth, urban voters and the marginalized sections, the inclusion of groups like service voters, NRIs, persons with disabilities, prospective voters/ students is of primary focus
Jun, 13, 2018

[op-ed snap] Polls Are Best Kept Apart

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic Structure Doctrine, EMS Nachiappan Committee on Simultaneous Elections, Standing Committee,  Representation of Peoples’ Act 1951

Mains level: The editorial highlights the unconstitutionality of the demand of Simultaneous Elections


Context

  1. PM has mooted the idea of holding simultaneous polls in the country.
  2. The step may appear to be purely reformist but in reality, it’s an unconstitutional measure and should not be pushed down the throats of people.

Misconceptions about the ease of Amendment for Simultaneous Elections

  1. There is a misconception that an amendment to the Representation of Peoples’s Act 1951 is all that is needed for holding simultaneous polls to the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies.
  2. If the Law Ministry were to attempt such an endeavour, it will realise the hollowness of the concept.

Basic Structure Doctrine at risk

  1. Apart from the basic structure, the federal structure of the polity — itself a part of the basic structure — will collapse if an amendment to the Representation of People’s Act is approved by Parliament.
  2. The Election Commission agrees to undertake the huge exercise but the agency cannot hold elections in even three states without dividing the process into as many as seven phases

Report of the Standing Committee of Parliament, headed by E M S Nachiappan

  1. Holding simultaneous elections may not be feasible in 2016 or even in a decade.
  2. The committee, however, expressed confidence that a solution will be found to reduce the frequency of elections and relieve the people and government machinery from tedium of frequent polls.
  3. This is important for India if it is to compete with other nations in its developmental agenda.
  4. However, this committee did not touch issues pertaining to the basic structure of the Constitution.

The Way Forward: Presidents Call on the Issue

  1. President Kovind recently said that frequent elections not only impose a burden on human resources but also impede the development process due to the promulgation of Model Code of Conduct.
  2. He called for a sustained debate is required on the subject of simultaneous elections and all political parties need to arrive at a consensus on this issue.
Jun, 07, 2018

[pib] Election Commission Of India Launches its online RTI Portal

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Online Portal

Mains level:  Step towards ensuring fare elections and election related grievances redressal


News

Online RTI portal for ECI

  1. The portal can be accessed by general public on the Home Page of the Commission’s website `eci.nic.in’ by clicking on `Online RTI’. 
  2. There is also online payment gateway for making payment of requisite fees under the RTI Act. 
  3. The portal also facilitates online reply to applications and also for making first appeal and reply thereto. 
  4. There will be timely notification alerts to RTI applicant via SMS and E-Mail.

Offline Mode to continue

  1. The online RTI applications made in the past in the Portal of DOPT were downloaded and all such applications barring a few have been disposed of by giving suitable reply to the applicants. 
  2. The remaining applications and First Appeals will be disposed of shortly
May, 31, 2018

[op-ed snap] Paper chase: Faults in VVPAT system

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: The newscard discusses the reasoning against the use of VVPAT in elections.


News

Context

  1. The high incidence of glitches in the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines in the recent by-elections should be a major cause of concern for the Election Commission of India
  2. The Election Commission must review the use of paper trail machines in the polling process

Issues with the VVPAT

  1. Ever since the implementation of the VVPAT system last year, machine malfunction and subsequent delays in polling have been recurring issues
  2. The ECI has suggested that these machines were more prone to malfunctioning due to their sensitivity to extreme weather conditions and exposure to light
  3. It also blamed the relative inexperience of polling officers handling them, compared to the ballot and control units for the electronic voting machines (EVMs) that have been in use for much longer

Background

  1. The VVPAT was added to the EVM to audit the voter tallies stored in the machine
  2. Its universal implementation began in the Goa Assembly polls in 2017
  3. The implementation was deemed necessary as many political parties complained about the possible hacking of EVMs
  4. These complaints lacked any basis, but the VVPAT implementation was hastened to bring back trust in the election process

The VVPAT system has added complexities

  1. The use of these machines has added to the complexity of an otherwise simple, single programmable-chip based system
  2. And rendered it prone to more glitches

No need of VVPAT system

  1. There is enough empirical evidence to show that EVMs have eased polling and helped increase voter turnout since being put to use
  2. But in using VVPAT machines to reassure sceptics about an election’s integrity, the ECI has introduced a new element, and cost, to the process
  3. Considering these challenges, the ECI should consider deploying the VVPAT machines in a limited, statistically significant, randomly chosen set of polling booths
  4. This will reduce the possibility of glitches affecting the polling process as well-tested machines could be deployed (with enough replacements also handy) to such booths
May, 23, 2018

EC to launch app to help voters share malpractice proof

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the App

Mains level: Steps for assuring free and fair elections


News

Model Code of Conduct Violation Reporting App

  1. The Election Commission will launch a multi-lingual mobile application empowering people across the country to share evidence of malpractice by political parties, their candidates and activists ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, directly with the electoral body
  2. The application helps prevent abuse of money and muscle power, allows for sharing of photos and short audio and video clips from the spot itself along with geolocation
  3. Through this mechanism, EC intends to encourage larger public participation in checking corrupt practices and ensuring a free and fair election process

Recent trials

  1. Such an application was made available for the first time in Bengaluru in the run-up to the recently concluded Karnataka Assembly polls
  2. As part of the implementation, the application will also be made operational in the coming Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh

Tackling social media

  1. The growing abuse of social media bots for influencing public opinion has emerged as another major challenge for the Election Commission and plans are on to devise a counter mechanism
  2. These bots are automated accounts often active on popular social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, which use Artificial Intelligence to trigger and influence political debates with an objective to shape public opinion.
  3. A social media cell is already functional in order to address such challenges in the cyber world
Apr, 26, 2018

Centre opposes plea for same process for removal of CEC and ECs

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Article 324 of the Constitution, Appointments to Election commission

Mains level: Issues related to the independent functioning of Election commission


News

Ensuring security of tenure for ECs

  1. The Centre has opposed a plea to make changes in the law to ensure that Election Commissioners are removed in the same manner as the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC)
  2. It also said that while the CEC was a permanent functionary whose appointment is mandated by Article 324 of the Constitution, ECs may or may not be appointed based on the needs of the Election Commission and that this was to be decided by the President

Current provisions

  1. While the CEC can be removed only in the same manner as a judge, the ECs can be removed only on the recommendation of the CEC

SC judgment related to this issue

  1. In the 1995 case of T N Seshan vs Union of India, SC upheld the Constitutional provision which provides for different modes for removal of the CEC and the ECs
Apr, 24, 2018

[pib] Electoral Bond Scheme 2018

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Electoral Bond Scheme, Representation of the People Act, 1951

Mains level: Measures taken to ensure free and fair elections in India


News:

  • Government of India has notified the Electoral Bond Scheme 2018 on January 2018.
  • The Electoral Bonds may be purchased by a person, who is a citizen of India or incorporated or established in India.
  • A person being an individual can buy Electoral Bonds, either singly or jointly with other individuals. 
  • Only the Political Parties registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (43 of 1951) and which secured not less than one per cent of the votes polled in the last General Election to the House of the People or the Legislative Assembly of the State, shall be eligible to receive the Electoral Bonds.
  • The Electoral Bonds shall be encashed by an eligible Political Party only through a Bank account with the Authorized Bank.
  • State Bank of India (SBI), in the 3rd phase of sale, has been authorized to issue and encash Electoral Bonds through its 11 Authorised Branches
Apr, 21, 2018

[op-ed snap] Mission impossible: Simultaneous Elections

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Read the attached story

Mains level: The government is seriously considering the option of simultaneous elections. The newscard explains why this idea is not feasible.


News

Law commission recommendations on simultaneous elections

  1. The Commission has released a three-page summary of its draft working paper, setting out the amendments that may be required in the Constitution and electoral laws
  2. It proposes to put together a report to forward to the Centre after getting the views of the public
  3. It also suggests that premature dissolution of the House could be avoided if all members sit together and elect a leader
  4. This would entail a temporary waiver of the anti-defection law so that members could help form a stable government without the fear of disqualification
  5. However, these are reforms that can be adopted even if simultaneous elections are not held

Why is simultaneous elections a good idea?

  1. In principle, simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies have the benefits of saving poll expenditure
  2. And helping ruling parties focus on governance instead of being constantly in election mode

The idea of simultaneous elections is nearly impossible

  1. It is nearly impossible to implement simultaneous elections,
  2. as it would mean arbitrarily curtailing or extending the term of existing legislatures to bring their election dates in line with the due date for the rest of the country
  3. This would be the most difficult change to execute, as such a measure would undermine federalism as well as representative democracy

Solutions suggested by the Law Commission

  1. The Commission has suggested an alternative: categorise States based on proximity to the next general election, and have one round of State Assembly polls with the next Lok Sabha election, and another round for the remaining States 30 months later
  2. This would mean that India would have a set of elections every two and a half years
    But the solutions may not be feasible
  3. Because governments have been brought down or have collapsed on their own, leading to mid-term polls in different States and even at the Centre in different years
  4. Given the difficulties involved in shifting to simultaneous elections, we may have to live with the reality that some part of the country will go to polls every few months
Apr, 18, 2018

Law Commission for simultaneous polls

Note4studenta

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Law commission

Mains level: Recommendations given by the Law Commission


News

Recommendation of the Law Commission

  1. It recommends that in 2019, the election could be held in phases
  2. In the first phase, it says, elections to the legislatures which are scheduled to go for polls synchronous with the Lok Sabha in 2019 could be held together
  3. The rest of the States could go to elections in proximity with the Lok Sabha elections of 2024
    Relaxation: anti-defection law
  4. It even suggests the relaxation of the “rigours” of the anti-defection law in the Tenth Schedule to prevent a stalemate in the Lok Sabha or Assemblies in case of a hung Parliament or Assembly
  5. The panel says that in case of mid-term elections, the new Lok Sabha or Assembly would only serve the remainder of the term of the previous Lok Sabha/Assembly and not a fresh term of five years
    Go for constitutional amendments
  6. The commission says the Centre should get the Constitutional amendments, if agreed upon, to be ratified by all the States so as to avoid any challenge to them
  7. It also says that the Prime Minister/Chief Minister should be “elected” to lead by the full House like the Lok Sabha Speaker

Major raodblock to simultaneous elections

  1. Citing no-confidence motion and premature dissolution of House as major roadblocks to simultaneous elections, the commission says the parties which introduce the no-confidence motion should simultaneously give a suggestion for an alternative government

Back2basics

Law Commission of India

  1. Law Commission of India is an executive body established by an order of the Government of India
  2. Its major function is to work for legal reform
  3. Its membership primarily comprises legal experts, who are entrusted a mandate by the Government
  4. The Commission is established for a fixed tenure and works as an advisory body to the Ministry of Law and Justice
  5. Justice Balbir Singh Chauhan, a former judge of the Supreme Court was appointed Chairman of the 21st Law Commission on 10 March
  6. This post was lying vacant since September 2015. 66-year old Justice Chauhan is currently heading the Cauvery River Water Disputes Tribunal
  7. One of the key issues pending before the Law Commission is a call on amending the Indian Penal Code (IPC) amid allegations of abuse and arbitrary use of the law
Apr, 13, 2018

Give us power to make poll rules, EC tells SC

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Election Commission of India, Article 324, Representation of the People Act 1950 & 1951

Mains level: Issues related to the autonomy of Election commission


News

Seeking amendment in the Constitutional provisions

  1. Election Commission of India (EC) has sought an amendment in the Constitutional provisions seeking protection for election commissioners from being removed by the chief election commissioner
  2. ECI explained that Article 324 was inadequate and requires an amendment to provide the very same protection and safeguard in the matter of removability of Election Commissioners from office as is available to the CEC

Power to make rules

  1. EC has also sought power to make rules under the electoral law, instead of the Centre
  2. Rulemaking authority under the Representation of the People Act 1950 and Representation of the People Act, 1951 currently vests with the Central government
Apr, 09, 2018

EC to take a call on electoral bonds soon

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Election Commission, electoral bonds

Mains level: Election funding in India and related issues


News

Taking a fresh view of the electoral bonds

  1. The Election Commission will soon take a fresh view of the electoral bonds after analyzing the terms of the government notification and the outcome of two rounds of their sales

Why such move?

  1. Information about the value of bonds in the first round of sales was not reported directly to the Election Commission
  2. The government disclosed it in the Lok Sabha in response to the question from an MP

Is it mandatory to disclose information about election funding to EC?

  1. The amendment to Section 29C of the Representation of the People Act has made it no longer mandatory for the parties to report the details of donations received through the bonds
  2. As per Section 29C(1) of The Representation of People Act, 1951, the political party needs to disclose the details of non-governmental corporations and persons who donate more than Rs. 20,000 to it in a financial year

Back2Basics

Electoral bonds

  1. Electoral Bond is a financial instrument for making donations to political parties
  2. These are issued by Scheduled Commercial banks upon authorization from the Central Government to intending donors, but only against cheque and digital payments (it cannot be purchased by paying cash)
  3. Electoral Bonds would have a life of only 15 days during which it can be used for making donation only to the political parties registered under section 29A of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951 and which secured not less than one percent of the votes polled in the last general election to the House of the People or a Legislative Assembly
  4. The Electoral Bonds under the Scheme shall be available for purchase for a period of 10 days each in the months of January, April, July, and October, as may be specified by the Central Government
Mar, 31, 2018

[pib] Electoral Bond Scheme 2018

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Electoral Bonds, Representation of the People Act, 1951

Mains level: Reforms for ensuring transparency in political funding


News

  • Electoral Bonds may be purchased by a person, who is a citizen of India or incorporated or established in India.
  • A person being an individual can buy Electoral Bonds, either singly or jointly with other individuals.
  • Only the Political Parties registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (43 of 1951) and which secured not less than one percent of the votes polled in the last General Election to the House of the People or the Legislative Assembly of the State, shall be eligible to receive the Electoral Bonds.
  • The Electoral Bonds shall be encashed by an eligible Political Party only through a Bank account with the Authorized Bank.

Guidelines for sale:

  • State Bank of India (SBI) has been authorized to issue and encash Electoral Bonds through its 11 Authorised Branches
  • Electoral Bonds shall be valid for fifteen days from the date of issue and no payment shall be made to any payee Political Party if the Electoral Bond is deposited after the expiry of the validity period
  • The Electoral Bond deposited by an eligible Political Party in its account shall be credited on the same day
Mar, 21, 2018

[op-ed snap] The unfinished agenda of electoral reforms

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: The newscard briefly discusses some important transparency issues related to the Finance Bill 2018.


News

Main issue related to the Finance Bill 2018

  1. In 2014, the Delhi high court found both the BJP and the Congress guilty of having accepted donations from a foreign company, in breach of FCRA 2010
  2. So, last year, the Finance Bill sought to modify the definition of a “foreign company”, which potentially renders the guilty verdict as null and void
  3. But that still left open the possibility of a breach of the older law, which was in force till 2010
  4. So, to eliminate any culpability on that count, Finance Bill 2018 simply backdated the amendment to 5 August 1976
  5. This is classic retrospective amendment trickery, which the present government had forsworn

No action on suggestions given by the Chief Election Commissioners (CEC)

  1. The CEC wrote a letter with details of desirable electoral reforms to the then prime minister in July 2004
  2. That had a list of 22 actionable items which required parliamentary action
  3. But no action resulted
  4. Again in December 2016, the CEC compiled another list, incorporating the old one, and requested Parliament to enact reforms

Institutional issues

  1. Clean politics requires clean funding, and clean candidates
  2. This cannot be ensured by the EC alone
  3. Even the expenditure limits for candidates are prescribed by Parliament, and not by the EC
  4. The data for past several elections, both national and state-level, shows that candidates barely spend 50% of the permissible limit
  5. But clearly a lot of money does flow during elections, and if it not reported, it is illegal and unaccountable by definition

India is not the only country facing the same issues

  1. The issue of cleaning up of campaign finance is global and almost every democracy is struggling with it
  2. But India is far behind global benchmarks, imperfect as they may be
  3. For instance, parties in India so far have even resisted coming under the ambit of Right to Information law

The way forward

  1. With the Finance Bill retrospective amendment, even foreigners may be able to fund politics in India, who knows
  2. Just when the US is grappling with allegations of foreigners “hacking” their presidential elections, India seems to have enabled this
  3. Therefore, we should seriously consider the issues discussed above
Feb, 21, 2018

[op-ed snap] For cleaner, fairer elections

Image Source

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Electoral Bonds

Mains level: The newscard briefly discusses the issue of party(political) funding. It also discusses some important court cases regarding electoral reforms.


News

Electoral reforms through the Supreme Court

  1. The Supreme Court has readily stepped in to introduce electoral reforms
  2. However, most of these interventions are directed at candidates, and rarely at the parties
    Lok Prahari v. Union of India:
  3. The Supreme Court’s recent decision on information disclosure paves a way for future constitutional interventions in India’s party funding regime, including the scheme of electoral bonds
    Association for Democratic Reforms v. Union of India (ADR):
  4. In 2002, the Supreme Court mandated the disclosure of information relating to criminal antecedents, educational qualification, and personal assets of a candidate contesting elections
  5. Now, the court has extended the disclosure obligation to further include information relating to sources of income of candidates and their “associates”

Voters’ right to know about their candidate

  1. The principled basis of the court’s decision is that voters’ right to know about their candidate is an extension of their freedom of expression
  2. Voters cannot be said to have freely expressed themselves (by voting) without having appropriate information about the candidates

Information on party funding

  1. Indian voter is deprived of information related to party funding
  2. The provision of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 exempts political parties from disclosing the source of any contribution below Rs. 20,000
  3. This gives political parties a convenient loophole to hide their funding sources by breaking contributions into smaller sums, even Rs. 19,999 each
  4. As a result, a vast majority of donations to political parties come from sources unknown to voters

Is the information about party funding relevant for a voter in choosing a candidate?

  1. Upholding the constitutionality of disclosure requirements for funding sources in Buckley v. Valeo , the U.S. Supreme Court held, “The sources of a candidate’s financial support also alert the voter to the interests to which a candidate is most likely to be responsive”

However, even if one assumes that parties do not fund their candidates, there is another rationale for disclosure of party-funding sources

  1. Parties occupy a special space in India when it comes to agenda setting
  2. By virtue of a strong anti-defection law in India, all elected legislators are bound by their party agenda
Feb, 13, 2018

Supreme Court: How can convict be office-bearer of party?

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Representation of People’s Act

Mains level: Corruption in politics and ways to reduce it


News

Rationale behind allowing a convicted person to form a political party

  1. The Supreme Court has questioned the rationale behind allowing a convicted person to form a political party
  2. Under the existing law, a convicted legislator cannot contest elections for six years

SC questions

  1. How can a convicted person be an office-bearer of a political party and select candidates to contest elections?
  2. It is that what you cannot do individually, you can do collectively through some of your agents

Against SC judgments

  1. This goes against SC judgments that corruption in politics is to be ostracised for the purity of elections
  2. On the contention that people have a right to form associations, SC said they can form an association to establish a school, but when they are in the field of governance, it matters

EC’s affidavit

  1. In its affidavit, the EC said it had earlier proposed to the government that the present law should be amended
  2. It should provide that any person accused of an offense punishable by imprisonment for five years or more should be disqualified from contesting elections even while trial is pending, provided the court has framed charges against him
  3. The commission also sought powers to de-register a political party and to be able to issue orders regulating registration and de-recognition of parties
Feb, 05, 2018

[op-ed snap] Out Of My Mind: All together now

Image Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Simultaneous election is a hot topic of discussion these days. It is important to know about both sides of the story, complement this newscard with one of our previous newscards on the same issue(but presenting a different view) [op-ed snap] Should India have simultaneous elections?


News

Main issue in having Simultaneous Elections

  1. The difficulties are well-known
  2. A government holds office as long as it enjoys the confidence of the elected chamber
  3. If it loses that confidence and the Opposition cannot form another government which can win confidence, then new elections have to be held
  4. And therefore, simultaneous elections are impossible as of now
  5. Some Constitutional amendments will be required(not possible in current political circumstances)

The Fixed Term Parliament Act (FTPA) of the UK

  1. In the UK, the Fixed Term Parliament Act (FTPA) was passed during the coalition government of 2010-15
  2. Between 1945 and 2010, a British government had ruled for full five years only five times
  3. The Act made removing a government mid-term difficult by setting a high threshold for a no-confidence motion to be passed as well as for the prime minister to dissolve parliament
  4. These kind of restrictions can be useful in India
  5. As it makes makes frivolous no-confidence motions or dissolution of Parliament difficult
  6. If simultaneous elections are to be held in India, some such device will be necessary

Difficulties in having Simultaneous Elections
The difficulty is two-fold:

FIRST

  1. The idea that simultaneous elections should be held has the hidden assumption that it is the Prime Minister who will have the ultimate authority
  2. The proposal, as of now, does not bind the Prime Minister to a strict five-year cycle
  3. In a federation with a written Constitution (unlike the UK), this involves a huge shift of power to the Centre and to the incumbent Prime Minister
  4. It would require not just a constitutional amendment but perhaps a constitutional convention with representation from the Centre and all the states to decide the matter

SECOND

  1. If a state government becomes unpopular, it may need to be dismissed
  2. If there is FTPA but the Opposition secures the necessary majority, then the winning party has to agree to serve only the remainder of the term or President’s Rule has to be imposed
    Some unanswered questions
  3. But what if the government at the Centre loses a vote of confidence?
  4. Does the Opposition form a government for the remainder of the term?
  5. Or do we have new simultaneous elections?
Feb, 02, 2018

[op-ed snap] Should India have simultaneous elections?

Image Source

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Simultaneous election is a hot topic of discussion these days.


News

Benefits of holding simultaneous elections

  1. Holding simultaneous elections will ensure consistency, continuity and governance
  2. As continuity, consistency and governance are integral to democracy

How can it be done?

  1. Implementing simultaneous polls would require a substantial shift from the status quo
  2. And would involve amendments to the Constitution and election-related laws
  3. We have done this in case of the GST
  4. Earlier, tax collections were separate for the Centre and the States
  5. We have changed this now

Main concern

  1. In terms of governance and implementation of development programmes, enforcing the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) is detrimental
  2. If we are preoccupied with local body elections and Assembly elections throughout the year, where is the time for developmental work?
  3. If we are occupied with different elections throughout the year, where is the time for developmental work, with the MCC kicking in every time these elections are held?

Simultaneous elections can help in curbing corruption

  1. Simultaneous elections can also be a means to curb corruption and build a more conducive socio-economic ecosystem
  2. While the Election Commission’s efforts to curb illicit finances are laudable, elections continue to be a conduit for black money and corruption

Simultaneous elections are a huge burden on resources

  1. Security personnel and government officials are effectively put on election duty for many months in a yea
  2. A case in point is the recurring engagement of teachers for election duty, as a result of which students suffer
  3. The cost of elections runs into thousands of crores and has been rising steadily

The way forward

  1. Holding simultaneous elections is not merely about elections; it is about stable governance
  2. Such a sensitive and far-reaching reform requires unanimous support from all political parties
Jan, 31, 2018

EC unlikely to reiterate demand for contempt powers

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Contempt of Courts Act

Mains level: Powers available to Election commission through various provisions


News

Demand for contempt power by EC

  1. The Election Commission is unlikely to reiterate its demand for powers to initiate contempt proceedings
  2. This was to be done against people and parties for making allegations against it without credible evidence

Background

  1. In a letter in April, the Commission had urged the law ministry to amend the election laws so that it could use the ‘Contempt of Courts’ Act against such parties
  2. It had pointed out that several election management bodies, including those in Kenya and Pakistan, have “direct powers” to initiate contempt proceedings

Government refusal for granting any such power

  1. Government has told the poll panel that it won’t be appropriate to grant contempt powers
  2. It may be inconsistent with the law laid down by the Supreme Court
  3. The government had recently told Parliament that the EC’s demand was examined from legal and constitutional angles
  4. The Law Ministry had also taken into account judicial pronouncements in this regard
Jan, 29, 2018

[op-ed snap] A vote for state funding

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Right to Information (RTI) Act, Central Information Commission, Electoral bonds, Indrajit Gupta Committee

Mains level: State funding of elections


Context

Election expenditures in India

  1. Indian elections are the world’s biggest exercise in democracy but also among the most expensive
  2. Corporate donations constitute the main source of election funding in India which is awash with black money
  3. In 2008, using the provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Central Information Commission allowed disclosure of income tax returns of political parties

International best practices

  1. Many countries have partial or full public funding or transparent regulation and financial accountability of political finance
  2. The USA is one such example

Electoral bonds do not ensure transparency

  1. A transparent method of funding political parties is vital to the system of free and fair elections
  2. The concern for transparency in political funding is at complete odds with the electoral bonds scheme notified by the government
  3. Anybody can buy electoral bonds in the form of bearer bonds from specified branches of the State Bank of India and donate it anonymously to a political party of their choice
  4. All donations given to a party will be accounted for in the balance sheets but without exposing the donor details to the public
  5. The Election Commission (EC), the Income Tax department and the voter would remain in the dark about this donation

Why is this a cause for concern?

  1. Bonds will allow corporate houses to make anonymous donations through banking channels to the party of their choice
  2. This would lead to further opacity in the funding process and further limit oversight and accountability
  3. Opacity of election funding is an area of existential concern for democracies
  4. Anonymity is the very wellspring of institutionalised corruption
  5. Also, the bonds scheme imposes no restrictions on the quantum of corporate donations
  6. Electoral bonds will result in unlimited and undeclared funds going to certain political parties

Provisions that will lead to further misuse of electoral bonds

  1. The maximum limit of 7.5% on the proportion of the profits a company can donate to a political party has been lifted
  2. This opens up the possibility of shell companies being set up specifically to fund parties
  3. Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) has been amended to allow foreign funding to political parties
  4. Political parties have refused to come under the RTI Act in order to conceal their sources of funding
  5. All of these together will end up strengthening the business-politics nexus

Not as per recommendations for electoral reforms

  1. It goes against the position taken by various electoral reform committees that the existing pattern of political funding encourages lobbying and capture of the government by big donors
  2. The bond scheme could provide a backdoor to corporates and other lobbies for shaping public policy to benefit their interests
  3. Policy decisions of political parties and politicians after being elected may be biased in favour of groups that fund them

Reform proposals to reduce high cost of elections

  1. Strong disclosure norms
  2. Strict statutory limits on election expenses and
  3. Ceiling on corporate donations to political parties

Way forward

  1. State funding of elections (in various forms) is a potential solution to this problem
  2. The Indrajit Gupta Committee on State Funding of Elections had endorsed partial state funding of recognised political parties and their candidates in elections way back in 1998
Jan, 23, 2018

EC pulled up for backing simultaneous polls

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Powers, functions & responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Standing Committee, Election Commission

Mains level: Debate on simultaneous elections (A question was asked in Mains 2017 on this topic)


News

EC does not have the mandate to decide the issue

  1. The Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice discussed electoral reforms
  2. Lawmakers questioned the Election Commission about its recent statements endorsing simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the Assemblies, saying it does not have the mandate to decide the issue

How will simultaneous election process decided?

  1. Constitution needs to be amended in order to facilitate simultaneous elections
  2. A constitutional amendment would have to be cleared by both Houses of Parliament
  3. It would have to be ratified by the Assemblies of half of the States
  4. The other way was for all Assemblies and the Union government to agree to the plan voluntarily

Back2Basics

Standing Committee

  1. In the Indian Parliament, a Standing committee is a committee consisting of Members of Parliament
  2. It is a permanent and regular committee which is constituted from time to time according to the provisions of an Act of Parliament or Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business
  3. The work done by the Indian Parliament is not only voluminous but also of a complex nature, hence a great deal of its work is carried out in these Parliamentary Committees
  4. Both Houses of Parliament, Rajya Sabha, and Lok Sabha have similar Committee structures with a few exceptions
  5. These standing committees are elected or appointed every year, or periodically by the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha or the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, or as a result of consultation between them
  6. Important committees are the Committee on Estimates, the Committee on Public Accounts, the Committee on Public Undertakings and DRSCs
  7. These committees play an important role in exercising a check over governmental expenditure and Policy formulation
Jan, 20, 2018

EC recommends disqualification of AAP MLAs: Past instances of ‘office of profit’ cases

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Parliament & State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges & issues arising out of these.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Election Commission, Office of Profit, Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Amendment Bill, 2006

Mains level: Provisions related to qualification and disqualifications of legislators


News

20 MLAs of Delhi Assembly disqualified

  1. The Election Commission has recommended to the President the disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs of Delhi Assembly on charges of holding an ‘Office of Profit
  2. The 20 AAP legislators have been accused of being unconstitutionally appointed as parliamentary secretaries to aid various ministers of the Delhi government
  3. The president is bound to act on advice of Election commission

Office of Profit according to constitution

  1. As per the Constitution, the ‘Office of Profit’ bars MP and MLAs from accepting government positions carrying some financial remuneration or any other benefit such as office space or even a car
  2. Any violation of this provision would amount to disqualification of the legislator
  3.  The aim of this provision is to preserve the independence of the legislature by keeping its members away from any temptations from the executive

Past Judicial pronouncements related to office of profit

These say there are two indispensable ingredients of an office of profit

  • There should be an office and
  • The office should carry some profit
  1. In U.C.Raman vs P.T.A.Rahim and Ors, the Supreme Court categorically stated: “The word ‘profit’ has always been treated equivalent to or a substitute for the term ‘pecuniary gain’”
  2. The principle that an “office” should have “receivables” attached to it for it to qualify as an OoP, has been upheld in other cases as well

Backdoor provision

  1. The Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Amendment Bill, 2006 provides for exempting 56 posts from being considered an office of profit
Jan, 19, 2018

Electoral bonds will not solve transparency issues in political funding: CEC

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency & accountability

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Electoral bonds, Representation of the People Act, 1951

Mains level: Issues related to political funding and steps being taken to resolve them


News

Transparency issue will still remain

  1. Electoral bonds are a step in right direction, said Chief election commissioner
  2. But they will not solve all problems pertaining to transparency in political funding

Change of stance of EC

  1. EC had told a parliamentary committee that electoral bonds introduced by the government is a “retrograde” step
  2. The commission, in a written submission to the parliamentary standing committee on law and personnel in May, had said changes made in the election laws after the introduction of the bonds would compromise transparency in political fundings

How electoral bonds would affect transparency, according to EC

  1. The amendment in section 29 C of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 making it no longer necessary to report details of donations received through electoral bonds would compromise transparency

Process of funding via Electoral bonds

  1. An electoral bond can be purchased by any citizen of India or a body incorporated in India
  2. The bonds will be issued in multiples of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 1 lakh, Rs 10 lakh and Rs 1 crore
  3. They will be available at specified branches of the State Bank of India
  4. Donors can donate the bonds to their party of choice which can then be cashed via the party’s verified account within 15 days
  5. Every party that is registered under section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, and has secured at least one percent of the votes polled in the most recent Lok Sabha or assembly election will be allotted a verified account by the Election Commission
  6. Electoral bond transactions can be made only via that account
Jan, 12, 2018

In view of new media, EC panel to suggest changes to model code

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Section 126 of the Representation of the People (RP) Act, Model Code of Conduct

Mains level: Measures being taken by EC to make elections more transparent


News

Changes sought in Model Code of Conduct

  1. The Election Commission (EC) has set up a 14-member committee to suggest changes to Section 126 of the Representation of the People (RP) Act
  2. This provision prohibits poll campaign in the last 48 hours leading to voting
  3. Due to the multifold expansion of digital and electronic media, the extant Model Code of Conduct, Section 126 of the RP Act, 1951, and other related provisions require revisiting to cater to the requirement and challenges of the present and emerging situations

What will committee do?

  1. Apart from suggesting modifications to the election law, the committee will also study the impact of new media and social media during the “silence period”
  2. It would study its implication in view of Section 126 and suggest changes to the model code of conduct (MCC) accordingly
  3. It has also been tasked to examine the difficulties faced in regulating media platforms during the prohibitory 48 hours in a multi-phase election

Back2Basics

Model Code of Conduct

  1. It is a set of guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India for conduct of political parties and candidates during elections mainly with respect to speeches, polling day, polling booths, election manifestos, processions and general conduct
  2. These set of norms has been evolved with the consensus of political parties who have consented to abide by the principles embodied in the said code in its letter and spirit (The Code doesn’t have any statutory basis)
  3. Even though the Code of Conduct does not have any statutory basis, the EC has the power to disqualify a candidate if he/she violates the code
  4. The Model Code of Conduct comes into force immediately on announcement of the election schedule by the commission for the need of ensuring free and fair elections
  5. The objective of MCC is to ensure that the party in power is not able to use public money to improve its electoral prospects
Jan, 03, 2018

Arun Jaitley notifies electoral bonds for political donations

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Electoral bonds, Budget, bearer instrument, promissory note

Mains level: Ensuring transparency in donations to political parties


News

Basic contours of the electoral bonds scheme announced

  1. Details such as denominations, validity, and eligibility of the purchasers were announced by Finance minister for the electoral bonds scheme announced during the 2017 Budget 
  2. Electoral bonds will allow donors to remain anonymous and pay political parties using banks as intermediaries

Highlights of provisions

  1. Electoral bonds would be a bearer instrument in the nature of a promissory note and an interest-free banking instrument
  2. A citizen of India or a body incorporated in India will be eligible to purchase the bond
  3. Electoral bonds can be purchased for any value in multiples of ₹1,000, ₹10,000, ₹10 lakh, and ₹1 crore from any of the specified branches of the State Bank of India
  4. The purchaser will be allowed to buy electoral bonds only on due fulfillment of all the extant KYC norms and by making payment from a bank account
  5. The bonds will have a life of 15 days (15 days time has been prescribed for the bonds to ensure that they do not become a parallel currency)
  6. They can be used to make donations to registered political parties that have secured not less than 1% of the votes polled in the last election to the Lok Sabha or Assembly
  7. The bonds shall be available for purchase for a period of 10 days each in the months of January, April, July, and October, with an additional 30 days to be specified by the Central government in the year of a general election
  8. The bond shall be encashed by an eligible political party only through a designated bank account with the authorized bank

Why is the name of donor not being disclosed?

  1. Bonds would get reflected in the balance sheet of the donors
  2. Currently,  for a very large part of donation coming to political parties by the donors, quantum and source is not known
  3. The past experience has shown that once the names are disclosed, there is a tendency to shift to cash donations
  4. Bonds will ensure cleaner money coming from donors, cleaner money coming to political party and ensure significant transparency
Dec, 15, 2017

SC clears 12 special courts to try cases against politicians

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

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

Mains level: Electoral reforms being brought about by Judiciary


News

SC nod to set up 12 fast track courts 

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

About the scheme

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

Read more about the issue here

Dec, 13, 2017

Electoral bonds likely to carry validity of 15 days

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Electoral bond, promissory note

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


News

Guidelines for electoral bonds

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

What does this mean?

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

Effort to reduce black money usage in elections

  1. The short duration of bonds will ensure these cannot be misused and the objective of reducing the incidence of black money in political funding is achieved
Dec, 13, 2017

Special courts to try politicians, Centre informs SC

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Provisions related to elections

Mains level: Electoral reforms by judiciary


News

12 special courts to be set up

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

Why this move?

  1. The court on November 1 had directed the Centre to place before it details of 1,581 cases involving MPs and MLAs,
  2. This had to be as per the declaration by the politicians at the time of filing their nominations during the 2014 general elections
  3. Supreme Court had directed in November to the government to frame a Central scheme for setting up special courts across the country exclusively to try criminal cases involving “political persons”
Dec, 06, 2017

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

Image Source

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

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


News

Four reasons cited by the PM in support of Simultaneous Elections

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

Data on Election Cost

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

Effect of frequent model code of conducts

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

Other issues cited by the expert against simultaneous elections

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

Simultaneous elections will affect political autonomy of states

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

The way forward

  1. There is still much that is wrong with our nation in its governance and elections
  2. But disparate elections to States and Parliament are not one of them
  3. There is much to improve in terms of efficiency of our governance. But “oneness” is not the desired path to efficiency in a diverse polity such as India
Dec, 02, 2017

‘Way to remove poll commissioners vague’

Note4Students

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

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: Election Commission

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


News

Context

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

The Petition

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

Same powers

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

Tenure

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

 

 

 

 

Dec, 02, 2017

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

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

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

Mains level: Electoral reforms and role of judiciary in it


News

Notice issued by SC to Election commission and Central govt

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

What will SC decide in PIL?

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

Provisions in RP Act and other judgments

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

Contradictions in law

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

What does PIL seek?

  1. It wants the court to declare unconstitutional Section 29A
  2. Also, to authorise the ECI to de-register political parties taking in account the reports by the Goswami Committee on electoral reform
Nov, 30, 2017

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

Note4Students

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

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: Electoral Bonds

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


News

Context

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

Background

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

Electoral Bonds

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

Other changes related to Electoral Bonds

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

Concern raised by EC regarding Electoral Bonds

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

 

 

Nov, 25, 2017

No fresh polls if NOTA votes exceed candidates’

Image source

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NOTA option

Mains level: Reforms in election process


News

PIL rejected

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

Arguments put forward by SC

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

Back2Basics

NOTA option

  1. “None Of The Above”, or NOTA for short, also known as “against all” or a “scratch” vote, is a ballot option in some jurisdictions or organizations, designed to allow the voter to indicate disapproval of all of the candidates in a voting system
  2. It is based on the principle that consent requires the ability to withhold consent in an election, just as they can by voting “No” on ballot questions
  3. When “None of the Above” is listed on a ballot, there is the possibility of NOTA receiving a majority or plurality of the vote, and so “winning” the election
  4. In such a case, a variety of formal procedures may be invoked, including having the office remain vacant, having the office filled by appointment, re-opening nominations or holding another election (in a body operating under parliamentary procedure), or it may have no effect whatsoever, as in India
Nov, 21, 2017

[op-ed snap] The danger of electoral bonds

Image source

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

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

Mains level: Funding to political parties


Context

  1. Transparency in political funding is the global norm
  2. The 255th Law Commission Report on Electoral Reforms observed that opacity in political funding results in “lobbying and capture” of the government by big donors
  3. The lower the transparency in political funding, the easier it is for the super-rich to buy the kind of government they want

Funding to political parties

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

Declaration norms

These are traditionally governed by four legislations

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

Making way for Electoral bonds

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

What electoral bonds do?

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

Changes in donation limitations via Electoral bonds

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

Danger to democracy

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

Way forward

  1. Former Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi has suggested an alternative worth exploring
  2. A National Electoral Fund to which all donors can contribute
  3. The funds would be allocated to political parties in proportion to the votes they get
  4. Not only would this protect the identity of donors, it would also weed out black money from political funding
Nov, 01, 2017

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

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Law Commission of India, MPLADS and MLALADS

Mains level: Reforms required in political party structure in India


Context

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

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

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

Is central control inevitable?

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

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

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

Patronage politics increases due to MPLADS and MLALADS

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

Way forward

  1. Unlike some countries like Germany and Portugal, India has no legal provision for enforcing internal democracy in a political party
  2. There are some related provisions in the Election Commission guidelines but those are neither adequate nor enforceable
  3. Anti-defection law should be done away with, especially for those votes where the survival of the government is not at stake
  4. MPLADS and MLALADS should be scrapped
  5. A partial state subsidy should be provided to fund elections and political parties, which will increase accountability
Oct, 28, 2017

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

Image Source

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

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


News

Context

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

Recent controversy of dates of Gujarat Election

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

People’s trust in the ECI

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

1991 controversy with the Haryana government

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

Positive consequences of these controversies

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

Current situation

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

The way forward

  1. By and large, the ECI functions effectively as a deterrent in India’s political system
  2. Political parties play along even when it inconveniences them because they understand that they will some day require the protection it affords weaker actors from the stronger—those in power
  3. They should remember this when they are tempted to undermine its authority
Oct, 10, 2017

[op-ed snap] The mandate, the mirror

Note4students

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

 

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: First Past the Post System

Mains level: Electoral reforms in India

 


News

Context-

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

 

What is First Past the Post (FPTP) System?

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

Criticisms of FPTP-

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

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

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

 

Counter-arguments-

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

 

Alternative to Vote-Seat inconsistency: List System-

PROS-

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

CONS-

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

 


Back2basics

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

 

Oct, 09, 2017

Simultaneous polls feasible: EC

Image Source

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

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

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


News

Elections Commission on simultaneous elections

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

Why is EC favoring this?

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

How can it be possible?

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

Back2basics

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

Oct, 07, 2017

One nation, many polls

Note4Students

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

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

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

 


News

Context

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

Concerns about election process in India-

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

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

Concerns regarding simultaneous elections-

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

Divergence from simultaneous polls after first elections in Independent India

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

 


Conclusion

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

 

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

Aug, 21, 2017

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

Image Source

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: FPTP, Electoral Bonds

Mains level: A possible future Electoral Reform


News

 Discussions on “different systems of elections”

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

What is ‘First Past the Post’ system?

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

Why is the PSC exploring different systems of elections?

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

Other issues discussed by the panel

  1. The views of parties and the EC have been sought under five heads: (1) ‘Electoral Funding’, (2) ‘Systems of Elections’, (3) ‘Media/ Free Airtime’, (4) ‘Internal Democracy in Political Parties’, and (5) ‘Miscellaneous’
  2. On the issue of electoral funding, the panel has sought views on the electoral bonds and on the proposal regarding state funding of elections
Aug, 03, 2017

Government clears proxy vote move for NRIs

Image Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Indian Diaspora

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: What is proxy voting?

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


News

Changes in Electoral Laws

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

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

  1. The facility for NRIs will not be the same as that enjoyed by service personnel
  2. For example, voters in the armed forces can nominate their relatives as permanent proxy to vote on their behalf
  3. Facility for NRIs: Overseas electors will have to appoint a nominee afresh for each election
  4. One person can act as proxy for only one overseas voter
Dec, 03, 2016

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)

Oct, 26, 2016

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
Oct, 25, 2016

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
Oct, 25, 2016

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
Oct, 21, 2016

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
Oct, 20, 2016

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
Oct, 20, 2016

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
Oct, 19, 2016

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’
Sep, 28, 2016

[op-ed snap] The case against simultaneous polls

  1. Theme: Simultaneous polls at national and state level
  2. Background: Online public consultation has been initiated by the Central Government to seek inputs about the desirability of simultaneous elections for the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies.
  3. Various arguments for and against simultaneous polls: Simultaneous polls will help in saving a lot of money. But imposing simultaneous elections to cut costs, privileges monetary concerns over democratic principles.
  4. With multiple elections, the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) is in force for much of the time which slows down development work. Simultaneous polls will thus result in better governance. But, a better solution would be to make changes in the MCC so that it comes into force on notification rather than on announcement of elections.
  5. Also, there is already a provision in the MCC that the Election Commission can permit the Government to take policy decisions that are not likely to have any implications for the electoral outcome.
  6. And, MCC applies only to the State where Assembly elections are to be held. It should not impact governance in the rest of the country and at the Centre.
  7. Imposing simultaneous elections would undermine the federal structure of our country that the Constitution envisages.
  8. When elections are held simultaneously, there is a tendency among the voters to vote for the same party both for electing the State government as well as the Central government. It would thus go against the political diversity which is essential for addressing the social diversity of India.
  9. Other issues with implementing simultaneous elections include: the feasibility of constitutional amendments required; State governments agreeing to the untimely dissolution of the Assemblies; and the question of what happens if a government falls without completing its term.
Sep, 17, 2016

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
Sep, 17, 2016

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
Sep, 17, 2016

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
Sep, 01, 2016

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
Aug, 30, 2016

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
Aug, 23, 2016

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
Aug, 19, 2016

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
Jun, 08, 2016

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
May, 21, 2016

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
May, 20, 2016

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
May, 20, 2016

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
May, 17, 2016

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
May, 04, 2016

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
May, 03, 2016

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
Apr, 23, 2016

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
Apr, 23, 2016

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
Apr, 20, 2016

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
Apr, 16, 2016

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
Apr, 09, 2016

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
Feb, 26, 2016

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
Dec, 18, 2015

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.
Nov, 17, 2015

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.
Oct, 31, 2015

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.
Apr, 14, 2015

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.
Mar, 19, 2015

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.
Mar, 19, 2015

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. 

Mar, 19, 2015

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.
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