Electoral Reforms In India

Electoral Reforms In India

ECI’s technical SOP for EVM verification is out: why verify and how? 

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Burnt Memory of EVM

Mains level: Process to be followed for the verification of EVMs and VVPATs

Why in the News?

The ECI released a technical Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on July 16 for verifying burnt memory in EVMs and VVPATs, following an April Supreme Court verdict.

What is the Burnt Memory of EVM?

  • “Burnt memory” in Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) refers to the firmware or software program permanently written onto the microcontroller’s memory during the manufacturing process.
  • This memory controls the EVM’s operations, and “burnt” implies it is fixed and cannot be altered or reprogrammed easily.

What was the case before the Supreme Court, and what did it order?  

Case Before the Supreme Court:

  • The Supreme Court was hearing a challenge to the reliability of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). The judgment was delivered on April 26, 2024, during the Lok Sabha election.
  • The Supreme Court upheld the EVM-VVPAT system and rejected the plea for a return to paper ballots and for 100% counting of VVPAT slips.
  • The court directed the Election Commission of India (ECI) to allow second and third-placed candidates to seek verification of burnt memories of EVMs and VVPATs of up to 5% of machines in an Assembly constituency or an Assembly segment of a Lok Sabha constituency.

Court’s Orders:

  • The burnt memory/microcontroller in 5% of the EVMs (control unit, ballot unit, and VVPAT) per assembly constituency/assembly segment of a parliamentary constituency shall be checked and verified for tampering or modification.
  • Candidates who are at Sl. No. 2 or Sl. No. 3 behind the highest polled candidate can request verification in writing.
  • Candidates or their representatives have the option to be present during the verification process. Requests for verification must be made within seven days of the declaration of the result.
  • The actual cost or expenses for the verification will be notified by the ECI, and the candidate requesting the verification will bear the expenses. These expenses will be refunded if tampering is found.

What is the process to be followed for the verification of EVMs and VVPATs? 

Technical SOP by ECI:

  • Mock Poll: A mock poll of up to 1,400 votes per machine will be conducted in the presence of candidates or their representatives.
  • Result Comparison: If the results of the machines and VVPAT slips match, it will be concluded that the burnt memory or microcontrollers have not been tampered with.
  • Selection of Machines: Candidates can select the polling stations, EVMs, BUs, CUs, and VVPATs they want checked.
  • Verification Team: Trained engineers from the EVM manufacturers, Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL) will perform the checks.
  • Technical Methods: Various technical methods will be used to verify the fidelity of firmware burnt into a microcontroller through a public process.

When will this process of checking start?

  • Preliminary Step: Verification will commence after it is confirmed by the High Courts of the respective states that no Election Petitions have been filed regarding the constituencies in question.
  • Election Petitions: Petitions challenging the election outcome can be filed within 45 days of the results being declared. Since the results were announced on June 4, petitions can be filed until July 19.
  • Applications Received: Eleven applications cover 118 polling stations or sets of EVMs and VVPATs. Applications have been received from candidates from BJP, Congress, DMDK, and YSRCP.

Way forward: 

  • Enhanced Transparency and Confidence: Conduct regular and public verification processes of EVMs and VVPATs with involvement from political parties and independent observers to build public trust and confidence in the electoral system.
  • Technological Upgradation and Training: Invest in upgrading EVM technology and provide comprehensive training for election officials and engineers to ensure efficient and accurate verification and operation of voting machines.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Is it time for Proportional Representation?     

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: First Past the Post (FPTP) and Proportional Representation (PR) System

Mains level: Pros and Cons of FPTP and PR System

Why in the News?

India should contemplate proportional representation to ensure fairer political outcomes, given NDA’s 293 seats (43.3%) compared to INDIA bloc’s 234 seats (41.6%).

First Past the Post (FPTP) System

  • First Past the Post (FPTP) is a voting system where the candidate with the most votes in each constituency wins, regardless of whether they achieve an absolute majority.
  • Simple and feasible method used in large democracies like India, the U.S., the U.K., and Canada.
  • Provides stability to the executive as the ruling party/coalition can enjoy a majority in the legislature without obtaining a majority of the votes across constituencies.
  • Criticized for potentially resulting in over or under-representation of political parties compared to their vote share.

Proportional Representation (PR) System:

  • Ensures representation of all parties based on their vote share. Commonly implemented through party list PR, where voters vote for parties rather than individual candidates. PR system applied at each State/Union Territory (UT) level in federal countries like India.

Pros and Cons Comparison between FPTP and PR

First Past the Post (FPTP):

  • Pros: Simple, stable majority governments, clear constituency representation.
  • Cons: Disproportionate representation, underrepresentation of minorities, many wasted votes.

Proportional Representation (PR):

  • Pros: Fairer representation, inclusivity of smaller parties, fewer wasted votes.
  • Cons: Complex, potential for unstable coalitions, weaker direct constituency representation.

International Practices:

  • The PR system is used in presidential democracies like Brazil and Argentina, as well as parliamentary democracies like South Africa, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Spain.
  • Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMPR) system employed in Germany and New Zealand.
  • Germany: Germany uses MMPR for elections to the Bundestag. Half of the seats are filled through FPTP constituencies, and the other half are allocated to ensure proportional representation based on party votes, provided parties receive at least 5% of the vote.
  • New Zealand: New Zealand’s House of Representatives is elected using MMPR, with 60% of seats filled through constituency elections and 40% allocated proportionally based on party votes.
  • The Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMPR) system is a hybrid electoral system that combines elements of First Past the Post (FPTP) and Proportional Representation (PR) to ensure both local representation and proportionality in election results.

Way Forward:

  • The Law Commission, in its 170th report titled ‘Reform of the Electoral Laws’ (1999), recommended the experimental introduction of the Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMPR) system. It suggested that 25% of seats in the Lok Sabha could be filled using a Proportional Representation (PR) system by increasing the total number of seats.
  • Incremental implementation of MMPR system for additional seats during delimitation exercises to address population disparities while ensuring fair representation for all regions.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Two lakh plus NOTA votes in Indore: Why NOTA was introduced, its consequences

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NOTA

Mains level: Impact of NOTA Receiving the Highest Number of Votes in a Particular Constituency

Why in the news? 

Over 200,000 votes were cast for NOTA in the Indore Lok Sabha constituency. Let’s explore the reasons behind the introduction of this option and what occurs if, in an improbable scenario, NOTA garners more votes than all other candidates.

Back2Basics: NOTA in Indian Elections

  • NOTA, which stands for None of The Above, is an electoral choice where voters can express their disapproval of all the candidates in a voting system.
  • In the 2013 PUCL v. Union of India case, the Supreme Court mandated the use of NOTA in direct elections for the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies.
  • The ruling specified that in such elections, voters should have the option to select to indicate their dissatisfaction with all candidates or political parties listed on the ballot.
  • The NOTA option was first used in the 2013 legislative assembly elections held in four states—Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh, and the union territory of Delhi.

Impact of NOTA Receiving the Highest Number of Votes in a Particular Constituency

1. Legal Consequence:

  • Current Status: NOTA has no legal consequence; the candidate with the highest votes after NOTA wins the election.
  • Indore Case: Shankar Lalwani won with a massive margin over NOTA, which received the highest number of votes ever recorded for NOTA in any constituency.
  • Possible Change: There are ongoing discussions and petitions urging that elections be declared null and void if NOTA receives the highest number of votes.

2. Future Considerations:

  • Petition by Shiv Khera: Calls for the ECI to frame guidelines to declare elections null and void if NOTA receives the majority vote and to debar candidates who receive fewer votes than NOTA for five years.

Judicial Stand

  • 2013 Judgment: The Supreme Court ruled that the right to secrecy in voting includes those who choose not to vote, mandating the introduction of the NOTA option.
  • Rationale: The Court emphasised that secrecy is an essential feature of free and fair elections, supported by the introduction of EVMs to maintain voter anonymity.

Current Deliberations:

  • New Petition (2024): The Supreme Court is considering a petition to make elections null and void if NOTA gets the highest votes, with additional consequences for candidates.
  • State-Level Precedents: Some states and union territories (e.g., Maharashtra, Haryana, Delhi) have declared NOTA as a “Fictional Electoral Candidate” for local elections, mandating fresh elections if NOTA receives the majority vote.

Way forward:

  • Null and Void Clause: Introduce a clause in the Representation of the People Act to declare elections null and void if NOTA receives the highest number of votes.
  • Debarment of Candidates: Amend the law to debar candidates who receive fewer votes than NOTA from contesting elections for a specified period (e.g., five years).

Mains PYQ:

Q Discuss the procedures to decide the disputes arising out of the election of a Member of the Parliament or State Legislature under The Representation of the People Act, 1951. What are the grounds on which the election of any returned candidate may be declared void? What remedy is available to the aggrieved party against the decision? Refer to the case laws. (UPSC IAS/2022)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

The verdict points to the importance of economic issues

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Mains level: Need of Federalism in India

Why in the news?

The outcome of the Lok Sabha elections surprised those who had relied on the flawed exit polls.

The visible message from the general elections of 2024 emphasized two main points:

  • Revival of Federalism: The elections underscored the importance of revitalizing federalism, moving away from the centralized control that had characterized the previous decade. It highlighted the need for state governments to have more autonomy and the ability to deliver public services without excessive interference from the central government.
  • Constructive and Inclusive Political Approach: The results indicated that political parties need to adopt a more constructive and inclusive approach to nation-building. This includes a stronger focus on social justice, addressing economic issues such as unemployment and low wages, and ensuring that policies cater to the needs and rights of various segments of the population, including youth, women, farmers, and workers. The electorate showed a preference for parties that prioritize livelihood and employment issues along with social justice.

Need to revive the Federalism

  • Decentralization of Power: Federalism ensures a more balanced distribution of power between the central and state governments. This decentralization allows states to manage their affairs more effectively, tailoring policies and programs to their specific needs and circumstances.
  • Enhanced Public Service Delivery: State governments are primarily responsible for delivering essential public services such as health, education, and infrastructure. A revived federalism would enable states to perform these functions without undue interference from the central government, leading to more efficient and responsive governance.
  • Cultural and Regional Autonomy: India is a diverse country with varied cultural, linguistic, and regional identities. Federalism respects and accommodates this diversity by allowing states to preserve and promote their unique identities and traditions within the framework of a united nation.

Political Parties need to be more constructive, and inclusive in their approach to nation-building

  • Addressing Economic Challenges: Parties must focus on pressing economic issues such as unemployment, low wages, and the rising cost of living. Constructive policies that create jobs, support small businesses, and address economic disparities are crucial for national progress.
  • Social Justice and Inclusion: Inclusivity involves addressing the needs and rights of marginalized and disadvantaged groups. This includes ensuring social justice for various castes, genders, and socio-economic backgrounds. Emphasizing social justice can help reduce inequality and promote a more cohesive society.
  • Responsive to Public Needs: Political parties need to listen to and address the genuine needs and concerns of the populace. This involves creating policies that reflect the realities faced by people in different regions and socio-economic conditions.

Conclusion: The 2024 Lok Sabha elections underscored the need for revitalized federalism and a constructive, inclusive political approach focused on economic issues and social justice to address diverse public needs effectively.

Mains PYQ 

Q How far do you think cooperation, competition and confrontation have shaped the nature of federation in India? Cite some recent examples to validate your answer. (UPSC IAS/2020)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

SC refuses to issue Interim order on Voter data     

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Form 17C

Mains level: Why did SC Refuse the request?

Why in the news?

On May 24, the Supreme Court rejected an [Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR)] NGO’s request for the Election Commission of India to upload authenticated, scanned, and legible copies of Form 17C, which details the booth-wise account of votes recorded after each phase of Lok Sabha elections.

About the Application Filed by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR):

  • ADR sought an order directing the Election Commission of India (ECI) to upload authenticated, scanned, and legible copies of Form 17C, which shows the account of votes recorded booth-wise after each phase of polling in Lok Sabha elections.
  • ADR highlighted concerns regarding the delay in publishing final voter turnout data and the significant revisions in voter turnout percentages, which raised public suspicions and apprehensions about the accuracy of the data.

Why did the Supreme Court refuse to issue interim order on voter data?

  • Timing of the Elections: The Supreme Court refused the plea on May 24, stating that the nation was in the middle of the General Elections and at the moment of the sixth phase of polling.
  • Diverting the attention: The court acknowledged the mammoth nature of the elections, which require vast human resources. Diverting the attention of the Election Commission during this critical period was not deemed appropriate.
  • Ongoing Petition: The interim relief sought by ADR was already part of a relief sought in a petition pending since 2019. Granting interim relief at this stage would effectively mean providing final relief in the ongoing writ petition.
  • Already decided in previous judgments: Senior advocate Maninder Singh for the EC argued that ADR’s application was unfounded.
    • It aimed at discrediting the EC, invoking the concept of constructive res judicata, implying that issues already decided in previous judgments (like EVM-VVPAT case) cannot be re-litigated in the middle of an election process.

About the Role of the Judiciary During Election Polls:

  • Non-Interference During Elections: The Supreme Court emphasized that it should not interfere with the conduct of elections, which are managed by the Election Commission, during the polling process.
  • Enhancing Conduct of Polls: The judiciary’s role is to enhance the conduct of elections rather than interrupt or interfere in ongoing electoral processes.
  • Ground Reality Awareness: The judiciary must be conscious of the practical realities and complexities involved in the conduct of elections, ensuring that its actions do not disrupt the democratic process.

Conclusion: The Supreme Court’s refusal to entertain ADR’s application highlights the judiciary’s cautious approach in intervening in electoral processes, especially during ongoing elections, to maintain the integrity and smooth functioning of the democratic exercise. The court seeks to balance the need for transparency and fairness in elections with the practicalities and operational challenges faced by the Election Commission.

Mains PYQ: 

Q To enhance the quality of democracy in India the Election Commission of India has proposed electoral reforms in 2016. What are the suggested reforms and how far are they significant to make democracy successful? (UPSC IAS/2017)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Reading the lower voter turnout scenario

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Election process in India;

Mains level: NA

Why in the News?

Low voter turnout has been a notable trend in the initial phases of the ongoing 2024 general elections in India which reflects the shift in dynamics of democratic politics.

American Scenario during Past Elections:

  • Conventional Wisdom: In the U.S., increased voter turnout is traditionally believed to benefit Democrats. For example, it was argued that higher voter turnout could have altered the outcome in favour of Hillary Clinton in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
    • According to Daron R. Shaw and John R. Petrocik in “The Turnout Myth” (2020), Hillary Clinton’s support did not significantly vary with voter turnout.
  • Class Cleavages: The advantage Democrats gained from higher turnout has decreased since 1960 due to the erosion of class-based voting patterns.
  • Simulation Studies: Research by Michael D. Martinez and Jeff Gill, and later by Spencer Goidel, Thiago Moreira, and Brenna Armstrong, used simulations to predict how changes in turnout would affect election outcomes. In recent studies, the impact of increased turnout on party advantage has varied over time.

Perception About the Party’s Prospects:

  • High confidence in a party’s victory can deter voters from participating, thinking their vote is unnecessary.
  • Polls showing Bill Clinton’s like victory during the 1996 US Elections,  led to low voter turnout, with some Clinton supporters abstaining because they believed his win was assured.
  • While both Clinton and Dole supporters showed reluctance to vote due to predicted outcomes, it led to higher abstention to vote for them.

Indian Scenario:

  • Class and Caste based: The 2019 Indian election saw a significant jump in the SC vote for the BJP, from 24% in 2014 to 34% in 2019, indicating a shift in voting patterns among Scheduled Castes. The Upper Caste Poor voted 49% BJP and 9% Congress, while Poor OBCs and Poor STs also followed a similar pattern. Poor Muslims, however, voted 8% BJP and 30% Congress.
  • Religion and Language-based: Religion is a significant factor, with political parties often indulging in communal propaganda to exploit religious sentiments. Language also plays a role, with parties arousing linguistic feelings to influence voter decisions.
  • Region and Personality based: Regionalism and sub-regionalism are important, with regional parties appealing to regional identities and sentiments. The charismatic personalities of party leaders, such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and Narendra Modi, have significantly influenced voter decisions.
  • Voter turnout trends in India have fluctuated, with no consistent correlation to incumbent advantage or disadvantage.
  • It is generally believed that higher voter turnout is detrimental to incumbents, though recent elections (2014 and 2019) saw high turnout with incumbent victories.
  • The voting patterns of habitual versus non-habitual voters likely vary significantly, influenced by the diverse and multi-party nature of Indian politics.
  • Decreased turnout in the 2024 general elections could be due to factors like weather, COVID-19, economic issues, and voter apathy, potentially impacting different parties in varied ways.

Conclusion

The role of non-habitual voters in Indian elections adds an element of unpredictability, making it difficult to draw firm conclusions until election results are finalised.

Mains PYQ:

Q Individual Parliamentarian’s role as the national law maker is on a decline, which in turn, has adversely impacted the quality of debates and their outcome. Discuss. (UPSC IAS/2019)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

No Legal Mandate to share Voter Turnout Data: ECI to Supreme Court

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Article 329(b), Forms 17A and 17C

Why in the News?

The Election Commission of India (ECI) told the Supreme Court that there is no legal mandate to provide Form 17C (account of votes recorded) to any other person other than the candidate or his agent.

What does Article 329(b) say?

  • It specifically bars courts from intervening in any disputes related to the electoral process during the active phase of an election—from its notification to the final declaration of results.
  • This is to prevent any potential delays or disruptions caused by litigation during the election.

About Forms 17A and 17C  

As per the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, there are two forms that have data on the number of electors and voters — Forms 17A and 17C.

  1. Form 17A: This document, compiled by the Returning Officer for each constituency, lists contesting candidates and registers voter information, including names and symbols.
  2. Form 17C: Form 17C contains the account of votes recorded at each polling station during the election. It is prepared by the Presiding Officer of the polling station after the conclusion of polling. It includes:
  • EVM identification numbers.
  • Total number of electors and voters at the polling station.
  • Number of voters who did not record their votes after signing the register.
  • Number of voters not allowed to vote.
  • Total number of votes recorded per EVM.
  • Part-II of Form 17C: It carries counting results entered on counting day. This form is crucial for any legal challenges to the election results and for candidates to verify results on counting day.

Why is there a Demand to Make Form 17C Data Public?

  • Activists advocate for greater transparency in election processes.
  • The high number of polling stations makes it hard for candidates to compile all data.
  • The Election Commission of India (ECI) is not legally required to publish aggregate voter turnout data.
  • The ECI ensures that all statutory requirements, including providing Form 17C to candidates, are met.
  • Discrepancies noted in Form 17C can be contested to maintain election integrity.

Back2Basics: Conduct of Election Rules, 1961

  • The Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, commonly referred to as the 1961 Rules, outline the procedural framework governing various aspects of the electoral process in India.
  • These rules were formulated under the authority of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
  • It serves as the foundational legislation for conducting elections in the country.
    • Activities covered: Preparation of electoral rolls, the nomination of candidates, the conduct of polling, counting of votes, and the declaration of results.
  • Regulatory Function: The 1961 Rules incorporate provisions for addressing electoral malpractices, disputes, and grievances, thereby safeguarding the sanctity of elections.

 

PYQ:

[2017] For election to the Lok Sabha, a nomination paper can be filed by

(a) Anyone residing in India.

(b) A resident of the constituency from which the election is to be contested.

(c) Any citizen of India whose name appears in the electoral roll of a constituency.

(d) Any citizen of India.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Can parties be de-recognized or de-registered? | Explained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Political Parties and their registration/de-registration in India;

Mains level: Issues related to Political Parties;

Why in the News?

The ECI urges star campaigners to uphold societal harmony, sparking debate on its efficacy in curbing MCC violations and enforcing norms.

Criteria for Registration of Political Parties:

  • Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (RP Act) outlines the criteria for registering a political party with the Election Commission of India (ECI).
  • Any party seeking registration must submit a copy of its memorandum or constitution. This document must declare that the party will faithfully adhere to the Constitution of India.
  • Additionally, it must commit to the principles of socialism, secularism, and democracy, and uphold the sovereignty, unity, and integrity of India.

How are political parties registered in India?   

  • A political party recognized as a ‘National’ or ‘state’ party under the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 (Symbols Order) by the Election Commission of India (ECI) is referred to as a Recognized Political Party (RPP).
  • Recognition as a ‘National’ or ‘state’ political party is contingent upon meeting specific criteria, such as winning a requisite number of seats or obtaining a required percentage of votes in a general election to the Lok Sabha or State Assembly.
  • Currently, there are 6 National political parties and 61 state political parties that have been granted recognition. Recognized parties benefit from additional privileges, including the reservation of a symbol during elections and the designation of forty ‘star campaigners’.
  • Registered political parties enjoy the following legal benefits:
    • Tax exemption for donations received under Section 13A of the Income Tax Act, 1961.
    • Common symbol for contesting general elections to the Lok Sabha/State Assemblies
    • Twenty ‘star campaigners’ during the election campaign. As per the ECI, there are 2,790 active registered political parties in India.

What are the issues related Criteria for Deregistration?

  • Misuse of Privileges: Non-contesting RUPPs raise concerns about potential misuse of benefits like income tax exemption and donations for purposes such as money laundering.
  • Absence of De-registration Powers: The Representation of the People Act (RP Act) does not explicitly empower the Election Commission of India (ECI) to de-register political parties for failure to contest elections, conduct inner-party elections, or submit required returns.
  • Legal Limitations: The Supreme Court ruling in “Indian National Congress versus Institute of Social Welfare & Ors (2002)” affirmed that the ECI lacks the authority to de-register political parties under the RP Act, except under extraordinary circumstances such as fraudulent registration or cessation of allegiance to the Constitution.
  • Violations of Model Code of Conduct (MCC): Recognised political parties have been found guilty of breaching the MCC, which prohibits the exploitation of caste and communal sentiments for electoral gain, as well as voter bribery and intimidation.

What needs to be done? (Way Forward)

  • The Election Commission of India (ECI) has proposed amendments to the law in its 2016 memorandum for electoral reforms, aiming to grant the ECI the authority to deregister political parties.
  • The Law Commission’s 255th report on ‘Electoral reforms’ in 2015 also advocated for amendments allowing the de-registration of a political party if it abstains from contesting elections for 10 consecutive years. These recommendations should be put into effect.
  • Paragraph 16A of the Symbols order grants the ECI the power to suspend or revoke the recognition of a recognized political party if it fails to adhere to the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) or comply with lawful directives from the Commission.
  • Although this provision has been utilized only once, as seen in the temporary suspension of the National People’s Party’s recognition in 2015 for non-compliance with ECI directives, stricter enforcement of this measure would foster adherence to the MCC.

Mains PYQ:

Q Discuss the role of the Election Commission of India in the light of the evolution of the Model Code of Conduct.(UPSC IAS/2022)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

EC’s Model Code of Conduct (MCC) Need Reforms

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Model Code of Conduct (MCC)

Mains level: features and concerns related MCC

Why in the news?

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has issued notifications regarding complaints of violations of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) against prominent leaders in India.

Model Code of Conduct (MCC)

  • Set of guidelines : The Model Code of Conduct (MCC) is a set of guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India (EC) for political parties and candidates.
  • Aim: It aims to establish standards of conduct during election campaigns and polling.The MCC includes provisions for lodging complaints with EC observers and dictates the conduct of ministers from ruling parties during the MCC period.
  • In 2019, an addition was made concerning election manifestos, prohibiting promises contrary to constitutional ideals.
  • The MCC is not legally binding as it is not a statutory document enacted by Parliament.
  • While violating many MCC guidelines may not result in punitive action, certain actions are categorized as electoral offenses and corrupt practices under the Indian Penal Code and the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
  • Violators of these laws will face appropriate punishment.

Evolution of MCC:

  • Origin: The Model Code of Conduct (MCC) originated as a small set of guidelines for the Assembly election in Kerala in 1960.
  • Initially, it covered various aspects such as the conduct of election meetings, processions, speeches, slogans, posters, and placards.
  • Expansion of MCC: Under Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) K V K Sundaram in 1968, the EC consulted with political parties and expanded the MCC to ensure minimum standards of behavior for free and fair elections.
  • Standard practice: By 1979, it became a standard practice for the EC to circulate the MCC before every General Election.
  • Consolidation of MCC: Over time, the MCC evolved further with consultations between the EC and political parties. In 1991, it was consolidated and re-issued with additional sections, including restrictions on the “party in power” to prevent the misuse of authority for unfair advantages.

Features of MCC: 

  • Activation of MCC: The Model Code of Conduct (MCC) is activated immediately upon the announcement of the election schedule by the Election Commission and remains in effect until the completion of the election process, including the announcement of results.
  • Applicable on all election: It applies to all elections to the Lok Sabha, State Assemblies, State Legislative Council elections from Local Bodies, and Graduates’ and Teachers’ Constituencies.
  • Across all India: During General elections, the MCC is enforced across India, while during Legislative Assembly elections, it is enforced in the specific state going to polls.
  • Funded to adhere with MCC: All organizations, committees, corporations, and commissions funded wholly or partially by the Central or State governments are obligated to adhere to the MCC.
  • List of Political parties: In addition to listed political parties and candidates, non-political organizations conducting campaigns in support of a political party or candidate are also required to follow specific guidelines outlined by the Election Commission.

Issues related to MCC: 

  • The political environment in the country has become more intense, leading to a decrease in the effectiveness of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC).
  • Instances of violations of the MCC are increasing rapidly and are becoming widespread and aggressive.
  • Political leaders are using their influence, resources, and persuasive tactics more aggressively than ever, often exploiting loopholes between the literal and intended meanings of the MCC.
  • Money power has become more prominent than physical strength, and advancements in technology have provided new ways to circumvent regulations.
  • The MCC lacks clarity on the consequences of violations, which weakens its ability to deter misconduct.
  • Delayed responses to violations reduce the impact of penalties and erode public trust in the Election Commission’s credibility.

Way Forward

  • Strengthen Enforcement: Enhance the enforcement mechanisms to ensure strict adherence to the MCC guidelines. 
  • Technological Solutions: Leverage technology to improve monitoring and enforcement of MCC compliance. Implement tools such as social media monitoring, data analytics, and surveillance technology to detect and deter violations effectively.
  • Swift and Transparent Action: Ensure timely and transparent action against MCC violations. Establish clear protocols for investigating complaints and imposing penalties on violators. Swift action will enhance the deterrent effect of the MCC.

Mains PYQ:

Q ‘Simultaneous election to the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies will limit the amount of time and money spent in electioneering but it will reduce the government’s accountability to the people’ Discuss. [2017]

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Reforms needed in the voting process | Explained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: VVPATs, EVM

Mains level: Limitation and significance of EVM

Why in the news? 

The Supreme Court has decided to hear petitions seeking 100% cross-verification of the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips with the vote count as per Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).

What is the history of the Voting Process?

  • First two General Elections: In the Elections of 1952 and 1957, a separate box was placed for each candidate with their election symbol. Voters had to drop a blank ballot paper into the box of the candidate whom they wanted to vote for.
  • Third Election: In the third election, the ballot paper with names of candidates and their symbols was introduced with voters putting a stamp on the candidate of their choice.
  • Introduction of EVM in Lok Sabha Elections: In the 2004 general elections to the Lok Sabha, EVMs were used in all 543 constituencies.
  • Global Scenario:
    • Many Western democracies, including England, France, The Netherlands, and the United States, have opted to continue using paper ballots for their National or Federal Elections instead of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
    • Some countries have discontinued the use of EVMs after trials over the past two decades. For example, Germany’s Supreme Court declared the use of EVMs in elections unconstitutional in 2009.

Significance of EVM: 

  • Prevention of Booth Capturing: EVMs have significantly reduced the likelihood of booth capturing, a practice where unauthorized individuals seize control of polling booths to manipulate votes.
  • Elimination of Invalid Votes: EVMs have effectively eliminated invalid votes, which were a common issue with paper ballots.
  • Environmental Sustainability: With a large electorate size like India’s, which is close to one billion, the use of EVMs contributes to environmental sustainability by reducing the consumption of paper.
  • Administrative Convenience: EVMs provide administrative convenience for polling officers on the day of the poll. They simplify the voting process, making it easier for voters to cast their ballots and for officials to manage polling stations efficiently.

Limitations on using EVM: 

  • Susceptibility to Hacking Allegations: Despite assurances from electoral authorities, doubts have been raised about the security of EVMs, with concerns that they may be vulnerable to hacking due to their electronic nature.
  • Limited Sample Size for VVPAT Verification: The current practice of verifying the EVM count with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips has a small sample size of only five per assembly constituency/segment.
  • Identification of Polling Behavior: The process of matching EVM counts with VVPAT slips at the booth level allows for the identification of polling behavior by various political parties. This information could potentially be used for profiling voters and intimidation, undermining the secrecy and fairness of the electoral process.

Way Forward:

  • Enhancing Transparency and Comprehensibility: In a transparent democracy, citizens should be able to understand and verify the election process without requiring specialized technical knowledge.
  • Scientific Sampling for EVM-VVPAT Matching: Rather than a 100% match, the sample for matching the EVM count with VVPAT slips should be determined scientifically, possibly by dividing each state into large regions as suggested by experts.
  • Error Resolution: In case any error is detected, the VVPAT slips for the concerned region should be fully counted, forming the basis for results. This would instill statistically significant confidence in the counting process.

Mains PYQ 

Q In the light of recent controversy regarding the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM), what are the challenges before the Election Commission of India to ensure the trustworthiness of elections in India?

Q To enhance the quality of democracy in India the Election Commission of India has proposed electoral reforms in 2016. What are the suggested reforms and how far are they significant to make democracy successful?

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Is Transparency lacking in Candidate Disclosure?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Representation of the People Act, 1951;

Mains level: Election Issues; Judiciary; 244th Report of Law Commission; Accountability

Why in the news? 

The Supreme Court held that candidates need not to disclose every piece of Information and Possession in their Election Affidavit unless it is Substantial in Nature.

What are the Legal Provisions?

  • Nomination paper with Affidavit: Section 33 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (RP Act) read with rule 4A of election rules, requires every contesting candidate to file their nomination paper for elections along with an Affidavit in a ‘prescribed format’.
  • Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) Vs Union of India (2002): The Supreme Court held that voters have the right to know about the criminal antecedents, income and asset details of the candidate and his/her dependants and educational qualification of contesting candidates.
    • This judgement resulted in Section 33A being added to the RP Act that requires details of criminal antecedents to be part of the election affidavit.
  • Punishable Offence: Section 125A of the RP Act further provides that failure to furnish required information, giving false information or concealing any information in the nomination paper or affidavit shall be punishable with imprisonment up to six months or fine or both.

Present Dilemma of Accountability:

  • Candidates with Criminal Charges: The significant issue of candidates with serious criminal charges contesting elections raises questions about the integrity and suitability of such candidates for public office.
    • According to a report by ADR, 19% of candidates in the 2019 Lok Sabha election faced charges of rape, murder or kidnapping.
  • Circumvention of Disclosure Requirements: Some candidates attempted to circumvent disclosure requirements by leaving certain columns blank and filing incomplete affidavits, indicating loopholes in the electoral process.

Recommendations by Election Commission and Law Commission in its 244th report:

  • A conviction for filing a false affidavit should attract a punishment of a minimum of 2 years imprisonment and be a ground for disqualification.
  • The Trials in such cases must be conducted on a day-to-day basis.
  • Persons charged by a competent court with offences punishable by imprisonment of at least 5 years should be debarred from contesting in the elections provided the case is filed at least 6 months before the election in question.

Supreme Court’s Judgement to resolve this issues: 

  • In Public Interest Foundation Vs Union of India (2018) directed candidates as well as political parties to issue a declaration about criminal antecedents, at least three times before the election, in a newspaper in the locality and electronic media.

Way Forward:

  • Debarring from contesting elections : Debarring chargesheeted candidates from contesting elections is likely to be misused by various ruling parties.
  • Increasing Punishment for False Affidavits: Increasing punishment for filing false affidavits and making it a ground for disqualification need to be implemented.
  • Strict Implementation of SC order:The Supreme Court’s order to provide wide publicity of criminal records should also be strictly implemented.

Conclusion: Addressing challenges in candidate disclosure, enhancing electoral integrity can be achieved through measures such as imposing stricter penalties for false affidavits, enforcing disclosure laws rigorously, and ensuring widespread dissemination of candidates’ criminal records.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Candidates have a Right to Privacy from Voters: SC

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Right to Privacy, RPA

Mains level: NA

Why in the news?

  • The Supreme Court affirmed a candidate’s right to privacy from voters, stating that candidates need not divulge every aspect of their personal lives and possessions to the electorate.
  • It held that Voters Right to Know about the electors is NOT ABSOLUTE.

Right to Privacy in India:

  • The Right to Privacy under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution is interpreted as an intrinsic part of the fundamental right to life and personal liberty.
  • Article 21 states that “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”
  • In the landmark judgment of Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) v. Union of India (2017), the Supreme Court explicitly recognized the Right to Privacy as a fundamental right under Article 21.
  • The court held that privacy is an essential aspect of personal liberty and dignity, encompassing informational privacy, decisional autonomy, bodily integrity, and spatial privacy.
  • This right protects individuals against unwarranted intrusions into their private lives by the state or any other entity.
  • It includes the right to keep personal information confidential, to make decisions about one’s life and body without interference, and to maintain physical and spatial autonomy.

 

A candidate doesn’t need to declare every item of movable property, such as clothing, shoes, crockery, stationery, and furniture, unless these items are of such value as to constitute a sizeable asset in itself or reflect upon the candidate’s candidature in terms of their lifestyle – Supreme Court. 

What are Corrupt Practices under the RPA?

  • Section 123 of the Representation of People Act, 1951 defines “corrupt practices” to include bribery, undue influence, false information, and promotion of enmity among citizens based on religion, race, caste, etc.
  • Section 123(2) deals with “undue influence,” involving interference with electoral rights through threats or promises.
  • Undue influence can manifest in various forms, including threats of physical harm, coercion, intimidation, promises of reward or benefit, or exploitation of vulnerabilities.

Supreme Court’s Verdict

  1. Emphasis on Candidate’s Right to Privacy:
  • Upholding the appeal, the Supreme Court emphasized the candidate’s right to privacy, stating that not every non-disclosure automatically constitutes a defect.
  • The court highlighted that a candidate is not required to disclose every item of movable property unless it reflects upon their candidature or lifestyle.
  1. Case-specific Evaluation:
  • The court emphasized that each case must be judged on its own merits, without applying a blanket rule.
  • The Court emphasized that non-disclosure of certain personal possessions does not amount to a “defect of a substantial nature” under Section 36(4) of the 1951 Act.
  1. Example of “High-value” Assets:
  • Suppression of high-priced assets, indicating a lavish lifestyle, would constitute undue influence.
  • However, ownership of simple, low-value items may not be considered a defect.

PYQ:

[2017] For election to the Lok Sabha, a nomination paper can be filed by-

(a) Anyone residing in India.

(b) A resident of the constituency from which the election is to be contested.

(c) Any citizen of India whose name appears in the electoral roll of a constituency.

(d) Any citizen of India.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

VVPAT Verification in Elections

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: VVPATs, EVM

Mains level: NA

Why in the news?

The Supreme Court has decided to address petitions advocating for a comprehensive verification of Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips in upcoming general elections.

What are VVPATs?

  • VVPAT machines, attached to Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), print a slip showing the voter’s choice, allowing voters to verify their vote for 7 seconds before the slip drops into a secured box.
  • The concept emerged in 2010, leading to the creation of prototypes by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India (ECIL).
  • After trials and feedback, the design was approved in February 2013.
  • The Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, were amended to incorporate VVPATs.
  • They were first used in Nagaland’s Noksen Assembly constituency in 2013 and were implemented in all polling stations by the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Current VVPAT Slip Counting Protocol

  • In 2018, the ECI consulted the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) to determine a statistically robust sample size for VVPAT slip verification.
  • Initially, VVPAT slips of one randomly selected polling station per Assembly constituency were counted.
  • This was increased to five polling stations per Assembly seat after a Supreme Court judgment in 2019.
  • The ISI suggested counting VVPAT slips from 479 EVMs to ensure a high confidence level that the proportion of defective EVMs is less than 2%.

Recent petitions regarding VVPAT

  • Opposition parties advocate for heightened VVPAT verification, ranging from 50% to 100%, to bolster electoral transparency and uphold the sanctity of democratic processes.
  • However, the Election Commission emphasizes the need to balance transparency with operational constraints, citing logistical challenges and potential delays in result declaration.

About Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in India

Details
Introduction EVMs introduced in Paravur Assembly Constituency, Kerala, 1982.
Adoption
  • Election Commission increasingly used EVMs since 1998. All state elections and by-elections used EVMs by 2003.
  • Use of EVMs for Lok Sabha elections implemented in 2004.
Development
  • Developed by the Technical Experts Committee (TEC) of Election Commission, with Bharat Electronics Ltd,
  • Bangalore, and Electronic Corporation of India Ltd, Hyderabad.
Functionality
  • Consists of Control Unit and Balloting Unit connected by cable.
  • Voters press blue button on Ballot Unit to record vote.
Key Features
  • Each EVM records up to 2,000 votes.
  • Operates without electricity, powered by battery from Bharat Electronics Ltd/Electronic Corporation of India.
  • Uses one-time programmable/masked chip for security.
  • Stand-alone machines without an operating system for enhanced security.

 

 

PYQ:

[2017] Right to vote and to be elected in India is a

(a) Fundamental Right

(b) Natural Right

(c) Constitutional Right

(d) Legal Right

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

It is time for Comprehensive Reforms to Municipal Elections 

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Elections; Urban Local bodies;

Mains level: Elections; Challenges to Munciple elections;

Why in the news?

Recently, the SC’s judgment on the Chandigarh Mayoral election gives us a good occasion to think more broadly about elections in municipalities.

Context:

  • Elections to the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies are exemplary democratic processes known for their punctuality, well-organized procedures, and seamless transitions of power.
  • However, when it comes to elections for grassroots governments like panchayats and municipalities, the scenario is entirely different.

Reports from Janaagraha’s Annual Survey of India’s City-Systems 2023:

  • According to the study, over 1,400 municipalities in India did not have elected councils in place as of September 2021. This indicates a significant and widespread issue across the country.
  • Delayed elections can have serious implications for local governance and democracy. It can lead to a lack of representation for citizens, hindering their ability to participate in decision-making processes that directly affect their communities.
  • Timely elections are crucial for ensuring effective and accountable municipal governance.

Judicial stand: 

The delay in holding municipal elections is stated to violate the Constitution of India.  As highlighted in the ‘Suresh Mahajan’ judgment by the Supreme Court of India, the constitution unequivocally states that elections to municipalities should not be delayed under any circumstances, emphasizing the obligation of state governments and State Election Commissions to ensure the timely election of local bodies.

CAG’s performance audit report on unelected Urban Local government councils:

  • On delayed Elections: The CAG audit reports of 17 states highlight that over 1,500 municipalities did not have elected councils in place during the audit period of 2015-2021. This indicates a widespread problem across states in conducting timely municipal elections as mandated by the 74th CAA.
  • On Council Formation: Even in cases where elections were held, there were delays in constituting councils and electing mayors, deputy mayors, and standing committees. In Karnataka, there was a significant delay of 12-24 months in forming elected councils across 11 city corporations.
  • On Long Delays in Council Formation: In Karnataka, reports indicate a 26-month delay in forming councils and electing chairpersons and standing committees for the first 2.5-year term, following the announcement of election results in September 2018.
    • Moreover, after the expiry of the first term in May 2023, some urban local governments did not hold elections for chairpersons and standing committees for more than eight months.
  • On Regional Disparities: The report highlights regional differences in the extent of delays, with Chandigarh experiencing a relatively shorter delay of 12 days compared to other regions.
  • On Data Accessibility Issues: The report mentions difficulties in accessing summary data on the making of councils and the election of mayors, deputy mayors, and standing committees, indicating potential challenges in transparency and accountability in the electoral process.

 

What are the challenges to Municipal elections?

  • Enforcement for Timely Elections: The first challenge identified is the need for determined enforcement to ensure timely elections for urban local governments. Article 243U of the 74th Constitution Amendment Act specifies that the duration of urban local governments is five years, and elections should be completed before the expiry of this duration.
  • Non-Compliance by State Governments: Despite the Supreme Court’s clear stance regarding timely elections, state governments are non-compliant.
  • Discretion of Government Officials: One aspect of the challenge involves the discretion of government officials in scheduling elections on time. There is a concern that officials may have the discretion to delay elections, which could undermine the democratic process.
  • Possibility of Undue Influence: There is a concern about the possibility of state governments exerting undue influence on officials to delay elections for various reasons, which could compromise the fairness and integrity of the electoral process.
  • Issue with Manual Ballot Paper-Based Process: The use of a manual ballot paper-based process for elections is also mentioned as a challenge. Such a process may be prone to errors and manipulation, highlighting the need for modernization and digitization of the electoral process.
  • Issues with Short Terms: The terms being less than five years exacerbate the challenge of conducting frequent elections. This is particularly relevant as 17% of cities in India, including five of the eight largest ones, have mayoral terms of less than five years.

Suggestive measures:

  • Empowering SECs: To deal with the challenges effectively, SECs need to play a more significant role in overseeing the electoral process. Articles 243K and 243ZA of the Constitution mandate that SECs have the superintendence, direction, and control over the preparation of electoral rolls and the conduct of elections to panchayats and urban local governments.
  • Empowerment for Ward Delimitation: Only 11 out of 35 states and union territories have empowered SECs to conduct ward delimitation. Ward delimitation is crucial for ensuring fair and equitable representation in municipal elections. SECs should be granted greater authority, including the power to conduct ward delimitation
  • SECc Vs. ECI: The courts have emphasized that SECs enjoy the same status as the Election Commission of India in the domain of elections to panchayats and urban local governments under Part IX and Part IXA of the Constitution. This underscores the significance of SECs and their authority in ensuring free, fair, and transparent elections at the local level.
  • Role in Electoral Oversight: SECs should actively oversee the electoral process, including the preparation of electoral rolls, conduct of elections, and enforcement of election laws. This proactive role is essential for maintaining the integrity and credibility of municipal elections.

Conclusion: Comprehensive reforms are needed for Municipal Elections in India, addressing delays, enforcing constitutional mandates, empowering State Election Commissions, and modernizing electoral processes to ensure transparency, fairness, and accountability.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

On Campaigning in the name of Religion | Explained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Provisions of RPA

Mains level: Implication of Section 123(3) of RPA and Suprem court judgement related to it

Why in the news? 

Recently, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lodged a complaint with the Election Commission of India (ECI) against Rahul Gandhi for hurting the sentiments of Hindus through his remark on ‘Shakti’.

What does the law say?

  • Section 123(3): Representation of the People Act, 1951 (RP Act) provides that appeals by a candidate, or any other person with the consent of a candidate, to vote or refrain from voting on the grounds of his religion, race, caste, community or language is a corrupt electoral practice.
  • Section 123(3A): It denounces any attempt by a candidate to promote feelings of enmity or hatred among citizens on these grounds during elections.
  • Punishment: The RP Act further provides that anyone found guilty of corrupt electoral practice can be debarred from contesting elections for a maximum period of up to six years.

What does the MCC provide?

  • The Model Code of Conduct (MCC) is a set of guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India to regulate the conduct of political parties and their candidates in the run-up to elections. They have consented to abide by the principles embodied in the said code.
    • Candidates cannot promote hatred or difference: It provides that no party or candidate shall indulge in any activity that may aggravate existing differences create mutual hatred or cause tension between different castes, religious or linguistic communities. It also provides that there shall be no appeal to caste or communal feelings for securing votes
    • Candidate cannot use worship place: Mosques, churches, temples, or other places of worship shall not be used as a forum for election propaganda. Though the MCC does not have any statutory backing, it has come to acquire strength in the past three decades because of its strict enforcement by the ECI.

Historical Background:

  • Amendment in 1961: Section 123(3) of the Representation of the People Act (RP Act) was amended to remove the term “systemic” regarding appeals based on religion, race, caste, or community. This broadened the scope of what constitutes corrupt electoral practice.
  • Purpose of the Amendment: The amendment aimed to curb communal, fissiparous, and separatist tendencies in electoral politics by disfavoring even isolated appeals based on religion or narrow communal affiliations.
  • Instances of Appeals Based on Religion: Despite legal provisions, there have been numerous instances where political parties and leaders have openly appealed for votes in the name of religion.Bal Thackeray of Shiv Sena was the only notable leader convicted by the Supreme Court for this corrupt electoral practice in 1995.
  • Election Commission’s Response: The Election Commission of India (ECI) typically imposes short bans on campaigning for leaders found in violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC), usually lasting two to three days.

What has the Supreme Court ruled?

  • Abhiram Singh versus C. D. Commachen (2017): A seven-judge Bench by a majority of 4:3 held that candidates shall not appeal for votes on the basis of not just his/her religion but also that of the voters.
  • Purposive interpretation’ to Section 123(3): The majority view provided a ‘purposive interpretation’ to Section 123(3) rather than just a literal one thereby rendering any appeal in the name of religion of even the voters as a corrupt electoral practice.
  • Elections are secular exercise: The elections to Parliament or State legislatures are a secular exercise; constitutional ethos forbids the mixing of religious considerations with the secular functions of the State. Religion should remain a matter of personal faith.

Measures Needed:

  • Raise legitimate concerns: Political parties and candidates are likely to raise legitimate concerns of citizens faced by them based on traits having origin in religion, caste, community or language in a democratic election process.
  • Addressing Grievances: These concerns should be addressed through appropriate policies without compromising the secular fabric and fraternity of the country.
  • Use of Places of Worship: Places of worship have always been used overtly and covertly as a forum for canvass. Religious leaders have thrown their weight behind candidates of various parties. These practices should ideally be avoided to ensure that politics and religion are not mixed up
  • Responsibility of Political Leaders: The primary responsibility for avoiding appeals based on religion lies with political party leaders and candidates because campaigning based on religion not only disrupts the secular nature of Indian politics but also constitutes a clear violation of the law.
  • Role of Election Commission and Courts: Mechanisms should be devised by the Election Commission of India (ECI) and courts for swift action against those who violate laws regarding appeals based on religion in electoral campaigns.

Conclusion: The legal framework prohibits appeals based on religion in electoral campaigns to maintain the secular nature of elections. The Election Commission enforces the Model Code of Conduct, with penalties for violators, ensuring fair and unbiased electoral practices.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

What is the District Election Management Plan? | Explained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: What is DEMP and its elements

Mains level: Role of its elements in ensuring transparent and efficient electoral processes

Why in the news?

The conduct of elections has become increasingly complex and multifaceted, requiring meticulous planning and execution to ensure a free, fair, and inclusive electoral process

  • A cornerstone of this planning process is the District Election Management Plan (DEMP), a comprehensive document that uses statistics and analysis to ensure the smooth conduct of elections.

Context:

  • What goes into a smooth and efficient electoral process?
  • How are electoral booths prepared before polling?

When is the DEMP prepared?

  • Preparation of DEMP: As per the Election Commission of India, the DEMP is to be prepared at least six months before the tentative poll day. However, many things become clearer as the election is notified, so it becomes necessary to revise/update the plan occasionally.
  • Execution of DEMP: Executing the DEMP requires a collaborative effort involving election officials, administrative authorities, law enforcement agencies etc. Regular interactions with political parties and media are also planned to brief them on electoral rules.

What are the elements of DEMP?

  • The foundation of the electoral strategy: The plan starts with a district profile that serves as the foundation of the electoral strategy which includes a political map outlining constituencies, key demographic and infrastructure statistics, and a brief on the district’s administrative setup and socio-economic features.
  • Accessibility of polling stations: The plan encompasses detailed strategies for improving the availability and accessibility of polling stations, ensuring that all stations have essential facilities like ramps, electricity, lighting, drinking water, toilets, and internet connectivity.
  • Voting for essential service personnel: Special attention is given to voters with disabilities (PwD) and senior citizens through help desks, 24/7 control rooms, home voting options, and advanced postal ballot voting for essential service personnel.

Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) plan:

  • The Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) plan, focuses on increasing electoral participation which involves analyzing voter turnout data to identify polling stations with below-average or significantly low turnout and tailoring activities to address these issues.
    • It includes the use of social media, engagement with various community and youth organizations, and organizing events leading up to the poll day to increase awareness and participation.
  • Comprehensive Strategy: DEMP outlines a comprehensive strategy for planning, training, welfare, and deployment of election personnel.
  • Poll Personnel Database: Emphasizes the importance of creating a database of poll personnel, categorizing them by cadre and group, and assessing their requirements.
  • Addressing Personnel Gaps: Strategies are devised to address gaps in personnel needs across various election roles.
  • Force Deployment Plan: Detailed planning for force deployment involves coordination with district police. This includes vulnerability mapping of polling stations based on past disturbances and voter turnout.
  • Training Programs: Training programs are provided for district-level teams to enforce the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) and for all election personnel to ensure they possess necessary skills and knowledge.

What about EVMs?

Material management in the Detailed Election Management Plan (DEMP):

  • Crucial Component: Material management is identified as a critical aspect of DEMP. It involves procuring 61 essential items, including indelible ink, seals, stamps, stationary, and statutory forms.
  • Categorization: Items are categorized based on the level at which they are to be procured, either at the State/U.T. level or the district level.
  • Procurement Timelines: Timelines for procurement vary, ranging from two-to-three weeks to four months before the election.Emphasizes the importance of timely acquisition to ensure preparedness for the electoral process.

Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) management in the Detailed Election Management Plan (DEMP)

  • Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) management is crucial for maintaining the integrity of the electoral process, with plans necessary for secure storage and availability of EVMs and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails (VVPATs), including plans for their transportation and maintenance.

Significance of the Detailed Election Management Plan (DEMP):

  • Enhanced Voting Experience: DEMP enhances the voting experience by ensuring that the electoral process is organized, accessible, and efficient for all voters, promoting democratic participation and inclusivity.
  • Data-Driven Decisions: Using statistics and analysis, the DEMP enables data-driven decisions, highlighting the significance of evidence-based policymaking and strategic planning in effectively addressing challenges.
  • Stakeholder Collaboration: The collaborative effort involved in executing the DEMP underscores the importance of engaging stakeholders from various sectors, fostering cooperation and synergy to achieve common goals.
  • Transparency and Accountability: The emphasis on transparency in the DEMP promotes accountability in electoral processes, setting a precedent for openness and integrity in governance practices.
  • Adaptability and Resilience: The DEMP’s adaptability to changing circumstances and occasional revisions underscores the importance of resilience and flexibility in governance frameworks to address evolving needs and circumstances.

Conclusion: The District Election Management Plan (DEMP) ensures organized, inclusive elections. Challenges include timely preparation, accurate electoral strategy foundation, polling station accessibility, and effective voter education. Overcoming these ensures transparent and efficient electoral processes.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Postal Ballot Voting: Eligibility and Process for Lok Sabha elections 2024

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Postal Ballot Voting

Mains level: NA

Why in the news?

The Election Commission of India (ECI) announced that media persons covering “polling day activities” are now eligible to vote in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections 2024 and state Assembly polls through postal ballots.

What are Postal Ballots?

  • Postal ballots, also known as mail-in ballots, allow registered voters to cast their votes by mail instead of physically going to a polling station.
  • It is governed by the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961.
  • This system serves as a convenient alternative for individuals unable to vote in person due to various circumstances, such as being away from their home constituency, facing a disability, or performing essential services on Election Day.

Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS)

 

  • The Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 was amended in 2016 to allow service voters to use the ETPBS. Under this system, postal ballots are sent electronically to registered service voters.
  • The service voter can then download the ETPB (along with a declaration form and covers), register their mandate on the ballot and send it to the returning officer of the constituency via ordinary mail.
  • The post will include an attested declaration form (after being signed by the voter in the presence of an appointed senior officer who will attest it).

Who is eligible to cast their vote through postal ballots?

Eligible electors who can opt to vote through postal ballots include:

  • Special voters: It includes President of India, Vice President, Governors, and Union Cabinet ministers, Speaker of the House and government officers on poll duty.
  • Service voters: Members of the armed forces, paramilitary forces, and government employees deployed on election duty far from their home constituencies.
  • Absentee voters: Individuals unable to vote in person due to reasons like work commitments, illness, or disability. Senior citizens above 80 years are also included.
  • Electors on election duty: Government officials and polling staff assigned duties at polling stations other than their own.
  • Electors under preventive detention: Individuals detained under preventive custody orders during the election period.
  • Divyangjans: In October 2019, the Ministry of Law and Justice amended the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, lowered the age from 85 to 80 and allowed Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) to cast votes through postal ballots in the 2020 Delhi Assembly polls.
  • Essential services covering polling day activities: Media persons with authorisation letters from the EC and those involved in essential services such as metros, railways, and healthcare have the option to vote using postal ballots in Lok Sabha and four state Assembly polls.

Applying for a postal ballot

  • To apply for a postal ballot, eligible voters must apply, Form 12 D, to the returning officer (RO) of their respective constituency.
  • The application typically requires personal details, voter identification information, and the reason for seeking a postal ballot.
  • For service voters, the RO sends the postal ballot paper through the record office, directly or through the Ministry of External Affairs for service voters serving outside India.
  • For senior citizens, a team of two polling officials, a videographer, and security personnel will visit the residence of the elector to facilitate this process.

What is the process of postal voting?

  • Receiving the postal ballot: Once approved, the RO sends the postal ballot to the voter’s registered address, including the ballot paper, declaration form, secrecy sleeve, and pre-paid return envelope.
  • Marking the ballot: Voters mark their preferred candidate(s) on the ballot paper in the secrecy sleeve to ensure confidentiality.
  • Completing the declaration form: Voters fill out the declaration form, providing their signature and other relevant details.
  • Sealing the envelope: Voters seal the marked ballot paper and declaration form inside the secrecy sleeve and place it into the pre-paid return envelope.
  • Returning the postal ballot: Voters affix the postage stamp and mail the return envelope to the designated address within the specified time.

Counting of postal ballots

  • Postal ballots are counted separately from votes cast at polling stations.
  • On the designated counting day, postal ballots are collected by postal authorities and brought to the counting centre.
  • The RO and election officials scrutinise postal ballots for validity and integrity, adding valid ballots to the respective candidate’s vote count.

 


PYQ:

Q.For election to the Lok Sabha, a nomination paper can be filed by-

  1. Anyone residing in India.
  2. A resident of the constituency from which the election is to be contested.
  3. Any citizen of India whose name appears in the electoral roll of a constituency.
  4. Any citizen of India.

 

Practice MCQ:

Q.Consider the following statements:

  1. The right to cast vote is not a fundamental right
  2. NRI settled in foreign land can become an elector in the electoral roll in India
  3. Individuals in lawful custody of the police and those serving a sentence of imprisonment after conviction cannot vote

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 and 3
  3. 1 and 3
  4. 1,2 and 3

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

How House terms and poll schedules are decided

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Terms of state Assemblies and Lok Sabha

Mains level: Role of ECI in fixing the election schedule

Why in the news? 

  • The date of counting for Assembly elections in Arunachal and Sikkim has been advanced by two days to make sure that the terms of their existing Houses don’t end before the election process is complete.

Context-

  • The Election Commission of India (ECI) holds a crucial responsibility in coordinating and supervising electoral procedures nationwide.
  • This encompasses setting timetables for elections to legislative bodies like state assemblies and the Lok Sabha (House of the People).

What was the original schedule for the election and counting in these two states? (2024)

  • Schedule Announcement: The schedule for Assembly elections in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim, as well as the Lok Sabha elections, was announced on March 16. The Assembly elections in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim were set to be notified on March 20.
  • Nomination Period: Candidates could file their nominations for the elections until March 27.
  • Withdrawal Period: The deadline for withdrawing nominations was set for March 30.
  • Date of Polling: Both Assembly and Lok Sabha elections were scheduled to take place on April 19, marking the first phase of polling.
  • Seven-Phase Lok Sabha Elections: The Lok Sabha elections were planned to be held in seven phases on the following dates: April 19, April 26, May 7, May 13, May 20, May 26, and June 1.
  • One-Day Elections: Twenty-two states and Union Territories, including Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim, were scheduled to conduct one-day elections.
  • Counting Date: Counting for all seats in the Lok Sabha and the four Assemblies would occur on June 4, according to the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar.

So what has changed now?

  • Change in Counting Date: The Election Commission of India (ECI) announced a change in the counting date for Assembly seats in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim from June 4 to June 2.
  • Reason for Change: ECI officials stated that the decision to change the counting date was made after realizing that the terms of the Assemblies in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim were ending on June 2.
  • Completion of Election Process: The decision to bring forward the counting date was based on the constitutional mandate that the election process must be completed before the term of an Assembly ends.
  • Ensuring Constitutional Compliance: By adjusting the counting date to align with the end of the Assembly terms, the ECI ensures that the electoral process remains per constitutional requirements.

What exactly does the Constitution say about the terms of state Assemblies and Lok Sabha?

  • Lok Sabha Term: Article 83(2) outlines that the Lok Sabha unless sooner dissolved, continues for five years from the date appointed for its first meeting. Similar to state Assemblies, the expiration of the five years leads to the dissolution of the House.
  • State Assembly Term: Article 172(1) of the Constitution specifies that every Legislative Assembly of every State shall continue for five years from the date appointed for its first meeting unless sooner dissolved. The expiration of the five years results in the dissolution of the Assembly.
  • Extension of Assembly Term: During a Proclamation of Emergency, Parliament has the authority to extend the term of the Assembly by up to one year at a time, not exceeding six months after the Proclamation ceases to operate.

How does this apply to the Assemblies of Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim?

  • Constitutional Mandate: The Constitution mandates that the term of Legislative Assemblies lasts for five years from the date of their first meeting unless dissolved earlier.
  • Completion of Electoral Process: With the term of the Assemblies ending on June 2, 2024, the electoral process, including voting and counting, must be completed before this date to ensure a smooth transition to the new Assemblies.

What are the things that the ECI looks at while fixing the election schedule?

  • Factors Considered by ECI: The Election Commission of India (ECI) considers various factors while fixing the election schedule, including weather conditions, festivals, important examinations, availability of school buildings for polling stations, and mobilization of teachers for election duty.
  • Logistical Considerations: The ECI takes into account the country’s historical and geographic situation, as well as logistical requirements such as moving security forces to ensure free and fair elections.
  • Term of the Legislature: The date of expiration of the term of the legislature is the primary consideration for fixing the election schedule. This date is known five years in advance, calculated from the date of the first sitting of the existing House.
  • Completion of Election Process: The ECI aims to complete the election process at least one day before the end of the term of the House. Results are declared a few days prior, allowing time for documentation and other formalities.

Has something similar occurred earlier too? 

  • Change in Counting Date in Andhra Pradesh (2004): In 2004, the Election Commission of India (ECI) scheduled the counting of votes for the Assembly election in Andhra Pradesh on May 11, two days earlier than the scheduled counting for Lok Sabha and other states. This adjustment was made because the tenure of the Assembly in Andhra Pradesh was set to end on May 13.
  • Changes for Festivals or Locally Relevant Events: The ECI has made changes to the announced election schedule to accommodate festivals or locally relevant events. For example, in Mizoram in the previous year, the date of counting for the Assembly election was changed from December 3 to December 4 to avoid a clash with Sunday, which holds special significance for the Christian-majority population.
  • Delinking Counting in Specific States: The ECI has previously drawn up schedules that delink the counting in a particular state from the counting in the rest of the country or from the counting of other elections held simultaneously. This strategy allows for the smooth conduct of elections while respecting the constitutional timeline for the end of the term of the House.

Conclusion:

The Election Commission adjusts the counting date for Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim Assemblies to align with the constitutional mandate. Factors like legislative terms, logistical considerations, and past precedents guide the ECI in fixing election schedules.

Mains PYQ-

Q- Discuss the role of the Election Commission of India in light of the evolution of the Model Code of Conduct. (UPSC IAS/2022)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

How were the new Election Commissioners selected? | Explained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: CEC and Other ECs Appointment Bill, 2023

Mains level: Read the attached story

Why in the news? 

The President has appointed Gyanesh Kumar and Sukhbir Singh Sandhu, both retired IAS officers, as Election Commissioners (ECs) to fill up two vacancies in the three-member Election Commission of India

Context:

  • Article 324 of the Indian Constitution dictates the appointment of Election Commissioners, granting the Election Commission of India (ECI) authority over the supervision, guidance, and management of elections.
  • The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (ECs) are nominated by the President of India. While traditionally an executive prerogative, recent efforts aim to enhance inclusivity and transparency in this selection process.

How were the new ECs selected?

  • Selection Committee: Comprising Prime Minister, Union Cabinet Minister, and Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha.
    • Six names were shortlisted for consideration by the selection committee.
    • Headed by the Union Minister for Law and Justice and includes two officials with the rank of Secretary to the government.
    • The shortlisting was done by a committee which, according to the  Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Act, 2023.
    • The final appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (ECs) is made by the President of India based on the recommendations of the Selection Committee.

What was the process before this?

  • Historical Background: Initially, the EC consisted only of the CEC for nearly 40 years after the adoption of the Constitution in 1949. It wasn’t until October 1989 that the EC became a multi-member body.
  • Appointment Rescission: In January 1990, the appointment of two Election Commissioners was rescinded shortly after their appointment.
  • Enactment of Law: In 1991, a law was enacted to determine the conditions of service for the CEC and ECs. This law was amended in 1993. However, it did not specify an appointment process for the CEC and ECs.
  • Appointment Process: In the absence of a specified process in parliamentary law, the appointment of the CEC and ECs has been at the discretion of the President. The Law Ministry typically presents a panel of names to the Prime Minister, who then recommends one of them as an EC to the President.
  • Appointment Convention: It became customary to appoint officials as ECs initially, and upon the completion of the CEC’s tenure, the senior EC would be elevated to the position of CEC.

What did the SC rule on the process?

  • Anoop Baranwal vs Union of India: In the case of Anoop Baranwal versus Union of India, a five-member Constitution Bench ruled that the power to appoint the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and other Election Commissioners (ECs) was not intended to be exclusively vested in the executive branch. Instead, it was subject to any law made by Parliament.
  • Interim Arrangement: Since no such law had been enacted since the inception of the Constitution, the court established an interim arrangement for the appointment of CEC and ECs. This interim arrangement was to remain in place until Parliament formulated its law regarding the appointment process.
  • Composition of Appointment Committee: The court specified that appointments should be made by a three-member committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha (or the leader of the largest party in the Opposition), and the Chief Justice of India.
  • Response: In response to the court’s directive, Parliament enacted the 2023 Act, which received presidential assent and was notified in December 2023

What is the criticism against the Act?

  • Executive Majority: Critics argue that the new Act has altered the composition of the selection panel by removing the Chief Justice of India (CJI) and replacing them with a Union Minister. This change results in a two-one majority for the executive within the three-member committee.
  • Supreme Court’s Response: Despite challenges and requests for a stay on the implementation of the new Act, the Supreme Court has consistently refused to intervene, allowing the Act to proceed.
  • Upholding Constitutional Principle: Critics argue that by shifting the balance of power within the selection panel in favor of the executive, the Act undermines the constitutional principle of maintaining the autonomy and impartiality of constitutional bodies like the Election Commission.

Conclusion:

In moving forward, it’s imperative to restore balance in Election Commissioner appointments, ensuring judicial oversight, transparency, and inclusivity. Legislative reforms should reflect constitutional principles, safeguarding the independence of constitutional bodies and preserving democratic integrity.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Model Code of Conduct: Everything you need to know

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Model Code of Conduct (MCC), Enforcements, Obligations.

Mains level: Ensuring Free and Fair Elections

Why in the news-

  • As the Election Commission of India (EC) announced the dates for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) came into force immediately and will be in place till election results are announced.

Understanding the Model Code of Conduct (MCC):

  • The MCC is a set of guidelines published by the Election Commission of India (ECI) for conduct during the election campaign and polling.
  • It is applicable to political parties and candidates.
  • It also explains how parties can lodge complaints to the EC observers in case of dispute and instructs how the Ministers of the parties in power must conduct themselves when the MCC is in force.
  • In 2019, a *new addition regarding election manifestos was added, instructing parties to not issue promises which were ‘repugnant to the ideals of the Constitution’.

When was it introduced?

  • The EC traces its introduction to the 1960 Assembly elections in Kerala.
  • During simultaneous polls to the Lok Sabha and Assemblies in several States in 1962, the EC circulated the code to all recognized parties, which followed it “by and large”.
  • In October 1979, the EC came up with a comprehensive code that saw further changes after consultations with parties.

Is the MCC a law?

  • The MCC is NOT a statutory document – NOT enforceable by any laws passed by the Parliament.
  • Violating many of its guidelines may not attract punitive action.
  • Exceptions: Several actions such as causing tension between castes, religious or linguistic communities, appealing to caste or communal feeling for securing votes, etc., are listed as ‘electoral offenses’ and ‘corrupt practices’ under the Indian Penal Code and the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

Enforcement and Applicability:

  • The MCC comes into force immediately when the election schedule is announced by the Election Commission and remains in operation till the election process is complete, i.e. results are announced.

[A] All Elections

  1. The MCC is applicable to all elections to the Lok Sabha, State Assemblies.
  2. It is also applicable for State Legislative Council elections from Local Bodies, and Graduates’ and Teachers’ Constituencies.

[B] Obligations put on

  1. Listed Political Parties and Candidates: While listed political parties and candidates are bound to follow the MCC
  2. Non-Political Organizations Supporting Political Entities: Non-political organizations which hold campaigns favouring a political party or candidate are bound to follow specific guidelines mentioned by the EC.
  3. Government-Funded Entities: All organizations, committees, corporations, commissions funded wholly or partially by the Centre or State are bound by the MCC.

How is the MCC enforced?

  • All officers including Police: Before holding polls for the General or State Assembly elections, the Election Commission issues guidelines to the government to shift out all officers including police who are posted in their home district, and who have completed/completing three out of four years in that district to ensure no interference.
  • Specially appointed EC officers: The MCC is then implemented by the newly appointed officials and nodal EC officers monitor compliance.

Guidelines Issued during MCC

[A] For Parties and Candidates:

  • Campaigning Bar: No election campaigning is allowed within the constituency 48 hours before the close of polls.
  • Restrictions on Speech: Political parties and candidates are advised to refrain from commenting on all aspects of private life of the leaders, workers of other parties, limiting criticisms to only their policies, programmes, past records and works.
  • Maintaining Social Harmony: They must also not indulge in activities aggravating existing differences or create mutual hatred between different castes, religious and linguistic communities. Appeals to caste or communal feelings for securing votes are also prohibited.
  • Others: Specific guidelines cover election campaigning, procession, canvassing, use of funds, and behavior during public meetings.

[B] For Governments:

  • Prior approval on Policies: The Union Ministries will need prior approval of the Election Commission on any policy announcements, fiscal measures, taxation issues, financial reliefs when the MCC is in force.
  • Screening in State: Similar guidelines apply to State governments where proposals must be referred to a screening committee which will then forward it to the Chief Electoral Officers who will not forward it to the EC unless the instructions applicable to the case are not clear.
  • Level-playing field: State/ Union governments must keep public places like maidans and helipads available impartially for all parties and candidates to ensure a level-playing field.

Guidelines for Poll Manifestos (wef 2019)

  • Manifestos must not contain anything repugnant to the ideals enshrined in the Constitution.
  • They must reflect the rationale for welfare scheme promises and indicate ways to meet the financial requirements for it.
  • The manifesto documents must not be released during the prohibitory period (when MCC kicks in).

How are violations dealt with?

  • Any complaint regarding elections should be brought to EC observers, Returning Officer, local magistrate, Chief Electoral Officer or the Election Commission itself.
  • In response, any directions issued by the EC, Returning officer, District Election Officer shall be strictly complied with.

PYQ:

Consider the following statements:​

  1. In India, there is no law restricting the candidates from contesting in one Lok Sabha election from three constituencies.​
  2. In 1991 Lok Sabha Election, Shri Devi Lal contested from three Lok Sabha constituencies.​
  3. As per the existing rules, if a candidate contests in one Lok Sabha election from many constituencies, his/her party should bear the cost of bye-elections to the constituencies vacated by him/her in the event of him/her winning in all the constituencies.​

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?​ (2021)

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only​
  3. 1 and 3
  4. 2 and 3​

 

Practice MCQ:

The Model Code of Conduct (MCC) has come into effect in India ahead of general elections. In this regard, consider the following statements:

  1. MCC comes into effect immediately after announcement of election dates and sustains till the last vote is cast.
  2. Apart from Political Parties and Candidates, it is applicable to non-political organizations supporting political entities.
  3. No election campaigning is allowed within the constituency 24 hours before the close of polls.

How many of the given statements is/are correct?

  1. One
  2. Two
  3. Three
  4. None

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Ram Nath Kovind panel for simultaneous Lok Sabha, Assembly polls

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Parliamentary democracy; Elections; Committee Reports;

Mains level: Parliamentary democracy; Elections; Committee Reports;

Why in the news? 

  • A high-level committee chaired by former President Ram Nath Kovind has proposed conducting simultaneous elections

Context

  • It has proposed conducting simultaneous elections for the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies as the initial step.
  • Subsequently, municipal and panchayat elections would be held within 100 days following the general elections.

What is Simultaneous elections?

  • Simultaneous elections, also known as “One Nation, One Election,” refer to the practice of holding elections for all levels of government – national, state, and local – simultaneously, or within a short period of time.
  • This means that voters would cast their ballots for parliamentary (Lok Sabha), state legislative assembly (Vidhan Sabha), and local government (municipalities, panchayats) elections on the same day or within a closely coordinated timeframe.

Article 83 (Duration of Houses of Parliament): Article 83 specifies the tenure of the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament. It states that the Lok Sabha’s duration is five years from the date of its first sitting unless dissolved earlier. The President has the authority to dissolve the Lok Sabha before the completion of its five-year term, leading to general elections.

Article 172 (Duration of State Legislatures): Article 172 deals with the duration of the Legislative Assemblies in the states. It mandates that the Legislative Assembly of a state will continue for five years from the date of its first sitting unless dissolved earlier. Similar to the Lok Sabha, the Governor of a state holds the power to dissolve the Legislative Assembly before the completion of its five-year term, leading to fresh elections.

 

Recommendation as per Committee-

  • Synchronization Proposal: The committee proposed a method to synchronize elections by setting an ‘Appointed Date’ after the general elections. State Assemblies formed after this date and before the completion of the Lok Sabha’s term would conclude before subsequent general elections, enabling simultaneous polls.
  • Tenure and Fresh Elections: The committee suggested that if a hung House or a no-confidence motion occurs, fresh elections could be conducted. However, the tenure of the House would only last for the remaining term of the preceding full term.
  • Continuation of New Assemblies: In the case of fresh elections for Legislative Assemblies, the new Assemblies would continue until the end of the full term of the Lok Sabha unless dissolved earlier.
  • Constitutional Amendments: Amendments to Article 83 and Article 172 of the Constitution are recommended to facilitate these changes regarding the duration of Parliament and State legislatures.
  • Implementation of Changes: An implementation group is proposed to oversee the execution of the recommended amendments by the committee.

Examining the issue of Simultaneous elections:

  • Law Commission’s Action: The 22nd Law Commission, concurrently examining the issue of simultaneous elections, is anticipated to submit its report to the Law Ministry soon. It is likely to recommend simultaneous polls from the 2029 general election cycle.

Ratification by States-

  • Amendments to Constitution Articles: The committee recommends amendments to Article 324A to enable simultaneous elections in panchayats and municipalities. Amendments to Article 325 are suggested to empower the Election Commission of India (EC) to collaborate with state election authorities in preparing a unified electoral roll and voter ID cards.
  • Article 324A: This article pertains to the recommendations for amendments to enable simultaneous elections in panchayats and municipalities.
    • It implies that changes to Article 324A would empower the Election Commission of India (EC) to conduct elections for local bodies concurrently with state and national elections.
    • The proposed amendment aims to streamline the electoral process and reduce the frequency of elections, aligning with the broader goal of synchronizing all levels of elections.
  • Article 325: It deals with the right to vote and preparation of electoral rolls.
    • The suggested amendments to Article 325 would authorize the Election Commission of India (EC), in consultation with state election authorities, to prepare a unified electoral roll and issue voter ID cards.
    • This amendment seeks to establish a uniform and standardized voter registration process across different levels of elections, ensuring consistency and efficiency in voter identification and participation.

Significance of “One Nation, One Election”:

  • Governance Efficiency: Conducting elections at all levels simultaneously can streamline the electoral process, reducing the disruptions caused by frequent elections. This leads to more stable governance and allows elected representatives to focus on their duties rather than preparing for elections.
  • Cost Savings: Simultaneous elections can significantly reduce the financial burden associated with conducting multiple elections at different times. It helps in optimizing resources, cutting down on campaign expenses, and minimizing the overall cost to the exchequer.
  • Voter Engagement: Coordinating elections at all levels encourages higher voter turnout by consolidating electoral activities. It simplifies the voting process for citizens and promotes greater participation in the democratic process.
  • Policy Continuity: Simultaneous elections facilitate better policy planning and implementation by ensuring that elected governments at various levels have concurrent tenures. This continuity promotes stability and coherence in policymaking, leading to more effective governance.
  • Reduced Political Polarization: By aligning electoral cycles, simultaneous elections can mitigate the intense political polarization often witnessed during election periods. It fosters a more collaborative political environment and encourages constructive dialogue among political parties.

Conclusion:

The proposal for simultaneous elections requires constitutional amendments and careful implementation. Cooperation among states and the Election Commission is essential for its success.


Mains PYQ-

Q- Simultaneous election to the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies will limit the amount of time and money spent in electioneering but it will reduce the government’s accountability to the people’ Discuss.( UPSC IAS/2017) 

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Appointment of EC | Supreme Court to hear plea to bring CJI back into the selection committee

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: CEC and Other ECs Appointment Bill, 2023

Mains level: Appointments in key constitutional positions

Why in the news? 

The plea filed by the NGO Association for Democratic Reforms seeks an urgent hearing as it raises concerns about potential unfair advantage in filling Election Commission vacancies after Arun Goel’s resignation.

Context

  • The unexpected resignation of Arun Goel ahead of the Lok Sabha elections raised concerns about potential unfair advantage in filling the vacancies.
  • The NGO Association for Democratic Reforms requested the new law on EC appointments to be put on hold and urged the involvement of the Chief Justice of India in the selection committee, as directed by a previous Supreme Court judgment.

 

About the CEC and Other ECs (Appointment, Conditions of Service, and Term of Office) Bill, 2023:

  • The Bill replaces the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991.
    • It addresses the appointment, salary, and removal of the CEC and ECs.

 

Appointment Process:

  • The CEC and ECs will be appointed by the President upon the recommendation of a Selection Committee.
  • The Selection Committee will consist of the Prime Minister, a Union Cabinet Minister, and the Leader of Opposition/leader of the largest opposition party in Lok Sabha.
  • Recommendations of the Selection Committee will be valid even when there is a vacancy in this Committee.
  • A Search Committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary will propose a panel of names to the Selection Committee.
  • Eligibility for the posts includes holding (or having held) a post equivalent to the Secretary to the central government.

 

Why Free and fair elections are necessary?

  • Protects from Intimidation and Fraud: Concerns were raised about the potential for unfair advantage due to the Executive’s ability to appoint two Election Commissioners, which could compromise the independence of the Election Commission.
  • Consensus building and Integrity: Emphasis on the critical role of the Election Commission in ensuring free and fair elections, highlights the importance of fair and unbiased appointments to maintain the integrity of the electoral process.
  • Anoop Baranwal Case: Reference to the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Anoop Baranwal case, where a Constitution Bench directed the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and two ECs by the President based on the advice of a committee consisting of the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition, and Chief Justice of India (CJI).
  • Government’s Response: Mention of the government’s enactment of the Chief Election Commission and other Election Commissions (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Act, 2023, which replaced the CJI with a Cabinet Minister on the selection committee, thereby giving the Centre more control over the appointment process, contrary to the Supreme Court’s judgment.

Way Forward: Need to avoid Political interference: 

  • Current Leadership: Mention of CEC Rajiv Kumar being in sole charge of the Election Commission at present, indicates the need to address vacancies in the position of Election Commissioners to ensure effective functioning, especially with impending elections.
  • Independence of Election Commission: Emphasis on the importance of maintaining the independence of the Election Commission from political and executive interference to ensure free and fair elections and uphold democracy.
  • Insulation from Interference: Arguing that the Election Commission should be insulated from political and/or executive interference to preserve the integrity of the electoral process and protect democratic principles.
  • Critical Role of Election Commission: Highlighting the critical role of the Election Commission in various aspects such as ensuring free and fair elections, resolving disputes between political parties, and maintaining accurate voter lists and turnout, underscoring the urgency to address vacancies in the Commission.

Conclusion:

  • The government should reconsider the appointment process, ensuring the inclusion of the Chief Justice of India in the selection committee to uphold the independence and integrity of the Election Commission.

Mains PYQs

Q. Discuss the role of the Election Commission of India in light of the evolution of the Model Code of Conduct. (2022)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Stop the dithering and encourage green elections in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Na

Mains level: need for eco-friendly elections

Mains Pyq: ‘Simultaneous election to the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies will limit the amount of time and money spent in electioneering but it will reduce the government’s accountability to the people’ Discuss.

Prelims Pyq: 

Consider the following statements :​
1. In India, there is no law restricting the candidates from contesting in one Lok Sabha election from three constituencies.​

2. In 1991 Lok Sabha Election, Shri Devi Lal contested from three Lok Sabha constituencies.​

3. As per the existing rules, if a candidate contests in one Lok Sabha election from many constituencies, his/her party should bear the cost of bye-elections to the constituencies vacated by him/her in the event of him/her winning in all the constituencies.​

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?​

a.1 only
b.2 only​
c.1 and 3
d. 2 and 3

 

Some states have embraced online voting. It's a huge risk. - POLITICO

Why is it in news?

  • Amidst the climate crisis, shifting to sustainable practices across every sphere of human activity has become inevitable and urgent. In August 2023, ahead of the Assembly elections in five States, the Election Commission of India (ECI) voiced its concern over the environmental risks associated with the use of non-biodegradable materials in elections.

What is the Concept of Green Elections?

  • Green elections involve adopting eco-friendly practices throughout the electoral process, including campaign materials, rallies, and polling booths.
  • Transitioning to sustainable alternatives can mitigate the environmental impact and promote citizens’ health.

Why there is need of Green Elections?

  • Given that the conduct of every election results in an avoidable carbon footprint, there is a need for eco-friendly elections, which would be a boost to environmental stewardship alongside civic participation.
  • Sri Lanka and Estonia, for instance, have conducted environmentally-conscious elections. As India, the world’s most populous democracy, gears up for the next general election, environmental considerations must be prioritised, paving the way for ‘green elections’.

Environmental Impact of Elections:

  • In the 2016 US presidential elections, emissions from campaign flights of just one candidate equaled the annual carbon footprint of 500 Americans.
  • Traditional election methods involve energy-intensive activities like rallies, use of loudspeakers, PVC flex banners, hoardings, and disposable items, contributing to environmental degradation.
  • India’s massive elections involving crores of voters and large political rallies exacerbate the environmental impact.
  • Paper-based materials and energy-intensive campaign practices further escalate the environmental footprint.

Challenges in India for green elections:

  • Technological Challenges: Implementing electronic and digital voting systems requires robust infrastructure, especially in rural areas, to ensure reliable access to technology. Measures to prevent hacking and fraud must be put in place to maintain the integrity of the electoral process.
  • Access and Training: Ensuring fair access to new voting technologies for all voters, including marginalized communities, poses a significant challenge. Training election officials and voters alike on the use of new technologies is essential to facilitate smooth adoption.
  • Financial Constraints: Governments may face substantial upfront costs for acquiring eco-friendly materials and implementing new technology, which could deter financially constrained administrations from pursuing such initiatives.
  • Cultural and Behavioural Hurdles: Overcoming cultural inertia and the perception of physical presence at polling booths as sacrosanct poses a behavioural challenge. Public scepticism towards new approaches and concerns about compromises to vote security must be addressed to gain widespread acceptance.
  • Transparency and Auditing: Ensuring transparency in the adoption of new technologies and implementing effective auditing mechanisms are crucial to building trust in environmentally-friendly election practices.
Research Findings for mains answer value addition:
  • Research by Willemson and Krips from Estonia (2023) identified transportation of voters and logistics to and from polling booths as the primary source of carbon emissions during elections.
  • The running of polling booths constitutes the secondary source of emissions.
  • Transitioning to digital voting systems could potentially reduce the carbon footprint by up to 40%.

 

Successful examples of green elections

Kerala:

  • Campaigning Restrictions: During the 2019 general election, the Kerala State Election Commission urged political parties to avoid single-use plastic materials.
  • Ban on Non-Biodegradable Materials: The Kerala High Court imposed a ban on flex and non-biodegradable materials in electioneering, promoting the use of alternatives like wall graffiti and paper posters.
  • Collaboration for Green Elections: Government bodies collaborated with the district administration in Thiruvananthapuram to ensure eco-friendly elections, including conducting training sessions for election workers in villages.

Goa:

  • Eco-Friendly Election Booths: In 2022, the Goa State Biodiversity Board introduced eco-friendly election booths for the Assembly elections, utilizing biodegradable materials crafted by local traditional artisans.

Sri Lanka:

  • Carbon-Sensitive Campaign: The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party launched the world’s first carbon-sensitive environmentally friendly election campaign in 2019.
  • Carbon Emission Measurement: SLPP measured carbon emissions from vehicles and electricity used during political campaigns and compensated for them by planting trees in each district through public participation.

Estonia:

  • Digital Voting Initiative: Estonia pioneered digital voting as an online alternative, promoting voter participation while reducing the environmental footprint of traditional paper-based elections.
  • Robust Security Measures: The success of Estonia’s digital voting system demonstrates that accompanying robust security measures can ensure both eco- and electorate-friendly elections.

Suggested blueprint and Way-forward for Green elections

  • Involving All Stakeholders: The green transition must involve all stakeholders, including political parties, Election Commissions, governments, voters, the media, and civil society.
  • Integration of Directives: Success lies in integrating top-level directives with grassroots initiatives to foster a green transition effectively.
  • Leadership Role: Political parties should take the lead in enacting legislation mandating eco-friendly electoral practices.
  • Legislative Initiatives: This involves campaigning through digital platforms or door-to-door campaigning, reducing energy-intensive public rallies, and encouraging the use of public transportation for election work.
  • Supporting Local Alternatives: Incentivizing the replacement of plastic and paper-based materials with sustainable local alternatives for polling booths, such as natural fabrics, recycled paper, and compostable plastics, aids waste management and supports local artisans.
  • Advocacy for Digital Voting: The ECI can push for digital voting, despite the need for training and capacity building of officials.
  • Ensuring Equal Participation: To ensure equal participation of all voters in the digital electoral process, the government must educate and support voters and ensure equitable access to digital technology.
  • Catalyst Role: Civil society should act as a catalyst in promoting eco-conscious electoral practices.
  • Media’s Crucial Role: The media can emphasize the environmental impact of conventional election methods and shed light on innovative eco-friendly alternatives.
  • Setting an Example: Embracing eco-conscious electoral practices can help India set an example for other democracies around the world.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Criminals of Politics: Analysis of Rajya Sabha Candidates by ADR

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Criminality of Politicians, Vote Bank Dynamics

In the news

  • The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and the National Election Watch has found that 36% of the newly elected Rajya Sabha candidates have declared criminal cases against themselves.

Context:

  • Increase in Serious Crimes: 17% of total candidates face serious criminal charges, including with cases related to attempted murder, underscoring the gravity of the situation.
  • Biased Representation: Approximately 21% of the candidates are billionaires, with assets exceeding Rs 100 crore, reflecting the significant wealth amassed by certain individuals in the political arena.
  • Prevailing disparities: The majority (76%) of candidates belong to the 51-70 age group, with only 19% being women, reflecting gender disparities in political representation.

Why does Criminality persist in Indian politics?

  • Political Patronage: Criminals seek political backing to sustain their illicit activities, while politicians rely on criminals for funding, muscle power, and electoral support.
  • Protracted Legal Processes: Lengthy court proceedings, averaging around 15 years, coupled with declining conviction rates, allow criminals to evade justice and continue their political careers.
  • Legal Ambiguity: Pending cases become a shield for tainted candidates, who exploit the “law will take its own course” narrative to deflect scrutiny.
  • Electoral Advantage: Candidates with criminal records may have higher chances of winning elections, incentivizing parties to field them despite ethical concerns.
  • Limited Scrutiny: Despite legal mandates for candidates to disclose criminal cases, voters often lack the awareness or resources to scrutinize this information effectively.
  • Vote Bank Dynamics: Parties exploit caste, religious, or regional loyalties, prioritizing short-term gains over candidate integrity.

Impacts of Criminality in Indian politics:

  • Corrosive Effects: The fusion of crime and politics has corrosive effects on the governance. The nexus between crime and politics can exacerbate corruption and weaken governance structures. When politicians with criminal backgrounds hold office, there is a higher likelihood of corruption, misuse of power, and a lack of transparency in decision-making processes, all of which can have detrimental effects on the economy.
  • Undermining Democracy: Allowing criminals in politics undermines the development of a healthy democracy that India’s freedom fighters fought for. The impact extends to the provision of public goods. Research findings suggest that the effects are concentrated in less developed and more corrupt Indian states, indicating that the presence of criminal politicians hinders the effective delivery of public goods and services to constituents.
  • Economic Growth: While criminal candidates may win elections in the short term, their presence can hinder the long-term development of a robust democracy. The election of criminally accused politicians leads to lower economic growth in their constituencies. Studies show a 22% point lower yearly growth in the intensity of night-time lights, which serves as a proxy for economic activity, following the election of such politicians.

Measures Taken to Address Criminalization in Politics

[A] Legislative Interventions

  • Representation of the People Act, 1951: Sections 8(1), 8(2), and 8(3) establish grounds for disqualification of individuals convicted of certain offenses, barring them from contesting elections.
  • Conduct of Election Rules, 1961: Mandates candidates to file affidavits disclosing pending criminal cases and convictions, enhancing transparency in electoral processes.
  • Chapter IX A of Indian Penal Code: Defines and penalizes electoral offenses such as bribery and undue influence, deterring criminal activities in elections.

[B] Establishment of Special Courts

  • Judicial Mechanisms: Special courts dedicated to expediting criminal cases against legislators and parliamentarians help ensure timely justice and accountability.
  • Tackling Impunity: Targeted prosecution of political figures accused of criminal activities reduces impunity and strengthens the rule of law.

[C] Vohra Committee Report (1993)

  • Comprehensive Analysis: The Vohra Committee investigated the political-criminal nexus, highlighting its extent and proposing strategies to combat this menace.
  • Policy Recommendations: Recommendations from the report informed policy decisions aimed at disrupting criminal networks operating within political structures.

[D] Election Commission Initiatives

  • Affidavit Reforms: Election Commission directives mandate candidates to declare criminal records, financial assets, and educational qualifications, empowering voters with crucial information.
  • Moral Code of Conduct: Effective enforcement of ethical standards during elections minimizes the influence of criminal elements and promotes fair electoral practices.

Major Judicial Interventions

Background Key Outcome Significance
Union of India vs. Association for Democratic Reforms (2002) Challenged lack of transparency in electoral processes regarding candidates’ records. Supreme Court mandated Election Commission to compel candidates to disclose criminal, financial, and educational details. Empowered voters with vital information for informed choices, fostering accountability in elections.
Ramesh Dalal vs. Union of India (2005) Imposed disqualification criteria for convicted candidates. Supreme Court ruled sitting MPs/MLAs would be disqualified if convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for two years or more. Established stringent disqualification criteria to deter candidates with criminal backgrounds, enhancing integrity of elected representatives.
Lily Thomas vs. Union of India (2013) Addressed interpretation of Section 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. Supreme Court declared Section 8(4) unconstitutional, disqualifying legislators convicted and sentenced to two years or more. Closed loopholes allowing convicted legislators to retain seats, reinforcing accountability and integrity in the political system.
People’s Union for Civil Liberties vs. Union of India (2013) Addressed voters’ rights to reject candidates with criminal backgrounds through NOTA. Supreme Court ruled voters could reject all candidates using NOTA in electronic voting machines (EVMs). Introduced NOTA as a voting option, empowering voters to express dissatisfaction with criminalized politics, and promoting cleaner elections.

Way Forward

  • Decriminalization Legislation: Enact laws to prevent individuals facing serious criminal charges from contesting elections, ensuring that those with criminal backgrounds are barred from political office.
  • State Funding of Elections: Introduce state funding of elections to reduce the influence of money and muscle power, thereby minimizing the role of criminals in financing political campaigns.
  • Enhanced Voter Awareness: Educate voters about the detrimental effects of criminalization in politics and provide easily accessible information about candidates’ backgrounds to enable informed decision-making.
  • Empowering Election Commission: Grant Election Commission broader regulatory powers to enforce inner-party democracy, regulate party finances, and curb the influence of criminals in political parties.
  • Continued Judicial Oversight: Uphold the judiciary’s role in safeguarding electoral integrity by delivering landmark judgments that reinforce accountability, transparency, and ethical conduct among elected representatives.
  • Strict Enforcement of Disqualification Criteria: Ensure strict implementation of disqualification criteria for convicted politicians, irrespective of their appeals or legal maneuvers.

Try this question from CS Mains 2017:

Q. Young people with ethical conduct are not willing to come forward to join active politics. Suggest steps to motivate them to come forward. (150 Words, 10)

 

Post your responses here.
0
Please leave a feedback on thisx

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

The clear message in the Court’s ‘no’ to electoral bonds

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: na

Mains level: The electoral bonds scheme

Supreme Court strikes down Electoral Bonds Scheme as 'Unconstitutional'

Central Idea:

The Supreme Court’s recent decision to strike down India’s electoral bonds scheme marks a significant victory for transparency in democracy. The judgment highlights the importance of ensuring that political funding is transparent and accountable to the public.

Key Highlights:

  • The Supreme Court’s ruling on February 15, 2024, declared the electoral bonds scheme unconstitutional due to its lack of transparency.
  • The scheme allowed undisclosed corporate funding of political parties, removing previous limits and potentially enabling influence peddling.
  • Amendments to the Reserve Bank of India Act and other laws to introduce electoral bonds were deemed arbitrary and violative of fundamental rights.
  • The court ordered the State Bank of India to cease issuing electoral bonds and mandated disclosure of all previously issued bonds to the Election Commission.
  • The judgment underscores the importance of judicial review in upholding democratic principles and protecting constitutional rights.

Key Challenges:

  • The influence of money in elections remains a challenge, including the use of black money and bribery.
  • The lack of independent voting in India’s legislative process allows ruling parties to pass laws without sufficient scrutiny or consultation.
  • Political parties’ resistance to transparency raises concerns about their commitment to serving the public interest.

Main Terms from the article:

  • Electoral bonds: Instruments for anonymous political donations introduced in India.
  • Transparency: Openness and accountability in political processes and decision-making.
  • Judicial review: The power of courts to assess the constitutionality of laws and government actions.
  • Fundamental rights: Constitutional protections for individual freedoms and equality.
  • Campaign funding: Financial support for political parties and candidates during elections.

Important phrases for mains answer writing:

  • “Transparency is the basis of campaign funding.”
  • “The judgment restores transparency in political funding.”
  • “The ruling prevents undue influence on the government by corporate donors.”
  • “The power of judicial review is crucial for upholding democracy.”
  • “The price of democracy is eternal vigilance.”

Quotes for value addition:

  • “The electoral bonds scheme was opaque.”
  • “The judgment prevents crony capitalism from influencing political parties.”
  • “The ruling party bypassed transparency with electoral bonds.”
  • “The power of judicial review is precious.”
  • “We need political parties, but it is up to us to ensure they work for the good of society.”

Useful Statements:

  • “The Supreme Court’s decision reaffirms the principle that transparency is essential for democracy.”
  • “The ruling highlights the need for robust mechanisms to prevent undue influence on political processes.”
  • “Public scrutiny and vigilance are vital for holding political parties accountable.”
  • “The judgment sets a precedent for upholding constitutional rights in electoral matters.”
  • “Citizens’ engagement is crucial for ensuring that political parties serve the interests of the nation.”

Examples and References:

  • The case of electoral bonds exemplifies the tension between transparency and political expediency in India’s democracy.
  • Similar challenges with campaign finance transparency have been observed in other democracies worldwide.
  • Instances of corporate influence on policy-making underscore the importance of regulating political funding.
  • Civil society organizations and activists have played a critical role in advocating for transparency in political funding.
  • Past instances of electoral malpractice highlight the need for stronger legal safeguards against undue influence.

Facts and Data:

  • The Supreme Court’s ruling was issued on February 15, 2024.
  • Electoral bonds were introduced as a means of anonymous political funding.
  • Amendments to various laws facilitated the implementation of the electoral bonds scheme.
  • The Election Commission of India raised concerns about the potential misuse of electoral bonds.
  • The judgment requires the State Bank of India to disclose all previously issued electoral bonds to the Election Commission by March 6, 2024.

Critical Analysis:

  • The electoral bonds scheme represented a departure from established norms of transparency in political funding.
  • The Supreme Court’s decision underscores the judiciary’s role in upholding democratic principles and constitutional rights.
  • The ruling highlights the challenges of balancing political expediency with the need for transparency and accountability.
  • Political parties’ resistance to transparency raises questions about their commitment to democratic values.
  • The judgment sets a precedent for future legal challenges to electoral practices that undermine transparency and accountability.

Way Forward:

  • Strengthening legal safeguards to ensure transparency and accountability in political funding.
  • Promoting civic engagement and public awareness to hold political parties accountable.
  • Enhancing mechanisms for independent oversight and regulation of campaign finance.
  • Encouraging broader political reforms to address systemic issues of corruption and undue influence.
  • Emphasizing the importance of upholding democratic principles and constitutional rights in electoral matters

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Supreme Court Strikes Down Electoral Bonds Scheme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Electoral Bonds Scheme, Article 19, RTI, Proportionality Test

Mains level: Read the attached story

electoral bond

Introduction

  • The Supreme Court delivered a groundbreaking unanimous judgment, deeming the electoral bonds scheme “unconstitutional and manifestly arbitrary.”
  • Led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud, a five-judge Constitution Bench unanimously struck down the scheme, citing infringement on voters’ right to information and disproportionate restrictions.

ebs

Key Reasons for Striking Down Electoral Bonds Scheme

[A] Violation of Right to Information (RTI)

  • Petitioners argued that the scheme violates Right to Information under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, emphasizing voters’ right to information regarding political party funding.
  • Despite the government’s stance that citizens lack a “right to know” about political contributions, the court upheld voters’ right to such information, citing the inherent connection between money and politics.
  • The court highlighted the “deep association” between money and politics, stressing the need for transparency to prevent quid pro quo arrangements.

[B] Disproportionate Restrictions:

  • The scheme’s anonymity for donors, aimed at curbing black money, was deemed disproportionate to its goal.
  • Advocates highlighted potential loopholes allowing for cash donations, undermining its efficacy in combating black money.
  • The court emphasized the availability of alternative, less restrictive measures to achieve the scheme’s objectives, such as Section 29C of the Representation of People Act, 1951.

[C] Privacy vs. Public Interest:

  • While the government argued for donor anonymity to protect privacy rights, advocates stressed the importance of public scrutiny in political funding.
  • The court clarified that donor privacy extends only to genuine forms of public support, rejecting absolute anonymity facilitated by the scheme.

[D] Unlimited Corporate Contributions:

  • Advocates underscored the adverse impact of unlimited corporate contributions on free and fair elections.
  • The court reinstated the cap on political contributions from companies, citing the need to prevent undue corporate influence in politics.
  • It noted concerns that unlimited contributions could incentivize quid pro quo arrangements, especially by loss-making companies.

Impact on Key Legal Amendments

  • Representation of the People Act, 1951: The court struck down amendments exempting political parties from disclosing donations above Rs. 20,000, reinforcing the balance between voters’ right to information and donor privacy. (Section 29C)
  • Companies Act, 2013: Amendments allowing unlimited corporate contributions were overturned, restoring the cap on political donations by companies and preserving electoral integrity. (Section 182)
  • Income-tax Act, 1961: Exemptions for political parties to maintain records of donations received via electoral bonds were annulled, safeguarding voters’ right to information. (Section 13A)

Application of Proportionality Test

[A] Definition:

  • The proportionality test assesses the balance between competing fundamental rights or interests and the measures taken by the state to achieve its objectives.
  • It involves four criteria: legality, necessity, proportionality in the strict sense, and balancing of interests.

[B] Government’s Arguments:

  • The government defended the scheme, citing legitimate aims such as tackling black money and protecting donor anonymity.
  • Solicitor General Tushar Mehta argued that the right to information does not extend to information not in the state’s possession.

[C] Court’s Analysis:

  • Applying the proportionality test, the court scrutinized the balance between competing fundamental rights, emphasizing the necessity of the “least restrictive” methods.
  • It underscored the importance of less intrusive alternatives, such as the electoral trusts scheme, in achieving the scheme’s objectives.

Why is this a Landmark case?

  • Burden of Proof: The court held that the state must demonstrate that its measures are the “least restrictive” and that no other “equally effective” methods exist to achieve its objectives.
  • Balancing Competing Rights: Unlike previous approaches prioritizing public interest over individual rights, the court’s focus is on balancing competing fundamental rights.
  • Structured Proportionality Test: The verdict applies a structured proportionality test, requiring the state to demonstrate that its actions restricting fundamental rights are proportional to its objectives.
  • Application of Legal Precedents: While the right-to-privacy ruling laid down the law, subsequent cases like Aadhaar (2018) and Demonetization (2023) applied the structured proportionality test. The electoral bonds verdict represents a significant departure in this regard.

Conclusion

  • The Supreme Court’s verdict reaffirms its commitment to upholding constitutional principles and safeguarding democratic processes.
  • By striking down the electoral bonds scheme and reinstating key legal provisions, the court emphasizes the primacy of transparency and accountability in electoral financing.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

States do not violate Constitution in appointment of Deputy CM: Supreme Court

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Deputy CM

Mains level: Political alliances and their stable functioning

Introduction

  • The Supreme Court recently dismissed a petition challenging the appointment of Deputy Chief Ministers in States, stating that the position does not breach the Constitution.
  • Despite lacking constitutional backing, Deputy CM play significant roles in state governments, raising questions about their powers, significance, and concerns.

What is the Deputy CM Position?

  • Constitutional Status: Unlike the Vice President of India, the Deputy CM post is political rather than constitutional.
  • Origin: The post traces back to the Deputy PM position established in 1947 post-independence, leading to the evolution of Deputy CM roles in states.
  • Appointment and Tenure: Deputy CMs are appointed and removed at the discretion of the Chief Minister, who may appoint multiple Deputy CMs.
  • Historical Context: Anugrah Narayan Sinha of Bihar was the first Deputy CM post-Independence, with 12 states in India having Deputy CMs as of July 2023.

Powers and Responsibilities

  • Rank and Pay: Deputy CMs hold a rank equivalent to cabinet ministers, receiving similar pays and perks.
  • Portfolio Allocation: They are entrusted with portfolios, although typically smaller in scale compared to the Chief Minister.
  • Financial Powers: Deputy CMs hold no specific financial authority, requiring approval from the Chief Minister for expenditures exceeding allocated budgets.
  • Administrative Role: They facilitate governance and administration, acting as a bridge between the ruling party and its allies.

Significance of Deputy CMs

  • Political Stability: Deputy CMs contribute to coalition government stability by bridging gaps between ruling parties and allies, reducing incidents of anti-defection.
  • Representation and Trust: Their presence ensures better representation of communities, fostering public trust in governance.
  • Succession and Accountability: Deputy CMs serve as potential successors to the Chief Minister, promoting transparency and accountability in government.

Concerns and Suggestions

  • Lack of Constitutional Backing: Raises concerns about role ambiguity and potential exploitation by Chief Ministers.
  • Multiplicity of Appointments: No limit on the number of Deputy CMs can lead to appeasement and governance complexities.
  • Complexity in Governance: Overlapping roles with cabinet ministers may complicate governance and administration.

Future Perspectives

  • Clarity and Limitations: Need for a defined role and limitations for Deputy CMs to simplify governance structures.
  • Political Literacy: Enhancing awareness among citizens about the role and function of Deputy CMs is essential for informed governance.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

In news: Appointment of Election Commissioner

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Election Commission Appointments Bill

Mains level: Read the attached story

Introduction

  • The impending retirement of Election Commissioner Anup Chandra Pandey on February 14 signals a significant shift in India’s electoral procedures.
  • For the first time, his successor will be selected through a consultative process, departing from past practices of government discretion as per the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Act, 2023.

EC Appointments: Judicial Imperative

  • Supreme Court Intervention: In March 2023, the Supreme Court intervened to address the longstanding legislative gap surrounding the appointment of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (ECs).
  • Emphasis on Independence: The Court emphasized the need for an independent Election Commission, paralleling other constitutional bodies with autonomous appointment mechanisms.

CEC and EC Appointment Act, 2023: Key Provisions

  • Appointment Process: The Law establishes a Selection Committee comprising the Prime Minister, Union Cabinet Minister, and the Leader of the Opposition or the largest opposition party’s leader in the Lok Sabha.
  • Eligibility and Conditions: Eligible candidates must have held or hold positions equivalent to the Secretary to the central government, with salary parity to the Cabinet Secretary.
  • Removal Mechanism: The Law outlines the removal process, retaining the constitutional provision for the CEC’s removal akin to a Supreme Court Judge and ECs’ removal upon the CEC’s recommendation.

Appointment of the CEC and ECs: Present Mechanism

[A] Constitutional Provisions:

  • Part XV (Elections) of the Constitution outlines Articles 324-329, governing electoral processes.
  • The Constitution does not prescribe a specific legislative procedure for appointing the CEC and ECs.
  • Article 324 vests the responsibility of overseeing elections in an Election Commission comprising the CEC and other ECs, as determined by the President.
  • President appoints them based on the Union Council of Ministers’ advice, led by the Prime Minister.
  • Law Minister proposes suitable candidates to the Prime Minister, who advises the President on the appointments.

[B] Removal:

  • Commissioners have the liberty to resign or be removed before completing their term.
  • The removal process for the CEC mirrors that of a Supreme Court judge, necessitating parliamentary action.
  • Removal of any other EC can only occur upon the CEC’s recommendation.

Current Challenges and Concerns

  • Transparency and Independence: Concerns arise over the potential monopolization of the Selection Committee by ruling party members, undermining diversity and independence.
  • Executive Influence: Equating the salary of Election Commissioners with that of executive officials raises apprehensions regarding government influence.
  • Eligibility Criteria: Restricting eligibility to civil servants may limit diversity and expertise within the Election Commission.
  • Lack of Parity: Disparities in the removal process between the CEC and ECs raise questions about fairness and institutional autonomy.

Way forward

  • Safeguarding Independence: Upholding the integrity and independence of the Election Commission remains paramount, necessitating robust oversight mechanisms.
  • Addressing Concerns: Mitigating concerns surrounding transparency, executive influence, and eligibility criteria is essential to foster public trust and confidence.
  • Continued Judicial Vigilance: Ongoing judicial oversight is crucial to ensure the effective implementation of electoral reforms and uphold democratic principles.

Conclusion

  • The transition towards a consultative process for appointing Election Commissioners reflects a significant milestone in India’s electoral governance.
  • While the reform bill marks a commendable step towards enhancing transparency and inclusivity, addressing current challenges and safeguarding institutional independence will be pivotal in fostering public trust and strengthening democratic institutions.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Election Symbols Issue in Maharashtra

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Election Symbols Allotment

Mains level: Split in a Political Party

Introduction

  • A faction within a political party led by the Maharashtra Deputy CM has been officially recognized as the legitimate group by the Election Commission of India retaining its election symbol.

Also read:

How are Symbols allotted to Political Parties in India?

Election Symbol and its Significance

  • Electoral Impact: Election symbols play a crucial role in shaping the electoral fortunes of political parties, influencing voter perception and identification.
  • Transparency Concerns: The current system of symbol allotment warrants review to ensure transparency and fairness in the electoral process.

EC’s Powers in Symbol Disputes

  • Legal Framework: Para 15 of the Symbols Order, 1968, empowers the ECI to adjudicate disputes arising from splits within political parties.
  • Test of Majority: The ECI conducts a test of majority, considering all available facts and circumstances, to determine the legitimate faction.
  • Binding Decision: The decision of the ECI is binding on all rival sections or groups emerged after the split, applicable to recognized national and state parties.

Historical Precedents

  • Pre-1968 Era: Before the Symbols Order, 1968, the ECI addressed disputes through notifications and executive orders under the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961.
  • High-profile Cases: Notable cases include the split of the Communist Party of India (CPI) in 1964 and the first split in the Indian National Congress in 1969.

Options for Resolution

  • Symbol Freeze: The ECI may freeze the symbol to prevent either faction from using it until a final decision is reached, a process that typically involves lengthy hearings.
  • Legal Proceedings: Parties may resort to legal recourse if internal resolution or EC intervention fails to resolve the dispute.

Alternate Resolution Mechanisms

  • Majority Test: EC primarily relies on testing the support within the party organization, particularly among elected MPs and MLAs, to determine faction legitimacy.
  • Registration as Separate Party: Splinter groups not recognized by the parent party may register themselves as separate entities and seek national or state party status based on electoral performance post-registration.

Conclusion

  • The recognition of political factions by the Election Commission underscores the complexities of symbol allotment and intra-party disputes.
  • As the EC navigates these challenges, ensuring procedural fairness and upholding democratic principles remain paramount in fostering trust and integrity in the electoral process.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Understanding the Delimitation Exercise

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Delimitation Commission, Article 82 and Article 170

Mains level: Representativeness in Democracy and the role of Delimitiation

Delimitation

Introduction

  • The impending delimitation exercise for Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies, based on the first Census after 2026, has sparked discussions and raised pertinent questions.

Understanding Delimitation

  • Definition: Delimitation entails fixing the number of seats and boundaries of territorial constituencies, including the reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST), based on census data.
  • Constitutional Mandate: Article 82 (Lok Sabha) and Article 170 (State Legislative Assemblies) mandate readjustment of seats after each Census, performed by the Delimitation Commission.
  • Historical Precedent: Delimitation exercises were conducted post the 1951, 1961, and 1971 Censuses, highlighting its periodic nature.

About Delimitation Commission

  • The Delimitation Commission is a high-powered committee entrusted with the task of drawing and redrawing of boundaries of different constituencies for state assembly and Lok Sabha election.
  • It is appointed by the President and works in collaboration with the Election Commission.
  • The Commission consists of –
  1. A retired or working Supreme Court Judge (chairperson)
  2. Election Commissioner
  3. Concerned State Election Commissioners
  • DC’s orders have the force of law and CANNOT be called in question before any court.
  • The orders are laid before the Lok Sabha and the legislative assemblies concerned, but they cannot effect any modifications in the orders.

Need for Delimitation

  • Democracy and Representation: The essence of democracy mandates ‘one citizen-one vote-one value,’ necessitating periodic readjustment of seats to reflect population changes.
  • Freezing of Seats: Seats have been frozen since 1971 to encourage population control, with the freeze extended until 2026 through the 84th Amendment Act.

Why is this exercise problematic?

  • Uneven Population Growth: Population disparities among states pose challenges, with some states experiencing rapid growth while others stagnate.
  • Options Discussed: Options include redistributing existing seats among states or increasing the total seats to reflect population changes.
  • Constituency Shrinkage: Electorates often lose their representation due to the merger of constituencies.

International Perspectives

  • United States: The U.S. redistributes seats among states after each Census to maintain proportionality, ensuring minimal disruption.
  • European Union: EU Parliament uses a principle of ‘degressive proportionality,’ where seats are allocated based on population ratios.

Way forward

  • Harmonizing Principles: Balancing democratic representation and federal principles is crucial. Capping Lok Sabha seats at the current 543 ensures continuity, while increasing State Legislative Assembly seats aligns with democratic representation.
  • Empowering Local Bodies: Strengthening democracy involves empowering grassroots institutions like panchayats and municipalities, enhancing citizen engagement and governance.

Conclusion

  • The delimitation exercise presents a delicate balance between democratic representation and federal principles.
  • By adopting a nuanced approach that respects constitutional mandates while empowering local governance, India can navigate the complexities of delimitation, ensuring inclusive and effective representation for its diverse populace.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

How Political Parties are created in India?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Political Parties

Mains level: Read the attached story

political parties

Introduction

  • Tamil superstar Thalapathy Vijay’s announcement of his political party has sparked interest in the process of registering political entities in India.

Creating a Political Party

  • Legal Framework: Article 324 of the Indian Constitution and Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 empower the Election Commission to lay down guidelines for party registration.
  • Application: A party seeking registration must apply to the Election Commission within 30 days of its formation.
  • Public Notice: The applicant must publish the proposed party name in two national and two local daily newspapers. The notice is also posted on the Election Commission’s website.
  • Documentation: The application, in a prescribed format, must be sent to the Election Commission Secretary within 30 days of party formation. It should include a demand draft of Rs. 10,000, a printed copy of the party’s memorandum, rules, or constitution, and the latest electoral rolls for at least 100 party members.
  • Affidavits: An affidavit, duly signed by the President or General Secretary and sworn before a Magistrate/Notary Public, is required. Additionally, individual affidavits from 100 members confirming non-membership in any other registered political party are essential.

Need for Registration

  • Not Mandatory: Registration with the Election Commission is not mandatory but comes with advantages under the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
  • Symbol Allotment: Registered party candidates receive priority in the allotment of free symbols over independent candidates.
  • State or National Recognition: Parties can achieve recognition as ‘state parties’ or ‘national parties,’ subject to fulfilling conditions laid out in the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.

Recognition Criteria

  • State Party: To be recognized as a state party, a registered party must meet any of these five conditions:
    1. Secure at least 6% of valid votes and win at least 2 seats in an Assembly General Election.
    2. Secure at least 6% of valid votes and win at least 1 seat in a Lok Sabha General Election.
    3. Win at least 3% of the seats or at least 3 seats, whichever is more, in an Assembly General Election.
    4. Win at least 1 out of every 25 seats from a state in a Lok Sabha General Election.
    5. Secure at least 8% of the total valid vote in an Assembly or Lok Sabha General Election.
  • National Party: To attain national party status, a registered party must meet any of these three conditions:
    1. Secure at least 6% of valid votes in an Assembly or Lok Sabha General Election in four or more states and win at least 4 seats in a Lok Sabha General Election from any state.
    2. Win at least 2% of total Lok Sabha seats in a Lok Sabha General Election, spanning at least 3 states.
    3. The party is recognized as a State Party in at least four states.

Benefits of Recognition

  • Reserved Symbol: State parties receive a reserved symbol within the state, while national parties can use the reserved symbol across the country.
  • Nomination Ease: Such parties require only one proposer for filing nominations.
  • Free Electoral Rolls: They are entitled to two sets of electoral rolls free of cost.
  • Media Access: Recognized parties can use state-owned Akashvani/Doordarshan facilities for broadcasting/telecasting during general elections.
  • Additional Perks: Recognized parties can avail of other advantages such as subsidized land for party offices, among others.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

After ECI guidelines, charting a path to disability inclusion in politics

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Section 92 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016

Mains level: need for a more robust and enforceable framework within the Model Code of Conduct

Don't use derogatory terms for disabled, EC tells political parties | India  News - Times of India

Central Idea:

The Election Commission of India issued guidelines advising political parties on using disability-sensitive language and practices. These guidelines cover inclusive communication, accessible information, and integrating people with disabilities (PwDs) within party structures. The aim is to counter derogatory remarks and stereotypes against PwDs in politics. However, concerns about the effectiveness of these guidelines arise, demanding further refinement and their inclusion in the Model Code of Conduct.

Key Highlights:

  • The guidelines address disability-inclusive communication, information accessibility, and inclusion within political party frameworks.
  • Recent derogatory remarks by political leaders underscore the necessity for these guidelines.
  • Derogatory language contributes to attitudinal barriers under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.
  • The guidelines are advisory, lacking uniformity and needing a more definitive mandate.
  • Absence of these guidelines in the Model Code of Conduct reduces their enforceability.
  • Ambiguities in language usage and terminology require clarification to avoid misinterpretation.
  • Political inclusion of PwDs is not addressed in the draft National Policy for PwD.
  • Lack of data on legislators with disabilities and the absence of a disability column in election forms hinder political inclusion.

Key Terms:

  • Disability-sensitive language
  • Inclusive communication
  • Attitudinal barriers
  • Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016
  • Model Code of Conduct
  • Derogatory remarks
  • National Policy for Persons with Disabilities
  • Political inclusion

Key Phrases:

  • “Advisory guidelines”
  • “Attitudinal barrier”
  • “Model Code of Conduct”
  • “Political inclusion”
  • “Derogatory remarks”
  • “Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016”
  • “National Policy for Persons with Disabilities”

Key Quotes:

  • “These guidelines are only an ‘advisory,’ though the phraseology of a few guidelines is in mandatory language.”
  • “Instances have underlined the need for these guidelines, such as derogatory remarks by political leaders.”
  • “Political inclusion is an ignored aspect within the Indian realm of disability.”

Key Statements:

  • “A uniform mandate under all three heads is needed for effective implementation.”
  • “Guidelines must be included within the Model Code of Conduct to enhance their enforceability.”
  • “The lack of data has contributed significantly to the political exclusion of PwDs.”

Key Examples and References:

  • A Raja’s derogatory comparison of Sanatan Dharma to people with leprosy and HIV in September 2023.
  • Lack of a disability column in nomination forms and affidavits filed by contestants during elections.

Key Facts:

  • The guidelines cover disability-inclusive communication, information accessibility, and inclusion within party frameworks.
  • Section 92 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, is mentioned as a punitive measure for breaching guidelines related to disability-inclusive communication.

Critical Analysis:

The article critically examines the advisory guidelines, highlighting their strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement. It emphasizes the need for a more robust and enforceable framework within the Model Code of Conduct and addresses ambiguities in language usage.

Way Forward:

  • Refine and make the guidelines mandatory under all three categories.
  • Incorporate guidelines into the Model Code of Conduct for enhanced enforceability.
  • Provide a detailed list of disability-sensitive words and phraseology.
  • Include a chapter on political inclusion in the National Policy for Persons with Disabilities.
  • Introduce a disability column in election nomination forms to collect data on legislators with disabilities.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Debate on VVPAT Verification in Indian Elections

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: VVPAT

Mains level: Free and Fair Elections

vvpat

Introduction

  • Recent Developments: A political alliance, has requested a meeting with the Election Commission of India (ECI) to discuss and suggest changes regarding the use of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines.
  • Proposal: The alliance proposes that VVPAT slips be handed to voters to place in a separate ballot box, with 100% counting of these slips, to enhance trust in the electoral process.

What are VVPATs?

  • Function and Purpose: VVPAT machines, attached to EVMs, print a slip showing the voter’s choice, allowing voters to verify their vote for seven seconds before the slip drops into a secured box.
  • Development History: The concept emerged in 2010, leading to the creation of prototypes by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India (ECIL). After trials and feedback, the design was approved in February 2013.
  • Implementation: The Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, were amended to incorporate VVPATs. They were first used in Nagaland’s Noksen Assembly constituency in 2013 and were implemented in all polling stations by the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Current VVPAT Slip Counting Protocol

  • EC’s Decision Process: In 2018, the ECI consulted the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) to determine a statistically robust sample size for VVPAT slip verification.
  • Existing Protocol: Initially, VVPAT slips of one randomly selected polling station per Assembly constituency were counted. This was increased to five polling stations per Assembly seat after a Supreme Court judgment in 2019.
  • ISI Recommendation: The ISI suggested counting VVPAT slips from 479 EVMs to ensure a high confidence level that the proportion of defective EVMs is less than 2%.

Election Commission’s Stance

  • Current Verification Adequacy: The EC argues that the current practice of verifying VVPATs from five polling stations per Assembly seat exceeds the ISI’s recommendation.
  • Reliability Record: The EC highlights that in past elections, no cases of vote misattribution were detected in VVPAT checks, attributing discrepancies to human errors.
  • Concerns over Full Verification: The EC views 100% VVPAT verification as regressive, time-consuming, and prone to human error, akin to manual ballot voting.

Conclusion

  • Debate on Electoral Integrity: The discussion around VVPAT verification reflects ongoing concerns about ensuring electoral integrity and public trust in the voting process.
  • Challenges Ahead: Balancing the need for efficient electoral processes with the imperative of maintaining voter confidence remains a critical challenge for the ECI and political parties in India.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

In news: Electoral Bond Scheme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Electoral Bond Scheme

Mains level: Read the attached story

Central Idea

  • The government has announced a fresh tranche of electoral bond sales for a 10-day period starting through the authorised branches of State Bank of India across the country.

About the Electoral Bond Scheme

Definition Banking instruments for political party donations with donor anonymity.
Launch 2017-18 Union Budget
Purchase Method Available to Indian citizens and Indian-incorporated companies from select State Bank of India branches. Can be bought digitally or via cheque.
Donation Process Purchasers can donate these bonds to eligible political parties of their choice.
Denominations Available in multiples of ₹1,000, ₹10,000, ₹10 lakh, and ₹1 crore.
KYC Requirements Purchasers must fulfill existing KYC norms and pay from a bank account.
Lifespan of Bonds Bonds have a 15-day life to prevent them from becoming a parallel currency.
Identity Disclosure Donors contributing less than ₹20,000 need not provide identity details like PAN.
Redemption Electoral Bonds can be encashed only by eligible political parties through an Authorized Bank.
Eligibility of Parties Only parties meeting specific criteria, including securing at least 1% of votes in the last General Election, can receive Electoral Bonds.
Restrictions Lifted Foreign and Indian companies can now donate without disclosing contributions as per the Companies Act.
Objective To enhance transparency in political funding and ensure funds collected by political parties are accounted or clean money.

 

Also read:

Challenging the Electoral Bond Scheme

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Tavleen Singh writes: PM Modi’s guarantees vs Rahul Gandhi’s promises

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: na

Mains level: PM Modi’s guarantees vs Rahul Gandhi’s promises

Post Karnataka win, Rahul Gandhi promises to implement Congress' five  guarantees in first cabinet meeting | India News - The Indian Express

Central idea 

Modi’s consolidation of leadership within the BJP presents a challenge to the party’s collective strength. The INDIA alliance struggles to form a united front, lacking a clear leader and shared ideology. Effective communication of Modi’s guarantees, coupled with voter perception of achievements, strengthens his political standing despite opposition attempts.

Key Highlights:

  • Narendra Modi’s political dominance within the BJP, sidelining other leaders and making himself the primary focus for voters.
  • Modi’s personal guarantees, particularly the promise of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya, shaping the party’s campaign narrative.
  • Rahul Gandhi’s emphasis on ideology and the Congress Party’s goal of empowering the common man.
  • Voter perception of Modi’s leadership, influenced by achievements such as the G20 meeting and the abrogation of Article 370.
  • Challenges faced by the INDIA alliance in forming a cohesive narrative, lacking a clear leader and shared ideology.

PM Modi pays surprise visit, drinks tea at an Ujjwala benefeciary's house  in Ayodhya: Take a look

Key Challenges:

  • Modi’s overwhelming influence within the BJP, potentially sidelining the party’s collective strength.
  • The INDIA alliance struggling to present a united front with a shared ideology and leadership.
  • The challenge of convincing voters that getting rid of Modi is a crucial political goal.
  • Weak response from the alliance to Modi’s guarantees, particularly Rahul Gandhi’s promise of a caste census.

Key Terms:

  • Modi’s guarantees
  • Ram Temple in Ayodhya
  • INDIA alliance
  • G20 meeting
  • Abrogation of Article 370
  • Ideology
  • Caste census

Key Phrases:

  • “Modi ki guarantee hai” (Modi’s guarantee)
  • “Fight for ideology” – Rahul Gandhi’s perspective on the Congress Party’s goal.
  • “Destroying democracy” – Alleged reason for getting rid of Modi.
  • “Solid than the INDIA alliance” – Describing the stability of BJP and RSS compared to the alliance.

Key Quotes:

  • “The foundation of the battle for political power is ideology, and the Congress’s objective is to hand over power to the common man.” – Rahul Gandhi.

Anecdotes:

  • Modi’s choice of relatively unknown individuals as chief ministers after sidelining powerful leaders during elections.
  • Details of Modi’s inspection tour of the Ram Temple, including the use of a gold coin in a ritual.

Key Statements:

  • “Nowadays, when I ask the average voter who he will vote for in next year’s general election, the answer is: Modi.”
  • “Rahul Gandhi was speaking at a public rally to commemorate the 139th founding day of the Congress Party and explained his ideology.”
  • “The only thing that all the twenty-eight parties in the alliance appear to agree on is that they have a mission to get rid of Modi.”

Key Examples and References:

  • Modi’s achievements, such as the G20 meeting and the abrogation of Article 370, influencing voter perception.
  • Weak response from the alliance, including promises like Rahul Gandhi’s caste census, compared to Modi’s guarantees.

Key Facts and Data:

  • Modi’s success in making himself the central figure for voters in recent months.
  • Voter approval of Modi’s leadership based on achievements and promises.

Critical Analysis:

  • Examines the shift in BJP dynamics towards Modi’s singular leadership.
  • Highlights the contrast between Modi’s effective communication of guarantees and the alliance’s struggle to present a cohesive narrative.
  • Addresses the challenge of convincing voters that getting rid of Modi is crucial and the weak response from the alliance.

Way Forward:

  • The BJP may need to balance Modi’s leadership with the strength of the party as a whole.
  • The INDIA alliance needs a more cohesive narrative, a clear leader, and a shared ideology to present a formidable challenge.
  • Emphasizes the importance of effectively countering Modi’s guarantees and presenting a compelling alternative to voters.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

14th Amendment of US Constitution and Its Implications

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: 14th Amendment of US Constitution

Mains level: Comparison of Indian Constitution

Central Idea

  • The US top court ordered the removal of former President Donald Trump from the ballot for the next Presidential elections.
  • The decision was based on Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution, relating to Trump’s alleged role in the January 6, 2021, attacks on the US Capitol.

14th Amendment of US Constitution

Details
Ratification Date July 9, 1868
Primary Purpose To address civil rights issues following the Civil War, particularly regarding former slaves.
Key Clauses Citizenship Clause: Citizenship for all persons born or naturalized in the U.S.

Due Process Clause: Fair legal process required for all citizens.

Equal Protection Clause: Equal legal protection for all citizens.

Historical Context Response to post-Civil War issues, including the Black Codes in Southern states.
Major Significance – Extended Bill of Rights protections to state actions.

– Foundation for numerous civil rights advancements and Supreme Court decisions.

Notable Cases – Brown v. Board of Education (1954) for desegregation

– Roe v. Wade (1973) for abortion rights

Why in news? Section 3 disqualifies anyone who, having taken an oath to support the Constitution, engages in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or aids its enemies, from holding any office, civil or military, in the United States.

Applied to Donald Trump

Impact on Federalism Altered the balance of power between the federal government and states, especially in civil rights and liberties.

Similar Provisions in India

Details
Equal Protection Clause Article 14: Indian Constitution guarantees “equality before the law” and “equal protection of the laws” within the territory of India.
Citizenship Clause Articles 5 to 11: Deal with aspects of citizenship in India, including citizenship by birth, descent, registration, naturalization, and incorporation of territory.
Due Process Clause Article 21: Provides protection of life and personal liberty, stating “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to a procedure established by law.”
Protection of Civil Liberties Article 19: Ensures the protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech, assembly, etc.
Prohibition of Discrimination Article 15: Prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth.
Disqualification for Public Office Representation of the People Act, 1951 (Sections 8, 9, 10, 11): Lays out disqualifications for membership of Parliament and State Legislatures due to criminal convictions, corrupt practices, and certain office-of-profit positions.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

One person, one vote, one value

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Delimitation Commission

Mains level: Role of delimitation in preserving political equality

Delimitation of Lok Sabha constituencies to bring about significant shifts  UPSC

Central idea 

The central idea revolves around the crucial role of delimitation in preserving political equality within liberal democracies. It addresses challenges such as population growth disparities, gerrymandering, and the need for a comprehensive legal framework. The way forward emphasizes urgent and comprehensive delimitation, protection of state interests, and continuous monitoring to ensure a fair and inclusive democratic representation.

Key Highlights:

  • Political Equality in Liberal Democracies: In liberal democracies, political equality extends beyond the opportunity to participate; it includes ensuring that each citizen’s vote holds equal value.
  • Types of Dilution: Quantitative dilution is observed when population deviations among constituencies result in unequal representation. Qualitative dilution, on the other hand, occurs through gerrymandering, impacting the chances of minority representation.
  • Constitutional Safeguards: Articles 81, 170, 327, 330, 332 of the Constitution establish safeguards to guarantee political equality. They empower Parliament to enact laws related to delimitation and address concerns of both quantitative and qualitative dilution.
  • Role of Delimitation Commissions: Delimitation commissions, formed periodically, play a crucial role in maintaining population-representation equality by adjusting constituency boundaries.

Key Challenges:

  • Population Growth Disparities: Unequal population growth among states poses a challenge, leading to quantitative dilution where the weight of votes varies significantly.
  • Impact of Gerrymandering: Gerrymandering can qualitatively dilute the value of votes, particularly affecting minority representation. Techniques like cracking, stacking, and packing can be employed to manipulate electoral boundaries.
  • Issues with Freezing and Variation Allowance: The freezing of population figures and the allowance for a 10% variation have resulted in imbalances, allowing deviations from the ideal population-representation ratio.

Key Terms and Phrases:

  • Dilution Types: Understanding the distinctions between quantitative and qualitative dilution is essential for addressing challenges in the democratic process.
  • Legal Framework: Key legal terms include gerrymandering, the Delimitation Commission, Two Member Constituencies (Abolition) Act, 1961, 42nd Amendment Act, 1976, and the Sachar Committee Report, which provide the foundation for delimitation processes.

Key Quotes:

  • “The right to vote can be diluted quantitatively and qualitatively by redrawing constituency boundaries.” – Pamela S. Karlan This quote emphasizes the importance of maintaining the integrity of the voting process and avoiding dilution through boundary manipulations.
  • “Delimitation of constituencies needs to be carried out regularly based on the decennial Census.” Regular delimitation, aligned with the decennial Census, is crucial for adapting to demographic changes and ensuring fair representation.

Key Statements:

  • Population Growth Variations: Differences in population growth among states create a significant gap in the value of votes, impacting the democratic principle of equal representation.
  • Issues with Freezing and Variation Allowance: The freezing of population figures and the allowance for variation contribute to imbalances in representation, requiring careful consideration in the delimitation process.

Key Examples and References:

  • Impact of Delimitation on SC-Reserved Seats: Delimitation’s impact on Scheduled Caste (SC)-reserved seats, especially concerning the majority Muslim population, highlights the complexities of fair representation.
  • Discrepancies in Muslim Representation: Discrepancies between the percentage of Muslim MPs in Parliament (4.42%) and their overall population (14.2%) underscore the qualitative dilution in the representation of minority communities.

Key Facts and Data:

  • Population Growth Between 1971 and 2011: Disparities in population growth across states, with some experiencing over 125% growth, contribute to the quantitative dilution of votes.
  • Representation Disparity: The average representation disparity, where an MP in some states represents significantly more people than in others, reflects the challenges in achieving equal representation.

Critical Analysis:

  • Threats to Democracy: Both quantitative and qualitative dilution pose significant threats to the democratic process, undermining the principle of equal political representation.
  • Challenges with Freezing and Variation Allowance: The freezing of population figures and the allowance for variation may result in continued imbalances, demanding a critical evaluation of the current delimitation framework.
  • Impact on Minority Representation: The qualitative dilution of votes has a notable impact on minority representation, requiring a nuanced approach in delimitation to address these disparities.

Way Forward:

  • Urgent Delimitation: Urgent delimitation is necessary to rectify population-representation deviations and uphold the principles of equal representation in a timely manner.
  • Comprehensive Delimitation: Future delimitation processes must consider both quantitative and qualitative aspects, ensuring a comprehensive approach to achieve fair representation.
  • Protecting State Interests: Special attention is required to protect the interests of states with slower population growth, balancing the need for representation across regions.
  • Continuous Monitoring and Adjustments: Regular monitoring and adjustments in delimitation processes are essential for maintaining a robust and inclusive democratic system. Continuous adaptation to demographic changes will help address evolving challenges in representation.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Legislative Development in Election Commission Appointments

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Election Commission Appointments Bill

Mains level: Read the attached story

election commissioner

Central Idea

  • The Rajya Sabha passed a bill that revises the process for appointing the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (ECs), replacing the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991.

Election Commission Appointments Bill:Key Features

  • Appointment Process: The President will appoint the CEC and ECs based on recommendations from a Selection Committee comprising the Prime Minister, a Union Cabinet Minister, and the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha.
  • Search Committee Role: A Search Committee led by the Cabinet Secretary will suggest candidates to the Selection Committee.
  • Eligibility Criteria: Candidates must have held a post equivalent to the Secretary to the central government.
  • Salary and Conditions: The CEC and ECs will receive salaries and benefits equivalent to the Cabinet Secretary, a change from the previous equivalence to a Supreme Court judge.

Constitutional Context

  • Constitutional Provisions: Article 324 of the Constitution allows the President to appoint the CEC and ECs but does not specify the appointment process.
  • Supreme Court Directive: In March 2023, the Supreme Court mandated a selection process involving the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition, and the Chief Justice of India, until Parliament legislates otherwise.

Key Issues and Analysis

  • Independence Concerns: The government-dominated Selection Committee could impact the Election Commission’s independence.
  • Validity despite Vacancies: The Selection Committee’s recommendations will be valid even with vacancies, potentially leading to government control in appointments.
  • Salary and Status: Aligning the CEC and ECs’ salary with the Cabinet Secretary, determined by the government, may affect their independence compared to a salary fixed by Parliament.
  • Exclusion of Candidates: Limiting eligibility to senior bureaucrats may exclude other qualified individuals, particularly those with judicial experience.
  • International Practices: The appointment processes for election commissions in countries like South Africa, the UK, the US, and Canada vary, with some involving judicial members or parliamentary approval.

Concerns over Independence and Selection Process

  • Government Influence: The Bill’s provisions for a government-majority Selection Committee and the acceptance of recommendations despite vacancies could lead to executive dominance in appointments.
  • Salary and Removal Parity: The change in salary equivalence and the lack of parity in the removal process of the CEC and ECs compared to Supreme Court judges raise concerns about the Commission’s independence.

Goswami Committee (1990) Recommendations

  • Background: The Goswami Committee on Electoral Reforms (1990) made significant recommendations regarding the Election Commission’s functioning.
  • Appointment Process: The Committee suggested that the CEC should be appointed by the President in consultation with the Chief Justice and the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha. For ECs, it recommended a similar process but included the CEC in the consultative process.
  • Importance of Independence: The Committee emphasized the need for the Election Commission’s independence from executive influence to ensure free and fair elections.

Conclusion

  • Ensuring ECI’s Autonomy: While the Bill aims to formalize the appointment process for the CEC and ECs, maintaining the Election Commission’s autonomy and independence is crucial for upholding democratic principles.
  • Need for Deliberation: The concerns raised about the Bill highlight the need for careful consideration to ensure that the Election Commission remains an impartial and effective guardian of electoral integrity in India.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

What elite critics of freebies don’t understand

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: na

Mains level: freebies

SC calls for a panel to inquire Freebies Issue

Central idea

Criticism surrounds politicians making empty promises for votes. The debate involves what’s genuinely good for the public versus just offering freebies. The solution suggests caution in promises, financial responsibility, and sticking to clear ideas for long-term success.

Key Highlights:

  • The editorial criticizes political parties for making “reckless election promises” and engaging in competitive populism.
  • Elite condemnation of “fiscally irresponsible freebies” is a recurring theme in national discourse.
  • The Supreme Court has addressed the issue, expressing concern that freebies may hinder the state government’s ability to provide basic amenities.
  • The RBI also identified the distribution of freebies as a new risk to state finances.

Key Challenges:

  • The challenge of mass communication in electoral politics is highlighted, emphasizing the need for simple and easily communicable messages.
  • Governance for development is complex, with political and economic contingencies affecting the ability to showcase tangible progress.
  • Excessive reliance on direct benefits erodes the party platform and may lead to a transactional relationship with voters.

Key Terms and Phrases for adding value to answer:

  • Reckless election promises
  • Competitive populism
  • Fiscally irresponsible freebies
  • Basic amenities
  • Mass communication in electoral politics
  • Governance for development
  • Political economy
  • Direct benefits
  • Transactional arrangement

Key Facts and Data:

  • The Supreme Court held hearings on a petition to bar parties from promising “irrational freebies from public funds.”
  • The RBI highlighted the “growing preference for distribution of ‘freebies'” as a new risk to state finances.

Critical Analysis:

  • The editorial raises questions about the definition of public good versus freebies, emphasizing the need for a democratic contestation of these concepts.
  • The challenge of mass communication is explored, pointing out the reliance on simple messages like slogans during political campaigns.
  • Governance for development is considered complex, with obstacles such as time constraints and political economy dynamics.
  • Excessive reliance on direct benefits is criticized for eroding the party platform and creating a transactional relationship with voters.

Way Forward:

  • The editorial suggests that while direct benefits are a legitimate aspect of building political mandates, party leaders should be cautious not to let these benefits supplant the broader party platform.
  • Emphasizes the importance of maintaining a coherent ideological framework to avoid the depletion of the party platform.
  • Calls for a comprehensive review of relevant trade-offs in state finances to ensure responsible fiscal policies.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Challenging the Electoral Bond Scheme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Electoral Trusts Scheme Electoral Bond Scheme

Mains level: Opacity and anonymity in corporate donations.

Electoral Bonds: Supreme Court to govt: Will you remove opacity of electoral  bonds? | India News - Times of India

Key Highlights:

  • Tradition of Secrecy: Indian political parties, historically resistant to public scrutiny, operate in a culture of secrecy regarding their funding sources and applications.
  • Corporate Dependency: The exorbitant funds required for political processes and operations often come from Big Business entities, creating a financial reliance on these corporations.
  • Quid Pro Quo: Political parties, in return for financial support from corporations, are often expected to reciprocate with political favors, creating a symbiotic relationship between the two.
  • Voter Empowerment: Civil society campaigns, notably through Public Interest Litigation (PIL), seek to empower voters by improving access to background information on electoral candidates.
  • Challenging Legislative Opacity: PIL serves as a tool to challenge legislative attempts to obscure the identities of corporate donors, promoting transparency in political funding.
  • Democratic Right to Information: The campaign is grounded in the citizen’s democratic right to information, an integral aspect of the fundamental right to speech and expression under the Constitution.
  • Countering Legislative Maneuvers: PIL acts as a countermeasure against legislative maneuvers designed to undermine transparency in political funding.

Challenges:

  • Hiding Corporate Donors: Political establishments employ legislative tactics to conceal the identities of corporate donors, preventing public awareness of the financial backers of political parties.
  • Electoral Trusts and Bond Schemes: The introduction of schemes like the Electoral Trusts Scheme (2013) and the Electoral Bond Scheme (EBS) creates barriers that obscure the direct link between political parties and their corporate donors.
  • Transparency Concerns: Legislative changes raise concerns about jeopardizing transparency, incentivizing corrupt practices, and limiting the accountability of political parties.
  • Nexus Between Politics and Business: The legislative landscape contributes to a growing perception of a nexus between political entities and big business, raising questions about ethical governance.

Key Phrases for value addition:

  • Amendments Under Scrutiny: Recent amendments in the legal framework of corporate donations face scrutiny and constitutional challenges.
  • Right to Know’ Infringement: Allegations arise that these amendments infringe upon the citizen’s fundamental ‘Right to know’ under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
  • Transparency Need: The importance of transparency in political funding is emphasized as a cornerstone of a healthy and accountable democratic process.
  • Autonomy Compromise: Concerns are raised about the compromise of the country’s autonomy, with potential negative impacts on governance and democratic values.

Analysis

  • Undermining Transparency: Legislative changes are criticized for undermining transparency, creating a more opaque environment in political funding.
  • Electoral Bond Scheme Critique: The Electoral Bond Scheme (EBS) faces critique for introducing opacity in political funding, limiting citizens’ access to vital information concerning electoral financing.
  • Opacity in Politics and Business: The intertwining opacity in political and business spheres is identified as a growing trend with potential repercussions for democratic processes.
  • Influence of Special Interest Groups: Critics argue that legislative changes enable special interest groups, corporate lobbyists, and foreign entities to exert undue influence on the electoral process.

Key Data for mains value addition:

  • Favored Donation Mode: Electoral bonds have become the favored mode of political donation due to their anonymity features.
  • ₹13,791 Crore Sales: Until July 2023, electoral bonds amounting to ₹13,791 crore have been sold in 27 tranches.
  • 55.9% Donation Share: Electoral bonds contribute significantly, accounting for 55.9% of political donations received by 31 parties.
  • BJP’s Leading Redemption: The BJP leads in the redemption of electoral bonds, with 74.5% of the total until 2020-2021.

Key Facts:

  • Opacity and Corruption Concerns: Critics express concerns about the opacity introduced by legislative changes, potentially incentivizing corrupt practices in political funding.
  • Majority Cash Dealings: Despite the availability of formal options like electoral bonds, the majority of political dealings continue to be in cash.
  • Electoral Bond Impact: Receipts from electoral bonds enable political parties to engage in formal economy transactions, covering infrastructure, equipment, and media publicity costs.
  • Ongoing Legislative Scrutiny: Legislative changes continue to undergo scrutiny, impacting transparency and accountability in political funding.

Key Terms:

  • Electoral Trusts Scheme
  • Electoral Bond Scheme
  • Right to Know
  • Corporate Donations
  • Transparency
  • Corruption
  • Political Funding
  • Constitutional Challenges

Way Forward:

  • Hopes for a Level Playing Field: Expectations are pinned on judicial intervention to ensure a more level playing field in future elections.
  • Upholding Freedom of Speech: The judiciary is anticipated to play a crucial role in upholding the right to freedom of speech and expression, empowering voters with information.
  • Addressing Transparency Concerns: Recognizing the critical need for transparency, steps are expected to be taken to address concerns related to opacity and anonymity in corporate donations.
  • Judicial Scrutiny Importance: The importance of judicial scrutiny in ensuring the preservation of democratic values and principles is emphasized.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Enhancing representation, for a just electoral system

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Key data

Mains level: Delimitation concept

New Parliament Building of India - Interesting Facts & Controversies

Central idea

The article discusses the inadequate representation of citizens by Members of Parliament in India, highlighting challenges of malapportionment and proposing solutions such as delimitation, state reorganization, and local governance empowerment. It emphasizes the need for a more representative and efficient electoral system to strengthen India’s democracy.

What is Malapportionment?

  • Malapportionment refers to the unequal distribution of representation or political power among different constituencies or districts within a legislative body.
  • It occurs when the number of representatives assigned to a particular area is not proportionate to its population or voting strength.

Key Highlights:

  • Representation Disparity: The article highlights the disproportionate representation of citizens by Members of Parliament (MPs) in India, compared to the U.S. and other countries.
  • Malapportionment Concerns: Malapportionment, favoring certain states, is discussed as a potential issue in India’s political system.
  • Delimitation Challenge: The potential consequences of delimitation, freezing the number of Lok Sabha seats until 2031, are examined, considering the changing demographics of states.
  • Federalism Promotion: The need for promoting federalism in India’s electoral system is emphasized to give states better representation and a platform to voice their interests.
  • Electoral System Reform: Suggestions for electoral system reforms include reconsidering the Rajya Sabha’s representation method and exploring proportional representation for more equitable outcomes.
  • State Reorganization Proposal: Proposes the idea of creating more states in India, addressing concerns about governance efficiency and democratic accountability.

Challenges:

  • Representation Deficit: India faces a deficit in adequate representation at various levels of governance, impacting the ability to address critical issues and make effective laws.
  • Malapportionment Risks: The political system in India is at risk of malapportionment, especially with the growing political culture differences between the south, northeast, and the rest of India.
  • Consequences of Delimitation: Delimitation, while necessary, might lead to biases favoring certain regions and political outfits over others.

Key data from article for mains value addition

  • An average Indian Member of Parliament (MP) represents approximately 2.5 million citizens.
  • In contrast, a U.S. House of Representatives member represents around 700,000 citizens.
  • India has around 4,126 Members of the Legislative Assembly.
  • Proposed increase in parliamentary seats to at least 848 to avoid any state losing seats during delimitation.
  • Potential rise in seats for certain states, e.g., Karnataka by 11%, and for northern states like Uttar Pradesh by 63%.
  • Suggests the potential creation of more states, moving from 29 to 50 or even 75 states.
  • Calls for a New State Reorganization Commission to evaluate the viability of new states.
  • The 2021 Census, delayed and likely to be conducted in 2024, with results potentially published by 2026, provides a window for delimitation.

Key Phrases for improving your mains score:

  • Malapportionment in the U.S. Senate.
  • Disproportionate allocation of power.
  • Consequences of unleashing delimitation.
  • Historical form of delimitation.
  • Fiscal impact of delimitation on future transfers to States.
  • Promotion of federalism.
  • Electoral system reforms.
  • Proportional representation consideration.

Analysis:

  • Representation Deficit Impact: Limited representation in India’s democratic setup is identified as a default preference, impacting the effectiveness of governance.
  • Malapportionment Dynamics: India’s heterogeneous political system raises concerns about the potential bias in favor of certain political outfits due to malapportionment.
  • Delimitation Challenges: Delimitation is seen as a potential solution but must be approached cautiously to minimize deleterious consequences.

Way Forward:

  • Increase in Parliamentary Seats: Proposes a significant increase in the number of seats in Parliament to enhance democratic representation ratios.
  • Consideration Beyond Population: Delimitation should consider factors like geographical determinism, economic productivity, linguistic history, and fairness, not solely based on population.
  • State Reorganization Commission: Suggests the creation of a new State Reorganization Commission to evaluate the socio-economic and administrative viability of potential new states.
  • Empowerment of Local Governance: Advocates for direct elections of mayors in urban areas with enhanced decision-making powers, promoting efficiency and accountability.
  • Focus on Local Democratic Representation: Enhancing local democratic representation is seen as a crucial step to strengthen India’s democracy.

In essence, the article emphasizes the need for a more representative and efficient electoral system in India, advocating for reforms in delimitation, federalism promotion, state reorganization, and empowerment of local governance.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Speedy Disposal of Cases against Lawmakers: What SC Guidelines on the matter say

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Guidelines for Speedy Disposal of Cases against Lawmakers

Central Idea

  • The Supreme Court has issued guidelines to ensure the quick resolution of criminal cases involving Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLAs) across India.
  • These guidelines aim to address the long-pending issue of lawmakers facing criminal charges.

Background

  • Advocate’s Plea: These directions were issued in response to a plea filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay in August 2016.
  • Key Demands: Upadhyay’s plea sought the swift handling of cases involving legislators and a lifetime ban on convicted politicians, including those currently in office, instead of the existing six-year disqualification mentioned in Section 8(3) of the Representation of People Act, 1951.

Understanding the Representation of People Act (RPA), 1951

  • Purpose: The RPA, 1951, introduced by Dr. BR Ambedkar, governs the conduct of elections to India’s parliament and state legislatures.
  • Content: It covers various aspects, including qualifications and disqualifications for membership, corrupt practices, and offenses related to elections.
  • Section 8: Section 8 of the RPA deals specifically with the disqualification of legislators on conviction for certain offenses, such as promoting enmity between groups, bribery, undue influence, and offenses related to hoarding, profiteering, or adulteration of food or drugs.
  • Section 8(3): This subsection states that a person convicted of an offense and sentenced to imprisonment for at least two years will be disqualified from the date of conviction and continue to be disqualified for an additional six years after release. In essence, it imposes a six-year disqualification on individuals convicted of offenses with a minimum two-year prison sentence.

Supreme Court’s Ruling

  • Guidelines for Speedy Disposal: The Supreme Court, led by CJI DY Chandrachud, laid down guidelines for the prompt resolution of pending criminal cases against lawmakers.
  • Suo Motu Cases: High courts across India are directed to establish a “special bench” to oversee criminal cases involving legislators. High courts can also register such cases on their own initiative.
  • Flexible Approach: The court allows the chief justices of high courts to hear these cases or designate specific benches for this purpose. These cases may be listed regularly if needed, and the special bench can seek assistance from the advocate general or prosecutor.
  • High Court Role: To efficiently manage these cases, the Supreme Court leaves it to high courts to devise suitable measures.
  • Priority Cases: The court emphasizes prioritizing cases against lawmakers that carry the possibility of death or life imprisonment. Cases with sentences of five years or more are also given priority.
  • HC’s Authority: High courts are empowered to issue similar orders and directions for effective case disposal. They can involve the Principal District and Sessions Judge in allocating cases to appropriate courts.

Conclusion

  • The Supreme Court’s guidelines are aimed at expediting the resolution of criminal cases against MPs and MLAs and ensuring justice is served promptly.
  • While these guidelines address the issue of speedy disposal, the larger question of replacing the six-year disqualification with a lifetime ban remains open for future consideration.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Regulating Political Funding: Rules around the world, India’s challenges

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Election Expenditure in India

Mains level: Read the attached story

Central Idea

  • Campaign financing plays a pivotal role in democratic societies, yet the approach to regulating it must be tailored to the nuances of each country’s political system.
  • As exemplified by the United States and India, where political dynamics vary significantly, it is imperative to adopt a framework that aligns with the prevailing political landscape.

Tap to read more about Ceiling on Election Expenditures in India

https://www.civilsdaily.com/news/election-campaign-funding-by-political-parties/

Understanding Political Systems:

  • US Individual-Centric Elections: In the United States, elections revolve around individual candidates and their campaign machinery, even at the national presidential level.
  • India’s Party-Centric Politics: Conversely, India, akin to most parliamentary systems, places political parties at the core of electoral politics. Therefore, India’s campaign finance framework should primarily focus on parties rather than individual candidates.

Key Aspects of an Effective Framework:

A comprehensive campaign finance framework necessitates attention to four critical facets: regulating donations, imposing expenditure limits, public financing, and disclosure requirements.

(A) Donations:

  • Regulation and Limitation: To prevent undue influence, some individuals or organizations, such as foreign entities, may be prohibited from making contributions.
  • Donation Limits: Donation limits are crucial to thwart the dominance of a few major donors, be they individuals, corporations, or civil society organizations. For instance, the US employs varying contribution limits based on donor types, while the UK relies on expenditure limits.

(B) Expenditure Limits:

  • Balancing Political Competitiveness: Expenditure limits serve as a bulwark against a financial arms race among political parties, allowing them to focus on winning votes rather than fundraising.
  • Examples: In the UK, political parties are restricted from spending more than £30,000 per contested seat. However, the US’s expansive interpretation of the First Amendment has hindered efforts to impose expenditure limits.

(C) Public Financing:

  • Two Approaches: Public funding can be allocated based on predetermined criteria, like Germany’s system that considers past votes, membership fees, and private donations. Alternatively, democracy vouchers, as seen in Seattle, USA, allow voters to allocate public funds to candidates of their choice.
  • Challenge: Public funding may complement private donations but does not fully address the task of regulating private money.

(D) Disclosure Requirements:

  • Balancing Transparency and Anonymity: Disclosure nudges voters away from electing politicians involved in quid pro quo arrangements. However, mandatory disclosure isn’t always desirable, as it may deter donations by exposing donors to retaliation.
  • Anonymity’s Role: Anonymity can protect donors from retribution or extortion. Striking a balance between transparency and anonymity is a challenge faced by many jurisdictions.

Chilean Experiment: Complete Anonymity?

  • Chile’s “Reserved Contributions”: Chile’s system aimed at “complete anonymity” allowed donors to contribute to political parties via the Electoral Service, which forwarded the sum without revealing the donor’s identity.
  • Coordination Challenges: Despite the intent for complete anonymity, coordination between donors and parties compromised the system’s efficacy.

Balancing Transparency and Anonymity in Political Finance

  • An Effective Approach: Many jurisdictions strike a balance by allowing anonymity for small donors while mandating disclosure for large donations.
  • Examples: In the UK, political parties must report donations exceeding £7,500 in a year, while the US and Germany set limits at $200 and €10,000, respectively.
  • Rationale: Small donors typically have less influence and are more vulnerable to partisan victimization, while large donors may engage in quid pro quo arrangements.

Challenges in India’s Framework

  • Lack of Donation Limits: India has no limits on individual or corporate contributions, and the 2017 Finance Act removed official contribution limits.
  • Expenditure Limits: Parties can spend freely, albeit not on individual candidates.
  • Disclosure Requirements: Parties are only obligated to disclose donations exceeding ₹20,000, creating a loophole as they split large donations into smaller amounts.
  • Electoral Bonds: Since 2017, electoral bonds have allowed large donors to hide their contributions.

Changing Dynamics in Indian Politics

  • Involvement of Third Parties: India has witnessed a surge in the engagement of political consultancies, campaign groups, and civil society organizations in political campaigns, mirroring trends seen in the US.
  • Need for Rethinking: The evolving political landscape necessitates a reevaluation of India’s 20th-century political funding framework.

Conclusion

  • Crafting a campaign finance framework requires an astute understanding of a nation’s political system and its nuances.
  • By adapting strategies that regulate donations, impose expenditure limits, facilitate public financing, and balance transparency with anonymity, countries like India can ensure that their campaign finance frameworks evolve to meet the challenges of the modern political landscape.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

A leaf out of New Zealand’s voting system

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: MMP

Mains level: public awareness and education campaigns to familiarize voters with the MMP system

Central idea

The article explores split voting trends in Odisha and the mixed member proportional (MMP) system in New Zealand. It highlights the benefits of MMP, such as local accountability and improved representation, suggesting that a similar system could address concerns in India’s electoral framework, allowing for nuanced and diverse choices in a mature democracy.

What is mixed member proportional (MMP) system?

  • The Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system is a voting method where voters have two choices. First, they pick their preferred political party, indicating their overall preference for the Parliament’s composition.
  • Second, they choose a local representative from their specific area. This system aims to ensure a fair and balanced representation in the Parliament by combining both local and overall preferences of the voters.

Key Terms:

  • Split Voting: Voters choosing different parties for different elections.
  • MMP System: Mixed member proportional system used in New Zealand.
  • Tactical Voting: Supporting a party strategically rather than based on genuine preferences.
  • Compulsive Voting: Hesitation to vote outside preferred party or perceived winnable contenders.
  • Nuanced Choices: Distinguishing between candidate and party preferences for a mature democracy.
  • Switch Seats: Constituencies where voters pick a candidate from one party but give their party vote to another.

Key Data and Facts for mains value addition

  • Odisha 2019 Elections: BJD led in Lok Sabha votes in 88 out of 146 Assembly Constituencies but won 113 out of 146 in Assembly votes, showcasing split voting.
  • New Zealand MMP System: In the 2020 Auckland Central parliamentary election, 31.86% of votes were split votes, and 13 “switch seats” were created.

Key Highlights:

  • Split Voting in Odisha: Despite socio-economic differences, Odisha exhibits split voting, where voters choose different parties for Lok Sabha and State Assembly elections.
  • MMP System in New Zealand: New Zealand uses the mixed member proportional (MMP) system, allowing voters to cast separate votes for a party and a local MP. This results in diverse and mindful voting patterns.
  • Benefits of MMP: The MMP system provides local accountability, policy focus, improved representation for various groups, enhanced democracy, flexibility, and lower entry barriers for young politicians.

Advantages of the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) electoral system:

  • Local and Overall Representation: MMP allows voters to choose both a local representative and a preferred political party, ensuring representation at both local and national levels.
  • Proportional Representation: It provides a more accurate reflection of the public’s overall preferences by allocating seats in proportion to the parties’ share of the total vote.
  • Flexibility and Voter Choice: Voters have the flexibility to support a party they believe in while also selecting a local representative, promoting a diverse range of political choices.
  • Reduced Wasted Votes: Fewer votes go to waste as the proportional representation aspect ensures that even parties with smaller followings receive some representation in the legislature.
  • Coalition Building: Encourages coalition governments, fostering cooperation and compromise among different parties for effective governance.

Challenges and concerns

  • Tactical Voting: Critics worry that MMP might encourage tactical voting, where voters strategically support a party not because it aligns with their true preferences, but to influence the outcome.
  • Example: In MMP, a voter might vote for a larger party, not because they truly support it, but to prevent another party they strongly dislike from gaining power. This strategic voting can distort the true reflection of public preferences.

Limited Accountability in MMP:

  • Explanation: Some argue that the MMP system might lead to less direct accountability of elected representatives to their local constituents, as they also rely on a party list for their position.
  • Example: If a local representative is assured a seat through the party list, they might be less motivated to address the specific concerns of their local voters, as their position is not solely dependent on local support.

Complexity for Voters:

  • Explanation: The two-vote system in MMP may be confusing for some voters, leading to potential errors or unintentional consequences in the voting process.
  • Example: Voters may find it challenging to understand the strategic implications of splitting their votes between a party and a local candidate, leading to unintended outcomes that don’t align with their true preferences.

Possibility of Minority Governments:

  • Explanation: MMP may result in coalition governments, and some argue that this can lead to instability and challenges in decision-making.
  • Example: If no party gains a clear majority, parties may need to form coalitions to govern. While this ensures representation, it may also lead to compromises and difficulties in implementing policies.

Way Forward:

  • Consideration of Split Voting in India: The article suggests that a split voting system in India could address concerns about compulsive voting, allowing voters to choose candidates based on merit while ensuring party preferences impact legislative composition.
  • Democracy Enhancement: Emphasizes the essence of democracy in offering diverse and nuanced choices, with split voting seen as a way to achieve this.
  • Public Awareness and Education: Emphasize the importance of public awareness and education campaigns to familiarize voters with the MMP system. This includes explaining the two-vote process and the impact of split voting, ensuring an informed electorate.
  • Continuous Evaluation and Adaptation: Implement a system of continuous evaluation and adaptation to address any challenges or shortcomings in the MMP system. This involves periodically reviewing the system’s functioning and making necessary adjustments to enhance its effectiveness.

 

 

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

S Y Quraishi writes: On electoral bonds, Supreme Court must uphold Right to Information

Central idea 

The Supreme Court’s delayed review of electoral bonds probes the tension between voter information rights and donor confidentiality in a scheme initiated by Arun Jaitley in 2017. Despite its aim to enhance political funding transparency, electoral bonds are criticized for facilitating substantial anonymous donations, prompting a reassessment.

Key Highlights:

  • Long Overdue Scrutiny: The Supreme Court belatedly addresses the electoral bonds case, underscoring the clash between voters’ right to information and donors’ right to confidentiality.
  • Judicial Focus: Chief Justice DY Chandrachud leads a Constitution Bench, signaling a renewed focus on resolving the inherent tensions within the electoral bonds scheme.
  • Intent vs. Reality: Arun Jaitley’s 2017 introduction aimed at enhancing transparency in political funding, yet it paradoxically raised concerns about anonymity in substantial donations.
  • Unintended Consequences: The unexpected fallout prompts a reassessment of the electoral bonds’ actual impact on the transparency landscape.

Challenges:

  • Unmasking Anonymity Issues: Electoral bonds permit significant anonymous donations, opening avenues for potential quid pro quo transactions.
  • Transparency Dilemma: The challenge lies in striking a balance between protecting donor identities and ensuring transparency in political contributions.
  • Commission’s Conundrum: The Election Commission’s reversal from initial skepticism to support introduces a new layer of complexity and skepticism.
  • Trust Deficit: The sudden shift erodes trust in the consistency and impartiality of regulatory bodies, complicating the ongoing discourse on political funding transparency.

Concerns:

  • Unraveling Legal Changes: The Finance Act of 2017’s amendments, while enabling electoral bonds, raise concerns about potential misuse and their overall impact on transparency.
  • Legislative Tightrope: Striking a balance between facilitating political funding and safeguarding against misuse becomes a critical concern.
  • International Implications: Changes in legislation raise apprehensions about unchecked foreign contributions, bringing to light potential implications for the integrity of Indian elections.
  • National Security Nexus: The secrecy surrounding foreign funding raises concerns not just about transparency but also the broader national security landscape.

Analysis:

  • Paradoxical Outcome: Electoral bonds, designed to enhance transparency, face criticism for paradoxically diminishing it by facilitating undisclosed, large-scale donations.
  • Reassessing Intentions: An in-depth analysis of how the scheme’s intentions align with its real-world impact on political funding transparency.
  • Reimagining Funding Landscape: Urgent calls for reconsideration of private funding advocate exploring alternatives like public funding or a National Election Fund.
  • Navigating Change: The urgency lies in navigating a transformed funding landscape that prioritizes fairness, accountability, and public trust.

.

Way Forward:

  • Disclosing Donor Identities: A reevaluation of the use of electoral bonds, emphasizing transparency through the disclosure of donor identities.
  • Stakeholder Collaboration: Collaborative efforts between regulatory bodies, political stakeholders, and the public to shape more transparent political funding mechanisms.
  • Alternatives to Private Funding: Advocating for a shift towards public funding or the establishment of a National Election Fund to address concerns about donor reprisals.
  • Balancing Act: Striking a balance between the need for funding and the imperative of transparency in reshaping the political funding landscape.

 

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

SC flags Selective Confidentiality in Electoral Bonds

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Electoral Bond Scheme

Mains level: Transparency in Election Funding

Electoral Bonds

Central Idea

  • The Supreme Court expressed concerns about the selective confidentiality of the electoral bonds scheme, which allows the ruling party to discover the identities of donors to opposition parties.
  • The court questioned the government’s presumption of confidentiality and explored the potential disadvantages faced by opposition parties in the electoral process.

About Electoral Bond Scheme

Definition Banking instruments for political party donations with donor anonymity.
Purchase Method Available to Indian citizens and Indian-incorporated companies from select State Bank of India branches. Can be bought digitally or via cheque.
Donation Process Purchasers can donate these bonds to eligible political parties of their choice.
Denominations Available in multiples of ₹1,000, ₹10,000, ₹10 lakh, and ₹1 crore.
KYC Requirements Purchasers must fulfill existing KYC norms and pay from a bank account.
Lifespan of Bonds Bonds have a 15-day life to prevent them from becoming a parallel currency.
Identity Disclosure Donors contributing less than ₹20,000 need not provide identity details like PAN.
Redemption Electoral Bonds can be encashed only by eligible political parties through an Authorized Bank.
Eligibility of Parties Only parties meeting specific criteria, including securing at least 1% of votes in the last General Election, can receive Electoral Bonds.
Restrictions Lifted Foreign and Indian companies can now donate without disclosing contributions as per the Companies Act.
Objective To enhance transparency in political funding and ensure funds collected by political parties are accounted or clean money.

Selective Confidentiality Challenges

  • Justice Khanna’s Address: The Judge pointed out that the ruling party had easier access to information about contributions to opposition parties, creating an imbalance in transparency.
  • State Bank of India’s Role: CJI Chandrachud questioned whether the SBI, through which electoral bonds were purchased, had a statutory obligation to maintain confidentiality.

Government’s Defense

  • Confidentiality Key: The solicitor-General argued that confidentiality regarding donor identities and contributions was crucial to the electoral bonds scheme. He contended that eliminating the scheme would revert the country to a period when political donations were made in unaccounted cash, leading to black money circulation.
  • Economic Impact: He emphasized that the scheme aimed to channel clean money into the electoral system, reducing the influence of black money. He referred to a report highlighting the increase in income from unknown sources to political parties and the discovery of shell companies during the previous donation regime.

Concerns Raised by CJI

  • Information Blackhole: The CJI noted that while the scheme aimed to bring white money into the electoral process, it introduced opacity, creating an “information blackhole.” He emphasized the need for proportionality in achieving the scheme’s objectives.
  • Expectations of Donors: Chandrachud questioned how substantial donations were consistently made to the ruling party, implying certain expectations from donors.
  • Donations Not Charity: Solicitor-General Mehta clarified that donors were primarily motivated by their own interests, often related to business or market-driven factors. He argued that larger donations to a party did not necessarily indicate an issue with the scheme.
  • Right to Privacy: Mehta argued that revealing the political affiliations of donors would infringe on their right to privacy.

Transparency and Quid Pro Quo Concerns

  • Justice Khanna’s Query: Justice Khanna raised concerns about how confidentiality in the electoral bonds scheme could prevent quid pro quo arrangements between political parties and donors.
  • Proxy Donations: The judge questioned the possibility of parties funneling unaccounted money back into the system through proxy political donations.

Conclusion

  • The Supreme Court’s scrutiny of the electoral bonds scheme centers on issues of transparency, confidentiality, and potential imbalances in the electoral process.
  • The court’s questions and concerns highlight the importance of ensuring fairness and proportionality in political funding mechanisms.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

How are Symbols allotted to Political Parties in India?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Election Symbols

Mains level: Read the attached story

symbols

Central Idea

  • A recent Supreme Court decision declining a plea by a political party in Telangana, questioning the allocation of election symbols, has thrown the spotlight on the intriguing world of political symbols in India.
  • This article delves into the process of symbol allocation and its role in shaping the country’s political landscape.

Symbols Allocation Authority: ECI

  • The ECI is responsible for allocating symbols to political parties, following guidelines laid out in The Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.
  • This order aims to regulate symbol specification, reservation, choice, and allotment during elections.

Types of Election Symbols

  • Reserved and Free Symbols: Symbols can be either reserved, exclusively assigned to recognized political parties, or ‘free’ symbols that can be chosen by unrecognised registered parties’ candidates. Unrecognized parties are those that haven’t met the criteria for state party recognition.
  • Exclusive Symbols: Recognized national and state parties are granted exclusive symbols, signifying their established status.

Symbol Selection by Parties

  • Preference Lists: Unrecognized parties provide a list of ten preferred symbols from the free symbol pool.
  • Proposal of New Symbols: Parties can propose up to three new symbols for consideration, provided they do not resemble reserved or free symbols, carry religious or communal connotations, or depict birds or animals.
  • Common Symbol Assignment: The ECI may allot a proposed symbol as a common symbol for the party if it deems it suitable.

Historical Origins of Symbols

  • Sketching Process: Symbols were initially sketched by MS Sethi, who retired from the ECI in 1992. These symbols were conceived through brainstorming sessions where the goal was to identify objects that the common man could relate to.
  • Birth of Familiar Symbols: Many iconic symbols such as the bicycle, elephant, and broom originated from these sessions.
  • Unconventional Entries: Some lesser-known symbols like a pair of glasses, a nail cutter, and a neck-tie were also suggested, reflecting the diversity of ideas.
  • Modern Additions: Over time, new symbols like a bowl of noodles and a mobile charger have been included in the symbol list, reflecting contemporary times.

Political Parties’ Say

  • Preference Submission: Unregistered parties submit their symbol preferences from the list of free symbols.
  • Proposal of New Symbols: Parties can suggest up to three new symbols with clear designs and drawings.
  • Criteria for Approval: Proposed symbols must not resemble existing reserved or free symbols, possess religious or communal connotations, or depict birds or animals.

Symbol Allocation in Split Parties

  • Decision by ECI: When recognized political parties split, the ECI determines the symbol assignment. For example, the Congress party’s symbol evolved from a pair of bulls to the current hand symbol due to splits.
  • Recent Example: The ECI assigned different symbols to factions of the Shiv Sena, allowing one faction to retain the bow and arrow symbol while allotting a flaming torch to the other.

Conclusion

  • The allocation of election symbols in India is a meticulous process governed by the ECI’s guidelines.
  • These symbols hold profound significance in political campaigns, representing parties’ identities and ideologies.
  • Understanding the history and intricacies of symbol allocation provides valuable insights into India’s dynamic political landscape.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Electoral Bond Sale: Impact on Political Funding

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Electoral Bond Scheme

Mains level: Not Much

electoral bond

Central Idea

  • The government announced the 28th tranche of Electoral Bond sales, scheduled to take place over a ten-day span at authorized branches of the State Bank of India.

Why discuss Electoral Bonds?

  • Impact on Political Funding: The announcement of the upcoming electoral bond sale has implications for political funding in India. As part of the government’s efforts to reform the political financing system, electoral bonds aim to bring transparency and accountability to campaign financing.
  • Upcoming Elections: The timing of the sale window aligns with the upcoming assembly elections in some States, highlighting the significance of electoral bonds in shaping the financial landscape of political campaigns.
  • Continued Scrutiny: The use and impact of electoral bonds continue to be a subject of debate and scrutiny, with stakeholders assessing their role in enhancing or altering the political funding ecosystem in the country.

About Electoral Bond Scheme

Definition Banking instruments for political party donations with donor anonymity.
Purchase Method Available to Indian citizens and Indian-incorporated companies from select State Bank of India branches. Can be bought digitally or via cheque.
Donation Process Purchasers can donate these bonds to eligible political parties of their choice.
Denominations Available in multiples of ₹1,000, ₹10,000, ₹10 lakh, and ₹1 crore.
KYC Requirements Purchasers must fulfill existing KYC norms and pay from a bank account.
Lifespan of Bonds Bonds have a 15-day life to prevent them from becoming a parallel currency.
Identity Disclosure Donors contributing less than ₹20,000 need not provide identity details like PAN.
Redemption Electoral Bonds can be encashed only by eligible political parties through an Authorized Bank.
Eligibility of Parties Only parties meeting specific criteria, including securing at least 1% of votes in the last General Election, can receive Electoral Bonds.
Restrictions Lifted Foreign and Indian companies can now donate without disclosing contributions as per the Companies Act.
Objective To enhance transparency in political funding and ensure funds collected by political parties are accounted or clean money.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Delimitation Debate: Gender vs. Regional Caste Identities

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Delimitation Commission

Mains level: Read the attached story

Delimitation

Central Idea

  • The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Sixth Amendment) Bill, 2023, also known as the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam, has successfully passed in the Lok Sabha.
  • This bill aims to provide 33% reservation for women in both the Lok Sabha and state Assemblies, marking a significant milestone in Indian politics.

What is Delimitation?

  • Objective: Delimitation aims to redraw constituency boundaries to maintain equal population representation in Assembly and Lok Sabha seats.
  • Changing Constituencies: Delimitation may result in the alteration of constituency limits and, in some cases, the number of seats in a state.

Delimitation Process and Commission

  • Independent Delimitation Commission: Delimitation is carried out by an independent Delimitation Commission (DC) constituted by the Union government.
  • Terms of Reference: The DC determines the number and boundaries of constituencies, ensuring population equality and identifying reserved seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
  • Implementation: The draft proposals are published for public feedback, followed by public sittings to consider objections and suggestions. The final order is published in official gazettes.

Historical Context of Delimitation

  • Early Delimitation Exercises: The first delimitation exercise in 1950-51 was conducted by the President. Subsequently, the responsibility was shifted to independent Delimitation Commissions.
  • Frequency of Delimitation: Delimitation has been carried out four times, in 1952, 1963, 1973, and 2002, based on the Acts enacted in respective years.

Postponement of Delimitation until 2026

  • Frozen Seats: Delimitation was postponed after the 1981 and 1991 Censuses, freezing the number of seats in Lok Sabha and Assemblies.
  • Justification for Postponement: An amendment further delayed delimitation until 2026, with the rationale that uniform population growth would be achieved throughout the country by that time.
  • The Last Delimitation: The most recent delimitation exercise, based on the 2001 Census, focused on adjusting boundaries of existing seats and reworking the number of reserved seats.

Reservation Contingent on Delimitation

  • Impending Change: Despite the Lok Sabha’s approval, the implementation of the 33% women’s reservation is not immediate. It hinges on two key processes: a delimitation exercise and a Census.
  • Delimitation Explained: Delimitation involves redrawing Parliamentary and Assembly constituency boundaries to ensure equitable representation based on the latest population data.
  • 2021 Census Impact: The 2021 Census, once conducted, will serve as the basis for the delimitation exercise, resulting in an increase in the number of constituencies. Of these, 33% will be reserved for women in future elections.

Delimitation: Why It’s Necessary

  • Equitable Representation: Delimitation is essential to ensure that every citizen’s vote carries equal weight, aligning the number of constituencies with population changes.
  • Preventing Gerrymandering: It also safeguards against gerrymandering, the manipulation of seat boundaries to favor one political party.
  • Constitutional Mandate: The Constitution mandates delimitation after each Census to reallocate seats in Lok Sabha and state Assemblies.

Political Complexity of Delimitation

  • Population Dynamics: Delimitation has significant political implications, particularly regarding the redistribution of seats among states.
  • Concerns of States: Population control efforts influenced seat allocation, creating concerns for states with varying levels of population control.
  • Freeze on Seat Numbers: Political concerns led to a freeze on the number of seats in Parliament and Assemblies until 2026, extending family planning efforts.

Gender vs. Regional Identities

  • Dual Shifts: The upcoming delimitation will bring two significant shifts: from southern to northern and eastern states and from male to female representation.
  • Women’s Empowerment: While concerns over diminishing state influence may arise, national consensus on women’s empowerment prevails.
  • Population Skew: Northern states may gain more seats, while southern states could lose representation due to varying population growth rates.
  • Impact on OBC Politics: Autonomous OBC politics in Hindi heartland states could weaken as the focus shifts to gender representation.
  • BJP’s Strategy: The BJP seeks to strengthen its social base by championing women’s empowerment alongside its Hindutva and pan-national identity politics.
  • Complex Landscape: Gender representation introduces an additional layer to the uni-dimensional politics of caste and regional identities, reshaping the political landscape.

Conclusion

  • The interplay between delimitation, gender reservation, and regional caste identities poses complex challenges in Indian politics.
  • Striking a balance between these dynamics will shape the future of representation and governance in the country.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Reforms and Concerns: The CEC and Other EC Bill, 2023

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: CEC and Other ECs Bill, 2023

Mains level: Read the attached story

cec bill

Central Idea

  • After being passed in the Rajya Sabha on August 10, the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023, has now moved to the Lok Sabha for approval.

CEC and Other EC Bill, 2023

  • Objective: To amend constitutional provisions that currently equate Election Commissioners with Supreme Court judges, as well as addressing recent judicial rulings.

Key Provisions of the Bill

  • Salary and Service Conditions: The Bill proposes to align the salary, allowances, and service conditions of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and the two Election Commissioners with those of a Cabinet Secretary.
  • Repealing the 1991 Act: The Bill’s passage would lead to the repeal of the Election Commission Act of 1991, where Election Commissioners enjoyed parity with Supreme Court judges in terms of remuneration.
  • Potential Impact: While the stipulated salaries for Supreme Court judges and Cabinet Secretaries are similar, Supreme Court judges receive additional post-retirement benefits, raising concerns about the increased bureaucracy’s potential impact on the authority and independence of Election Commissioners.

Challenges to Independence

  • Shifting Authority: The Election Commission’s primary role involves overseeing, directing, and controlling elections, as defined in Article 324 of the Constitution. Concerns arise that this control may shift if Election Commissioners, now equivalent in rank to Cabinet Secretaries, attempt to discipline Union Ministers for electoral violations.
  • Current Status: Presently, when commissioners summon government officials, their orders are perceived as carrying the authority of a Supreme Court Judge, a status that may change if they are seen as equals to Cabinet Secretaries.

Preserving Independence and Equivalence to SC Judges

  • Constitutional Safeguards: Article 324 (5) of the Constitution specifies that a CEC can only be removed in a manner similar to that of a Supreme Court judge, safeguarding the independence and equivalence of Election Commissioners to Supreme Court judges.
  • Previous SC Ruling: The Bill also seeks to constitute a committee comprising the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and a Cabinet Minister nominated by the PM to select Election Commission members. Notably, this committee excludes the CJI, in contrast to a top court ruling from March 2023.

Background: The SC Ruling

  • Committee Formation: In March 2023, a five-judge Supreme Court bench unanimously ruled that a committee consisting of the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, and the Chief Justice of India (CJI) should select the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (ECs).
  • Founding Principles: The ruling emphasized that India’s founding fathers did not intend for the executive to exclusively dictate appointments to the Election Commission, striving for a more balanced selection process.
  • PIL Origins: The case originated from a PIL filed in 2015, challenging the constitutionality of the President appointing ECI members based on the PM’s advice.

Impact on the 1991 Act

  • Bill’s Amendment: The Bill aims to repeal the 1991 Act, which previously ensured that the CEC and ECs received salaries equivalent to Supreme Court judges.
  • Revised Equality: Section 10 of the Bill specifies that the salary, allowances, and service conditions of the CEC and ECs will match those of the Cabinet Secretary, marking a departure from the 1991 Act’s provisions.

Various Concerns Raised

  • Autonomy of the Election Commission: Concerns exist due to the selection panel’s composition, which includes a Cabinet Minister nominated by the Prime Minister instead of the CJI.
  • Unanimous Decisions: Suggestions for unanimous committee decisions aim to address one-sided decision-making concerns.
  • Constitutional Validity: Critics argue the Bill violates democratic principles.
  • Conflicting SC Judgment: The Bill diverges from the Supreme Court’s ruling on the importance of an independent committee in selecting Election Commissioners.
  • Past Electoral Integrity: Some believe Indian elections have been generally fair despite government involvement in Election Commissioner appointments.
  • Consistency in Decision-Making: Concerns have been raised about the Commission’s decision consistency regarding Model Code of Conduct violations.
  • Timing of Election Announcements: Questions surround election announcement timing in relation to government programs, raising concerns about political influence.

Conclusion

  • Balancing Reforms: The Bill reflects efforts to reform election administration but raises concerns about preserving the Election Commission’s independence and its equivalence to Supreme Court judges.
  • Evolution of Selection Process: The ongoing debate highlights the evolving process of selecting Election Commissioners, aiming to ensure fair and transparent appointments while safeguarding the institution’s autonomy.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Appointing Election Commissioners: The government must not control the watchdog

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: CEC and Other ECs -Appointment, Conditions of Service, and Term of Office and constitutional provisions

Mains level: The CEC and Other ECs (Appointment, Conditions of Service, and Term of Office) Bill, 2023 and concerns and way forward

What’s the news?

  • The Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service, and Term of Office) Bill, 2023, introduced in the Rajya Sabha on August 10, seeks to alter the control dynamics of the Election Commission (EC) by increasing political executive influence.

Central idea

  • The proposed legislation establishes a Selection Committee for appointing the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (ECs), with the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and a nominated Cabinet minister as its members. This change excludes the Chief Justice of India (CJI) from the committee and overturns a prior Supreme Court ruling.

Background

  • To ensure the EC’s impartiality and independence in conducting free and fair elections, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court, in the case of Anoop Baranwal vs Union of India on March 2, established interim guidelines.
  • This mandates a three-member committee composed of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and the Chief Justice of India for appointments.
  • The Court specified that this composition would remain until a corresponding law is passed by Parliament.

Historical Context

  • The Constituent Assembly aimed to ensure the EC’s independence. B. R. Ambedkar stressed that elections must be conducted by an independent body separate from the government.
  • While the Constitution left legislative room for future parliamentary intervention, it was expected to uphold fairness and reason.

Constitutional Provisions and Autonomy

  • Article 324 Authority: The Constitution assigns the Election Commission (EC) the crucial responsibility of Superintendence, direction, and control of elections, granting it the power to oversee and manage various aspects of the electoral process.
  • Composition Defined: Article 324, clause 2, outlines the composition of the EC, comprising the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and a determined number of other Election Commissioners (ECs) as determined by the President.
  • Autonomy Safeguarded:
  • Article 324(5) serves as a crucial safeguard to ensure the autonomy and independence of the EC. It stipulates that the removal process for the CEC mirrors the procedure applicable to a judge in the Supreme Court.
  • By mirroring the removal process of a Supreme Court judge, the Constitution seeks to shield the EC from arbitrary or partisan influences.
  • EC Member Removal: While the same level of security of tenure is not extended to other Election Commissioners, their removal remains contingent on the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner. This provision reflects the intent to uphold an EC that operates independently and free from external political pressures.
  • Precedent and Autonomy: The case of T N Seshan vs Union of India (1995) further establishes the notion that any removal of EC members must be grounded in intelligible and cogent considerations.

Concerning Provisions of the Bill

  • Shift in Selection Committee Composition: The proposed bill introduces a new Selection Committee responsible for appointing the CEC and ECs. However, the composition of this committee excludes the CJI, a departure from established practices. This shift raises concerns about reduced judicial participation in the appointment process.
  • Quorum Dynamics and LoP’s Role: The bill sets a quorum requirement for the Selection Committee, consisting of two members – the Prime Minister and a Cabinet Minister. This setup potentially diminishes the Leader of the Opposition’s (LoP) role to a mere formality, impacting the balanced representation and input from all relevant stakeholders.
  • Consideration Beyond Search Committee Recommendations: Section 8(2) of the bill allows the Selection Committee to consider candidates not recommended by the Search Committee. This provision conflicts with the transparency objective set out in Section 8(1) and raises concerns about the potential for arbitrary appointments and favoritism.
  • Procedure Regulation and Lack of Transparency: Section 8(1) empowers the Selection Committee to regulate its own procedure. This provision introduces the possibility of an unregulated decision-making process lacking transparency and potentially leading to an opaque and subjective appointment process.

Potential adverse impact of the bill

  • EC Autonomy Erosion: The proposed bill threatens to undermine the autonomy of the EC. The changes in the appointment process and composition of the SC could expose the EC to increased political influence, potentially compromising its impartiality.
  • Reduced Judicial Oversight: Exclusion of the CJI from the SC reduces judicial oversight in appointments. This could lead to a lack of checks and balances, eroding the credibility of the appointment process.
  • Executive Dominance: The quorum dynamics favoring the PM and CM could result in executive dominance over appointments. This could weaken the EC’s ability to function independently and impartially.
  • Impaired Democracy: If the EC’s autonomy and credibility are compromised, the democratic process itself could be undermined, with elections losing their impartiality and fairness.
  • Precedent from the Ashok Lavasa Case: The case of Ashok Lavasa, whose independent stance led to cases against his family members, illustrates the potential repercussions of dissenting voices within the EC. In the context of such cases, the proposed bill could further discourage independent decision-making within the EC, impacting its ability to operate freely.

Way Forward

  • Reconsider Composition: Reevaluate the composition of the Selection Committee for appointing the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (ECs). Consider reintroducing the Chief Justice of India (CJI) to ensure balanced participation and uphold checks and balances.
  • Balanced Quorum: Revise the quorum requirement of the Selection Committee to include the LoP as a full participant. This balanced representation will ensure a comprehensive decision-making process.
  • Transparency in Selection: Implement measures to maintain transparency in the appointment process. Avoid considering candidates not recommended by the Search Committee, preserving the fairness and credibility of appointments.
  • Clarity in Procedure: Establish clear and transparent procedures for the Selection Committee. Providing well-defined guidelines will ensure an objective and equitable appointment process.
  • Parliamentary Scrutiny: Subject any proposed changes to thorough scrutiny by the Parliament. A comprehensive debate involving various political parties will help ensure the legitimacy of the amendments.
  • Uphold Constitutional Values: Prioritize adherence to constitutional principles when considering changes to the appointment process. Upholding the autonomy and integrity of the EC is paramount.

Conclusion

  • The CEC and Other ECs (Appointment, Conditions of Service, and Term of Office) Bill, 2023, threatens the fundamental autonomy of the Election Commission. Upholding the EC’s independence is vital for maintaining the integrity of India’s democratic process and ensuring the equal representation of all citizens and political parties in elections.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

The Election Commission — autonomy in the crosshairs

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Election Commission of India

Mains level: Election Commission of India, , Supreme court's recent judgement, significance, challenges and government's response

What’s the news?

  • In recent times, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has emerged as a battleground where conflicts between the government and the judiciary come to the fore. The current divergence of opinions centers around the process of appointing officials within the ECI.

Central idea

  • The Supreme Court’s unanimous verdict, issued on March 2, directed the President to appoint the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (ECs) based on a committee’s recommendation. This decision aimed to bolster the ECI’s constitutional stature and curtail political influence. However, the government introduced a bill in the Rajya Sabha on August 10 that, if passed, will overturn this verdict.

The CEC and Other ECs Bill, 2023

  • The bill aims to bring about significant changes in the process of appointing the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners, as well as in defining the conditions of their service and their terms of office.
  • The bill intends to repeal the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991, which currently governs the appointment, conditions of service, and term of office of the Election Commissioners.

The significance of the Supreme Court’s judgment

  • Broadening the Selection Process: The judgment introduces a selection committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha or leader of the largest Opposition party, and the Chief Justice of India (CJI). This broadens the decision-making process beyond the central government.
  • Enhanced Constitutional Status: The judgment elevates the constitutional status of the Election Commission by involving key figures such as the CJI in the selection committee. This underscores the importance of the institution in India’s democratic framework.
  • Dilution of Government Control: The involvement of the CJI and opposition leaders reduces the potential for appointments to be influenced solely by the ruling government. This ensures a more balanced and impartial selection process.
  • Transparency and Representation: The judgment promotes transparency and accountability by including multiple stakeholders in the selection process. This prevents appointments from occurring behind closed doors and enhances public trust.
  • Mitigating Bias and Partisanship: The inclusion of the CJI adds a judicial perspective to appointments, preventing potential biases or affiliations towards any political party. This safeguards the Election Commission’s credibility and neutrality.
  • Safeguarding Democratic Processes: By reinforcing the principles of fairness, inclusivity, and autonomy in the appointment process, the judgment ensures that the Election Commission continues to uphold the integrity of democratic elections.

Legislative concerns associated with the bill

  • Alteration of Committee Composition: The Bill aims to replace the Chief Justice of India (CJI) with a Union Cabinet Minister in the selection committee. This change would shift the balance of the committee’s decision-making dynamics.
  • Potential for Government Influence: By replacing the CJI with a Union Cabinet Minister, the government could gain greater influence over the appointment process, raising concerns about the potential for political bias and government control.
  • Diminished Judicial Perspective: The removal of the CJI from the selection committee might lead to a reduced judicial perspective in the appointments, potentially undermining the objective of preventing political bias.
  • Government’s Priorities: The introduction of this bill could be seen as an attempt by the government to assert more authority over the Election Commission’s top appointments, potentially impacting the institution’s autonomy.
  • Shift in Democratic Safeguards: The alteration of the committee’s composition could potentially weaken the system of checks and balances established by the Supreme Court’s judgment, shifting the balance of power in favor of the ruling government.
  • Public Perception and Trust: The legislative challenge posed by the bill could raise concerns about the government’s intentions regarding the Election Commission’s autonomy and the transparency of appointments.
  • Political Dynamics: The bill’s introduction might impact the ongoing political dynamics between the government and opposition parties, potentially leading to debates and negotiations around the selection committee’s composition.
  • Potential Legal Debates: The proposed changes might lead to legal debates about the compatibility of the bill with the Supreme Court’s judgment and the broader constitutional principles it aims to uphold.
  • Future Institutional Reforms: The outcome of this legislative challenge could have broader implications for the appointment processes of other constitutional and statutory bodies, potentially setting a precedent for changes in their selection procedures.

Historical debates and recommendations related to the appointment process of the CEC and ECs

  • Constituent Assembly Debates (1949): During the Constituent Assembly debates, there was a suggestion to subject the appointment of the CEC to confirmation by a two-thirds majority in a joint session of Parliament. However, the final decision was to empower Parliament to make appropriate laws on this matter.
  • V.M. Tarkunde Committee (1975): This committee appointed by Jayaprakash Narayan recommended that the appointments of ECs should be more broad-based, involving a collegium-like approach, rather than relying solely on the government’s advice.
  • Dinesh Goswami Committee (1990s): Set up by Prime Minister V.P. Singh, this committee on electoral reforms suggested a collegium-based approach for appointing ECs to enhance credibility and impartiality.
  • Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2009): The commission’s fourth report recommended a comprehensive collegium-based appointment process to ensure the independence and neutrality of the Election Commission.
  • B.B. Tandon’s Suggestion (2006): Former CEC B.B. Tandon proposed a committee, headed by the Prime Minister, for appointing the CEC and ECs. The committee should include the Lok Sabha Speaker, the Leaders of the Opposition, the Law Minister, the Deputy Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha, and a judge nominated by the Chief Justice of India.
  • Arun Jaitley’s Statement (2006): BJP General Secretary Arun Jaitley supported a representative collegium, including the Chief Justice of India, to appoint apex electoral officials. He emphasized that government monitoring would undermine the commission’s independence.
  • L.K. Advani’s Proposal (2012): BJP leader L.K. Advani suggested a collegium with the Prime Minister as chairman, including the CJI, the Minister of Law and Justice, and the Leaders of the Opposition from both Houses.

Way forward

  • Engage Stakeholders: Collaborate with legal experts, opposition parties, and civil society to incorporate diverse perspectives for a balanced and effective appointment process.
  • Public Understanding: Emphasize transparent communication to articulate the rationale behind any changes in the appointment process, fostering public understanding and trust.
  • Learn from History: Draw guidance from historical recommendations such as the Dinesh Goswami Committee and Second Administrative Reforms Commission to shape a more transparent and inclusive appointment process.
  • Judicial Involvement: Consider the significance of judicial involvement in the selection committee to maintain checks and balances and prevent undue political influence.
  • Legislative Scrutiny: Ensure comprehensive examination and scrutiny of the proposed changes through parliamentary debates and discussions during the legislative process.
  • Constitutional Alignment: Ensure that any modifications adhere to constitutional principles, upholding the democratic foundations of the country’s governance.

Conclusion

  • The current debate underscores the intricate interplay between democratic integrity and political maneuvering. The forthcoming decisions will shape the ECI’s trajectory, determining whether it maintains its unbiased autonomy or inches closer to political control. To safeguard democracy and uphold the integrity of elections, maintaining the ECI’s independence remains paramount.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

EC sticks to Assam Delimitation Draft

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Delimitation Commission

Mains level: Not Much

Central Idea

  • Delimitation, the process of redrawing electoral boundaries to reflect population changes, is a crucial exercise that ensures fair representation and equal distribution of constituencies.
  • In Assam, the recent delimitation process has garnered attention due to its impact on political dynamics.

Delimitation in Assam

  • Historical Basis: The last delimitation in Assam was based on 1971 census data by the Delimitation Commission in 1976. Over time, population shifts necessitate boundary adjustments.
  • Equitable Representation: Delimitation aims to ensure that the population of constituencies is relatively equal, promoting fair representation.
  • Legal Authority: Delimitation orders have the force of law and are beyond judicial review.

Process of Delimitation

  • Delimitation Commission: An independent Delimitation Commission is formed, consisting of retired Supreme Court judges, the Chief Election Commissioner, and State Election Commissioners.
  • Objectives: The Commission determines boundaries and numbers of constituencies, striving for uniform population distribution.
  • Reserved Seats: The Commission identifies seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes based on their population concentrations.

Implementation of Delimitation

  • Draft Proposals: The Commission publishes draft proposals in official gazettes and newspapers, seeking public feedback.
  • Public Sittings: Public hearings are held to gather opinions and objections.
  • Final Order: After considering objections and suggestions, the Commission issues a final order published in official gazettes, coming into effect as specified.

Frequency of Delimitation

  • Early Delimitation: The first delimitation in 1950-51 was temporary, carried out by the President after India’s first general elections.
  • Need for Independence: Subsequent delimitation was mandated to be carried out by independent commissions following the dissatisfaction with the first exercise.
  • Past Instances: Delimitation occurred in 1952, 1963, 1973, and 2002, under Acts of respective years.

Postponement and Justification

  • Frozen Seats: Delimitation was postponed after the 1981 and 1991 Censuses.
  • Uniform Growth Rate: Post the 2001 Census, an amendment delayed delimitation until 2026, justified by achieving uniform population growth throughout India.
  • Last Exercise: The most recent delimitation in Assam (2002-2008) adjusted boundaries based on 2001 Census data and reserved seat allocations.

Conclusion

  • Delimitation plays a vital role in democratic governance, maintaining equitable representation by accounting for population shifts.
  • The recent delimitation in Assam, governed by a structured process and legal framework, exemplifies India’s commitment to fair and inclusive electoral practices.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Bill to Redefine the Election Commission Selection Process

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: EC appointments

Mains level: Read the attached story

Central Idea

  • A new Bill has been proposed in the Rajya Sabha aimed at reversing the impact of a Supreme Court ruling on the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (ECs).
  • The proposed legislation suggests a revamped selection process, featuring a committee comprising the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and a nominated Cabinet Minister.
  • This initiative comes after a Supreme Court verdict that demanded the participation of the PM, Leader of Opposition, and ‘CJI’ in the selection of these crucial electoral positions.

Supreme Court’s Ruling and Legislative Vacuum

  • March 2 Verdict: A unanimous verdict by a SC bench this year mandated the involvement of the PM, Leader of Opposition, and CJI in the appointment of CEC and ECs.
  • Constitutional Vacuum: The Court intervened due to the absence of a parliamentary law as prescribed by Article 324 of the Constitution for the appointment process.

New Legislative Approach

  • Aim of the Bill: The proposed Bill aims to address the constitutional vacuum and establish a structured legislative process for the appointment of members to the Election Commission of India (ECI).
  • Search Committee: The Bill establishes a Search Committee, led by the Cabinet Secretary and composed of two other government officials knowledgeable about election matters. The Committee is tasked with preparing a panel of five potential candidates for appointment.
  • Selection Committee: The core of the proposed process is the Selection Committee, composed of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and a Cabinet Minister nominated by the Prime Minister. This committee would finalize the appointment of CEC and ECs.

Supreme Court’s Concerns

  • Parliament’s Authority: The Parliament holds the power to address the issues highlighted by the Supreme Court ruling and nullify its impact through legislative action that aligns with the judgment’s intent.
  • Preserving Independence: The Supreme Court’s ruling emphasized the need for an independent body overseeing elections, aligning with the Constitution’s original intent.

Concerns raised

  • Composition of Selection Committee: The new Bill raises concerns about the independence of the selection process due to its composition.
  • Absence of LoP: With the PM and a nominated Cabinet Minister holding the majority in the three-member panel, the Leader of Opposition’s voice is marginalized even before the process begins.
  • Omits CJI: The Bill omits CJI from the panel counterviewing the 2nd March Judgment which prompted this legislation.

Conclusion

  • The proposed Bill’s attempt to address the legislative vacuum created by the Supreme Court ruling is a significant step towards streamlining the appointment process for the Election Commission.
  • While the Parliament has the authority to shape the process, ensuring the true independence and integrity of the selection process remains a critical concern.
  • The balance between various stakeholders must be maintained to uphold the sanctity of India’s democratic electoral processes.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Lowering the Minimum Age for Contesting Elections

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Minimum age for electors

Mains level: Read the attached story

Central Idea

  • A Parliamentary Standing Committee has recommended lowering the minimum age for contesting Lok Sabha and Assembly elections to 18 years, aligning it with the minimum age for voting in India.
  • The Committee believes that young individuals can be responsible political participants, supported by global practices and increasing political consciousness among youth.

Current Minimum Age Requirements

  • Lok Sabha and Assembly Polls: According to Article 84 of the Indian Constitution and Section 36 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, a person must be at least 25 years old to contest elections to the Lok Sabha or State Legislative Assembly.
  • Rajya Sabha and Legislative Council: As per Article 80(4) of the Constitution and Section 43 of the RP Act, 1951, a person must be at least 30 years old to become a member of the Rajya Sabha or the State Legislative Council.

Parliamentary Committee’s View

  • Evidence from Global Practices: The Committee cited examples from countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia, where young individuals have proven to be reliable and responsible political participants.
  • Youth Representation: It supported lowering the minimum age for candidacy, citing global practices and the increasing political consciousness among young people. It believes that young individuals are more than capable of running for office in the 21st century due to increased education, globalization, and digitalization.
  • Age Disparity: The Committee expressed concern over the significant age gap between MPs and India’s median age, highlighting the need for greater youth representation.
  • Diverse Viewpoints: The Committee contends that reducing the minimum age would bring fresh perspectives to policy debates and address the underrepresentation of young voices in the political arena.

Election Commission’s Perspective

  • Unrealistic Expectations: The EC disagrees with the proposal, stating that expecting 18-year-olds to possess the necessary experience and maturity for parliamentary responsibilities is unrealistic.
  • Current Age Requirements Appropriate: EC believes that the existing minimum age requirements for voting and contesting elections are appropriate.

Recommended Actions

  • Delimitation Process: The Committee recommends that the EC collaborates with the legislative department to examine the effects of the delimitation process, especially in challenging terrains. Treating all regions in India as identical may pose risks, and tailored measures should be taken to address this reality.
  • Common Electoral Rolls: The Committee highlights the benefits of Common Electoral Rolls for State and Lok Sabha polls, which can be created through the collaborative participation of officials serving in both the ECI and State ECs.

Conclusion

  • The debate on lowering the minimum age for contesting elections continues, with the Parliamentary Standing Committee favouring this move, considering global practices and youth representation.
  • Further discussions and careful consideration are needed to make an informed decision on this matter.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

In news: Appointment of Election Commissioner

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Election Commissioner, ECI

Mains level: Read the attached story

Central Idea

  • The Supreme Court dismissed a petition filed by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) challenging the appointment of an Election Commissioner.
  • The court cited a previous Constitution Bench ruling that had already addressed the issue and decided not to quash the appointment.

About Election Commission of India (ECI)

  • The ECI is a constitutional body was established by the Constitution of India to conduct and regulate elections in the country.
  • Article 324 of the Constitution provides that the power of superintendence, direction, and control of elections.
  • The body administers elections to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, State Legislative Assemblies, State Legislative Councils and the offices of the President and Vice President of the country.
  • Thus, the Election Commission is an all-India body in the sense that it is common to both the Central government and the state governments.
  • The Election Commission operates under the authority of Constitution per Article 324 and subsequently enacted Representation of the People Act 1951.

Composition of ECI

  • The ECI was established in 1950 and originally only had one Chief Election Commissioner.
  • Two additional Commissioners were appointed to the commission for the first time during the 1989 General Election, but they had a very short tenure, ending on 1 January 1990.
  • The Election Commissioners are assisted by Deputy Election Commissioners, who are generally IAS officers.
  • They are further assisted by Directors General, Principal Secretaries, and Secretaries and Under Secretaries.
  • At the state level, Election Commission is assisted by the Chief Electoral Officer of the State, who is an IAS officer of Principal Secretary rank.
  • At the district and constituency levels, the District Magistrates (in their capacity as District Election Officers), Electoral Registration Officers and Returning Officers perform election work.

Tenure

  • The tenure of election commissioners is not prescribed by Indian Constitution.
  • However, the Election Commission conduct of service Act, 1991 prescribes the term of service.
  • Chief Election Commissioner or an Election Commissioner shall hold office for a term of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier, from the date on which he/she assumes his/her office.

Removal from office

  • The Chief Election Commissioner of India can be represented removed from their office in a manner similar to the removal of a judge of the Supreme Court of India.
  • It requires a resolution passed by the Parliament of India a two-thirds majority in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha on the grounds of proved misbehaviour or incapacity.
  • Other Election Commissioners can be removed by the President of India on the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner.
  • A Chief Election Commissioner has never been impeached in India.

Recent incidence of criticisms of ECI

Ans. Partiality in Elections

  • Over the last couple of years, several actions and omissions of the commission have come in for criticism.
  • Nearly 66 former bureaucrats in a letter addressed to the President, expressed their concern over the working of the Election Commission.
  • They felt was suffering from a credibility crisis, citing various violations of the model code of conduct during the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections.

Importance of ECI for India

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

Issues with ECI

  • Flaws in the composition: The Constitution doesn’t prescribe qualifications for members of the EC. They are not debarred from future appointments after retiring or resigning.
  • No security of tenure: Election commissioners aren’t constitutionally protected with security of tenure.
  • Partisan role: The EC has come under the scanner like never before, with increasing incidents of breach of the Model Code of Conduct in the 2019 general elections.
  • Political favor: The opposition alleged that the ECI was favoring the ruling party by giving clean chit to the model code of conduct violations made by the PM.
  • Non-competence: Increased violence and electoral malpractices under influence of money have resulted in political criminalization, which ECI is unable to arrest.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Using name ‘INDIA’ in Political Alliances

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Emblems Act, 1950

Mains level: NA

india

Central Idea

  • A complaint has been lodged with the Delhi police against 26 Opposition parties for the alleged “improper use” of the name ‘INDIA’ in their newly formed alliance.

Why discuss this?

  • The complainant argues that the parties have violated the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950.
  • It has allegedly attempted to gain “undue influence” in elections by using the name ‘INDIA’ for their coalition.
  • It alleges that by naming their alliance as ‘INDIA’, they have attempted to exert undue influence on the electorate and may be prosecuted under Section 171F of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

About Emblems Act, 1950

  • The Emblems Act, 1950 aims to prevent the improper use of certain emblems and names for commercial and other purposes.
  • The Act seeks to protect the dignity and sanctity associated with national emblems, insignia, and names of international organizations.

Key features of the Emblem Act

Description Article/Sections
Protected Emblems and Names Identifies specific emblems and names protected under the Act, including national emblem, UN emblems, Red Cross, and notified emblems.

Ensures their dignity and sanctity.

Section 3
Prohibition of Improper Use Prohibits unauthorized use of protected emblems and names for commercial or misleading purposes.

Maintains their integrity and respect.

Section 5
Offenses and Penalties Establishes penalties, including imprisonment and fines, for violating the Act’s provisions. Section 7
Exceptions and Permitted Use Allows certain circumstances and purposes where use of protected emblems and names is permitted with relevant authorities’ permission. Section 4
Enforcement and Authorities Grants powers to authorized Police for enforcement, investigation, and legal actions against violators. Section 8

 

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

EC to issue Online Airtime Vouchers for Campaigning

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Airtime Vouchers for Campaigning

Mains level: Not Much

air

Central Idea

  • The Election Commission of India has implemented a fully online process for allotting airtime to political parties for campaigning on Akashvani and Doordarshan.
  • The new system replaces the traditional method of collecting physical vouchers and instead issues digital time vouchers through an online platform.

Airtime Vouchers for Campaigning

  • Objective: To provide equitable access to government-owned electronic media during elections for campaigning purposes.
  • Legal basis: The allotment of time on public broadcasters during campaigning is governed by a scheme notified in January 1998, based on Section 39A of the Representation of People Act, 1951.
  • Allotment Criteria: Each National party and recognized State party receive an equitable base time on Doordarshan (DD) and Akashvani.
  • Scope for additional time: Factors such as past electoral performance, representation in the legislature, and the number of candidates fielded by the party are considered to ensure equitable distribution of airtime.
  • Predefined Schedule: The date and time for telecasts and broadcasts by authorized party representatives are predetermined by Prasar Bharati, in consultation with EC and in the presence of party representatives.

Regulation of these Vouchers

  • Scrutiny of Party Transcripts: Party transcripts undergo scrutiny to ensure compliance with relevant codes. These codes prohibit content that criticizes other countries, attacks religions or communities, incites violence, or engages in personal attacks.
  • Role of Apex Committee: Disagreements over vetted content are referred to an Apex Committee comprising members from Akashvani and DD. The committee’s decision is final.

Significance of Digital Vouchers

  • Process Improvement: The decision reflects its commitment to leveraging technology for an improved electoral process and enhanced convenience for all stakeholders.
  • Eliminating Physical Collection: Political parties will no longer need to send representatives to the commission’s offices to collect time vouchers during elections.

Operational Challenges

  • Limited Access: The scheme is exclusively available to national and recognized State parties, leading to concerns about its true equity.
  • Conflict of Interest in the Apex Committee: The Apex Committee consists of officials from Akashvani and DD, raising concerns about potential conflicts of interest.
  • Row over transcript content: These officials are expected to review their own decisions when conflicts arise with political parties over the transcript content.

Also read:

How is a ‘National Party’ in India defined?

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Electoral Bonds chief source of donations for parties: Report

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Electoral bonds

Mains level: Not Much

bond

Central Idea

  • Electoral bonds have emerged as the primary source of donations for political parties in India, with the BJP securing the majority share.
  • A report by the Association of Democratic Reforms reveals that between 2016-17 and 2021-22, national and regional parties received a total donation of ₹9,188.35 crore through electoral bonds.
  • The BJP received ₹5,271.97 crore, while other national parties collectively received ₹1,783.93 crore.

Political Donations under Electoral bonds scheme

  • Breakdown of donations: Over the six-year period, the 31 analyzed political parties received a total of ₹16,437.63 crore in donations. Of this, 55.9% came from electoral bonds, 28.07% from the corporate sector, and 16.03% from other sources.
  • BJP leads the pack: The BJP declared donations worth ₹5,271.97 crore through electoral bonds, surpassing the total donations of all other national parties combined.
  • Congress and regional parties: The Congress received the second-highest amount through electoral bonds, with ₹952.29 crore (61.54% of total donations). The Trinamool Congress received ₹767.88 crore (93.27% of total donations).
  • Regional parties’ reliance on bonds: Regional parties such as the BJD, DMK, and TRS received a significant portion of their total donations from electoral bonds.
  • Surge in bond donations: National parties witnessed a 743% increase in donations through electoral bonds between 2017-18 and 2021-22, while corporate donations only rose by 48%.

Key features of Electoral Bonds Scheme

  • Introduction of Electoral Bond Scheme: The Electoral Bond Scheme 2018 was introduced for electoral funding during the crucial time period analyzed in the report.
  • Removal of donation limit: The Finance Act, 2017 eliminated the previous cap of 7.5% of a company’s average three-year net profit for political donations.
  • Purchase and Donation: Any Indian citizen or company incorporated in India can purchase Electoral Bonds from select branches of the State Bank of India. The bonds can be bought in denominations of ₹1,000, ₹10,000, ₹10 lakh, and ₹1 crore. The purchaser can then donate the bonds to an eligible political party of their choice.
  • Eligibility and KYC: To purchase Electoral Bonds, the buyer must fulfill the Know Your Customer (KYC) norms and make the payment from a bank account. Only individuals and companies with Indian citizenship or incorporation can participate in the scheme.
  • Bond Validity: Electoral Bonds have a life of 15 days, ensuring that they do not function as a parallel currency.
  • Anonymity and Disclosure: Donors who contribute less than ₹20,000 to political parties through Electoral Bonds are not required to provide their identity details, such as the Permanent Account Number (PAN). However, the identity of the donor is known to the bank.
  • Redemption and Eligible Parties: Only political parties registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, and securing at least one percent of the votes in the last general election are eligible to receive Electoral Bonds. The bonds can be encashed only through a bank account with the authorized bank.

Issues with the Scheme

  • Lack of Transparency: The scheme has faced criticism for enabling opaque political funding. While the identity of the donor is captured, it is not revealed to the party or the public, limiting transparency.
  • Limited Tax Benefits: Donations made through Electoral Bonds may not qualify for income tax breaks, potentially discouraging donors from participating in the scheme.
  • Privacy Concerns: The privacy of donors may be compromised as the bank will have knowledge of their identity.
  • Differential Benefits: The scheme can potentially favor parties in power, as the government can access information about the donors and the funds received.
  • Unlimited Donations: Amendments in the Finance Act of 2017 allow for unlimited donations from individuals and foreign companies to political parties without disclosing the sources of funding, raising concerns about the influence of money in politics.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Criminalization of Politics: Why ADR has approached the ECI?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Criminalization of Politicians

Central Idea

  • The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), an electoral watchdog, has written to the Election Commission seeking action against political parties that fail to disclose details of candidates’ criminal cases as mandated by the Supreme Court.
  • The ADR highlights the non-compliance of parties in publishing such information and urges strict action to be taken against defaulting parties.

About ADR

Concerns raised by ADR

  • Alarming Statistics: It revealed 43% of newly-elected MPs in 2019 had pending criminal cases.
  • Non-Compliance: ADR reveals political parties flouting Supreme Court’s orders and ECI’s directions.
  • Shortcomings in Forms: ADR identifies shortcomings in the prescribed forms (C2 and C7) used by parties.
  • Inaccessible Information: Many parties lack functional websites or fail to provide accessible links.
  • Improper Justifications: Parties cite “winnability” and popularity as reasons for selecting candidates with criminal records, contrary to the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Supreme Court’s Mandate (2018)

  • Disclosure Directive: Supreme Court has mandated parties to disclose candidates’ criminal cases on their websites.
  • Prescribed Format: Election Commission of India (ECI) specifies the format for publishing this information.
  • Bold Publication: Supreme Court ordered parties to publish criminal case details prominently.
  • Candidate Obligation: Candidates with pending cases must inform the party about their criminal antecedents.
  • Multiple Publications: Parties and candidates must publish the information multiple times after filing nominations.

ADR’s Action and Demands

  • Adherence Supreme Court’s Directive: ADR directed to pursue remedies with the ECI.
  • Demanding Strict Action: ADR urges the ECI to take strict action against defaulting parties, including possible de-registration.
  • Transparency and Accountability: ADR calls for the publication of a list of defaulting parties and the imposition of fines.

Conclusion

  • Urgent Action Needed: ADR’s letter emphasizes the need for action against parties failing to disclose candidates’ criminal cases as mandated by the Supreme Court.
  • Upholding Transparency: Strict enforcement of these orders is essential to maintain transparency and prevent the criminalization of politics.

 

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Exploring Assam’s Delimitation Draft

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Delimitation Commission

Mains level: Read the attached story

assam delimitation

Central Idea

  • The recent draft proposal on the Delimitation of Assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies in Assam by the Election Commission (EC) has stirred significant controversy.
  • The proposal suggests reshaping constituencies, increasing the number of reserved seats, and potentially affecting the political fortunes of various organizations and parties.

What is Delimitation?

  • Objective: Delimitation aims to redraw constituency boundaries to maintain equal population representation in Assembly and Lok Sabha seats.
  • Changing Constituencies: Delimitation may result in the alteration of constituency limits and, in some cases, the number of seats in a state.

Delimitation Process and Commission

  • Independent Delimitation Commission: Delimitation is carried out by an independent Delimitation Commission (DC) constituted by the Union government.
  • Terms of Reference: The DC determines the number and boundaries of constituencies, ensuring population equality and identifying reserved seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
  • Implementation: The draft proposals are published for public feedback, followed by public sittings to consider objections and suggestions. The final order is published in official gazettes.

Historical Context of Delimitation

  • Early Delimitation Exercises: The first delimitation exercise in 1950-51 was conducted by the President. Subsequently, the responsibility was shifted to independent Delimitation Commissions.
  • Frequency of Delimitation: Delimitation has been carried out four times, in 1952, 1963, 1973, and 2002, based on the Acts enacted in respective years.

Postponement of Delimitation until 2026

  • Frozen Seats: Delimitation was postponed after the 1981 and 1991 Censuses, freezing the number of seats in Lok Sabha and Assemblies.
  • Justification for Postponement: An amendment further delayed delimitation until 2026, with the rationale that uniform population growth would be achieved throughout the country by that time.
  • The Last Delimitation: The most recent delimitation exercise, based on the 2001 Census, focused on adjusting boundaries of existing seats and reworking the number of reserved seats.

Delimitation Exercise in Assam

  • Delimitation exercises were carried out periodically, but in 1976, it was suspended due to the family planning program.
  • The process was deferred for Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, and Nagaland in 2008 due to “security risks.”
  • The Delimitation Commission for Assam and other states was reconstituted by the Central Government in 2020.

Overview of the Proposed Changes

  • Reshaping of Constituencies: The draft proposal suggests reshaping and renaming 24 Assembly seats.
  • Increased Reserved Seats: The number of reserved seats for Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Scheduled Castes (SC) would be increased from 16 to 19 and eight to nine, respectively.
  • Seat Juggling: The proposal involves converting six reserved seats each for SCs and STs into unreserved seats. Additionally, nine ST and seven SC general seats would become reserved.
  • Impact on Political Figures: Notable political figures, including MLAs and MPs from various parties, may lose their seats due to the proposed changes.

Opposition and Concerns

  • Protests and Discontent: The draft proposal has faced opposition and protests across Assam, with different groups expressing dissatisfaction with the changes.
  • Questioning the Legality: Some have raised concerns regarding the interpretation of Section 8A of the Representation of the People Act, 1950, which allows reorientation of seats without altering their total number.
  • Use of Census Data: The use of 2001 Census data instead of the more recent 2011 Census data has raised suspicion and allegations of a hidden agenda.
  • Timing and Allegations: Opposition parties have criticized the timing of the delimitation exercise, alleging that it was rushed to affect representation ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

Future Outlook and Potential Changes

  • EC’s Call for Suggestions: The EC has invited suggestions and omissions regarding the draft proposal and plans to revisit the State to engage with stakeholders.
  • Legal Challenges: The All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) has threatened to approach the court if the draft is accepted.
  • Chief Minister’s Perspective: Assam CM has emphasized the need to protect the rights of indigenous people and hinted at potential adjustments to ensure their interests are safeguarded.

 

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Election Commission Revised It’s List of National and State Parties

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: EC, Political parties and related provisions

Central Idea

  • The Election Commission of India (EC) recently revised its list of recognised national and state parties.

The EC’s decision

  • The EC recognised AAP as a national party and revoked the national party status of TMC, NCP and CPI.
  • It also revoked the state party status granted to Rashtriya Lok Dal in Uttar Pradesh, Bharat Rashtra Samithi in Andhra Pradesh, People’s Democratic Alliance (Manipur), Pattali Makkal Katchi (Puducherry), Revolutionary Socialist Party (West Bengal) and Mizoram People’s Conference (Mizoram).
  • The EC laid down strict technical criteria for a party to be recognised as a national party, based entirely on its electoral performance. A party may gain or lose national/state party status from time to time, depending on the fulfilment of these conditions.

Process of recognition and derecognition

  • Election Symbols Order, 1968: The process of recognition and derecognition is stipulated under the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968, which lays down the criteria for recognition as a national or state party.
  • Specific stipulations: The order has specific stipulations which also find concurrence in the EC’s Political Parties and Election Symbols, 2019 Handbook.
  • Based on poll performance: The EC’s decision was based on a review of the parties’ poll performances since 2014.

What is a National Party?

  • The name suggests that a national party would be one that has a presence ‘nationally’, as opposed to a regional party whose presence is restricted to only a particular state or region.
  • National parties are usually India’s bigger parties.
  • However, some smaller parties, like the communist parties, are also recognised as national parties.
  • A certain stature is sometimes associated with being a national party, but this does not necessarily translate into having a lot of national political clout.

Criteria for recognition of political parties

Criteria National Party State Party
At least 6% of valid votes in 4+ states OR 4 Lok Sabha seats from at least 3 states OR recognition as a state party in at least 4 states
2% of all Lok Sabha seats in the last such election, with MPs elected from at least three states.
Two seats plus a 6% vote share in the last Assembly election in that state
One seat plus a 6% vote share in the last Lok Sabha election from that state
3% of the total Assembly seats or 3 seats, whichever is more.
One of every 25 Lok Sabha seats (or an equivalent fraction) from a state.
An 8% state-wide vote share in either the last Lok Sabha or the last Assembly polls.

Benefits of recognition as a national party

Benefit Description
Election symbol The election symbol of the party will remain unchanged across India, making it easier for voters to identify and vote for the party.
Free broadcast/telecast time National parties get free broadcast/telecast time on Akashvani and Doordarshan during the general election, giving them greater visibility and reach.
Star campaigners National parties can have a maximum of 40 star campaigners whose travel expenses will not be counted in the accounts of the candidates.
Consultation with the Election Commission National parties will have the privilege of consultation with the EC in the setting of election dates, and giving inputs in setting electoral rules and regulations.
Top slots on the EVM/ballot paper Top slots on the EVM/ballot paper are reserved for national parties, giving them greater visibility and prominence on the ballot.

 Perception and legal challenges

  • The greater impact, however, will be concerning the public perception of the party, which is why many who have lost national party status are planning to go to courts.
  • Some parties are questioning the power of the EC though it stands legitimised by the Supreme Court.
  • The EC has no discretion in the matter as the rules are very specific and repeatedly emphasise that a party is eligible if, and only if it fulfils all criteria.

Conclusion

  • The EC’s decision to revise the list of recognized national and state parties has faced legal challenges from some parties questioning the power of the EC. However, the EC’s decision is based on strict technical criteria laid down by the EC and the process of recognition and derecognition is stipulated under the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.

Mains Question

Q. The Election Commission of India (EC) recently revised its list of recognised national and state parties. In this light highlight the criteria for recognition of political parties and discuss the benefits of recognition as a national party

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

How is a ‘National Party’ in India defined?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: State and National Party

Mains level: Read the attached story

The Election Commission of India recognised the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as a national party, while revoking the status of the All India Trinamool Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Communist Party of India (CPI).

What is a National Party?

  • The name suggests that a national party would be one that has a presence ‘nationally’, as opposed to a regional party whose presence is restricted to only a particular state or region.
  • National parties are usually India’s bigger parties.
  • However, some smaller parties, like the communist parties, are also recognised as national parties.
  • A certain stature is sometimes associated with being a national party, but this does not necessarily translate into having a lot of national political clout.

How is a political party defined?

The ECI’s Political Parties and Election Symbols, 2019 handbook species following criteria:

For recognition as a NATIONAL PARTY, the conditions specified are:

  1. a 6% vote share in the last Assembly polls in each of any four states, as well as four seats in the last Lok Sabha polls; or
  2. 2% of all Lok Sabha seats in the last such election, with MPs elected from at least three states; or
  3. Recognition as a state party in at least four states.

For recognition as a STATE PARTY, any one of five conditions needs to be satisfied:

  1. two seats plus a 6% vote share in the last Assembly election in that state; or
  2. one seat plus a 6% vote share in the last Lok Sabha election from that state; or
  3. 3% of the total Assembly seats or 3 seats, whichever is more; or
  4. one of every 25 Lok Sabha seats (or an equivalent fraction) from a state; or
  5. an 8% state-wide vote share in either the last Lok Sabha or the last Assembly polls.

Benefits for recognized parties

  • This is subject to the fulfillment of the conditions prescribed by the Commission in the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.

(a) Reserved Sybol

  • If a party is recognised as a ‘state party’, it is entitled for exclusive allotment of its reserved symbol to the candidates set up by it in the state in which it is so recognised.
  • If a party is recognised as a ‘national party’ it is entitled for exclusive allotment of its reserved symbol to the candidates set up by it throughout India.

(b) Proposer for nomination

  • Recognised ‘state’ and ‘national’ parties need only one proposer for filing the nomination.

(c) Campaigning benefits

  • They are also entitled for two sets of electoral rolls free of cost and broadcast/telecast facilities over state-owned Akashvani/Doordarshan during the general elections.

 

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

What is Model Code of Conduct?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Model Code of Conduct

Mains level: Assembly elections

model

The Election Commission of India announced the date for Karnataka Assembly elections.  Hence the model code of conduct comes into the picture.

Model Code of Conduct

  • It is a set of guidelines issued by ECI to regulate political parties and candidates before elections.
  • The rules range from issues related to speeches, polling day, polling booths, portfolios, content of election manifestos, processions and general conduct so that free and fair elections are conducted.

When does it come into effect?

  • According to the PIB, a version of the MCC was first introduced in the state assembly elections in Kerala in 1960.
  • It was largely followed by all parties in the 1962 elections and continued to be followed in subsequent general elections.
  • In October 1979, the EC added a section to regulate the ‘party in power’ and prevent it from gaining an unfair advantage at the time of elections.
  • The MCC comes into force from the date the election schedule is announced until the date that results are out.

Restrictions imposed under MCC

The MCC contains eight provisions dealing with general conduct, meetings, processions, polling day, polling booths, observers, the party in power, and election manifestos.

For Governments

  • As soon as the code kicks in, the party in power whether at the Centre or in the States should ensure that it does not use its official position for campaigning.
  • Hence, no policy, project or scheme can be announced that can influence the voting behaviour.
  • The code also states that the ministers must not combine official visits with election work or use official machinery for the same.
  • The ruling government cannot make any ad-hoc appointments in Government, Public Undertakings etc. which may influence the voters.
  • Political parties or candidates can be criticised based only on their work record and no caste and communal sentiments can be used to lure voters.

For Political Parties

  • The party must also avoid advertising at the cost of the public exchequer or using official mass media for publicity on achievements to improve chances of victory in the elections.
  • The ruling party also cannot use government transport or machinery for campaigning.
  • It should also ensure that public places such as maidans etc., for holding election meetings, and facilities like the use of helipads are provided to the opposition parties on the same terms and conditions on which they are used by the party in power.

Campaigning

  • Holding public meetings during the 48-hour period before the hour fixed for the closing of the poll is also prohibited.
  • The 48-hour period is known as “election silence”.
  • The idea is to allow a voter a campaign-free environment to reflect on events before casting her vote
  • The issue of advertisement at the cost of public exchequer in the newspapers and other media is also considered an offence.
  • Mosques, Churches, Temples or any other places of worship should not be used for election propaganda. Bribing, intimidating or impersonation of voters is also barred.

Is it legally binding?

  • The fact is the MCC evolved as part of the ECI’s drive to ensure free and fair elections and was the result of a consensus among major political parties.
  • It has no statutory backing. Simply put, this means anybody breaching the MCC can’t be proceeded against under any clause of the Code..
  • The EC uses moral sanction or censure for its enforcement.

What if violated?

  • The ECI can issue a notice to a politician or a party for alleged breach of the MCC either on its own or based on a complaint by another party or individual.
  • Once a notice is issued, the person or party must reply in writing either accepting fault and tendering an unconditional apology or rebutting the allegation.
  • In the latter case, if the person or party is found guilty subsequently, he/it can attract a written censure from the ECI — something that many see as a mere slap on the wrist.
  • However, in extreme cases, like a candidate using money/liquor to influence votes or trying to divide voters in the name of religion or caste, the ECI can also order registration of a criminal case under IPC or IT Act.
  • In case of a hate speech, a complaint can be filed under the IPC and CrPC; there are laws against the misuse of a religious place for seeking votes, etc.

Using powers under Art. 324

  • The Commission rarely resorts to punitive action to enforce MCC, there is one recent example when unabated violations forced EC’s hand.
  • During the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the EC had banned a leader and now party president from campaigning to prevent them from further vitiating the poll atmosphere with their speeches.
  • The Commission resorted to its extraordinary powers under Article 324 of the Constitution to impose the ban.
  • It was only lifted once the leaders apologised and promised to operate within the Code.

What if given Statutory Backing?

  • Both the ECI and several independent experts, believe that giving statutory backing to the MCC would only make the job of the Commission more difficult.
  • This is because every alleged offence will then have to go to an appropriate court, and right up to the Supreme Court.
  • Given the flaws of our legal system, election petitions filed decades ago are still pending before many High Courts — it is anybody’s guess what that situation might lead to.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

E-Postal Ballot for Overseas Indian Voters

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NRI, OCI, PIO

Mains level: E-Postal Ballot system

post-vote

Central idea: The Election Commission of India (EC) has proposed to facilitate the electronically-transmitted postal ballot system for overseas Indian voters.

Why such a move?

  • The total number of overseas voters on January 1, 2023, was over 1.15 lakh.

Measures taken

  • The Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2018 was passed by the Lok Sabha in August 2018 on the recommendation of the EC.
  • The Bill sought to enable overseas electors to cast their vote either in person or by proxy.
  • However, it lapsed when the 16th Lok Sabha was dissolved as it was pending in the Rajya Sabha.

How can overseas voters currently vote in Indian elections?

  • Prior to 2010, an Indian citizen who is an eligible voter and was residing abroad for more than six months, would not have been able to vote in elections.
  • This was because the NRI’s name was deleted from electoral rolls if he or she stayed outside the country for more than six months at a stretch.
  • After the passing of the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 2010, eligible NRIs who had stayed abroad beyond six months have been able to vote, but only in person at the polling station where they have been enrolled as an overseas elector.
  • Just as any resident Indian citizen above the age of 18 years) is eligible to vote in the constituency where she/he is a resident, and overseas Indian citizens are also eligible to do so.
  • In the case of overseas voters, the address mentioned in the passport is taken as the place of ordinary residence and chosen as the constituency for the overseas voter to enrol in.

How has the existing facility worked so far?

  • Hike in voters: From merely 11,846 overseas voters who registered in 2014, the number went up to close to a lakh in 2019. But the bulk of these voters (nearly 90%) belonged to just one State — Kerala.
  • Section 20-1A, Part III of the RP Act: It addresses this to some extent by qualifying “a person absenting himself temporarily from his place of ordinary residence shall not by reason thereof cease to be ordinarily resident therein.
  • Proxyprovisions: The Bill provided for overseas voters to be able to appoint a proxy to cast their votes on their behalf, subject to conditions laid down in the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961.
  • Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System: The ECI then approached the government to permit NRIs to vote via postal ballots similar to a system that is already used by service voters, (a member of the armed Forces of the Union; or a member of a force to which provisions of the Army Act, 1950 (46 of 1950) which is ETPBS. The ECI proposed to extend this facility to overseas voters as well.

What is ETPBS and how does it function?

  • The Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 was amended in 2016to allow service voters to use the ETPBS.
  • Under this system, postal ballots are sent electronicallyto registered service voters.
  • The service voter can then download the ETPB(along with a declaration form and covers), register their mandate on the ballot and send it to the returning officer of the constituency via ordinary mail.
  • The post will include an attested declaration form(after being signed by the voter in the presence of an appointed senior officer who will attest it).
  • The postal ballot must reach the returning officer by 8 a.m.on the day of the counting of results.
  • In the case of NRI voters, those seeking to vote through ETPBS will have to inform the returning officer at least five days after notification of the election.

Are postal ballots a viable means of voting?

  • The ETPBS method allowed for greater turnout among service voters in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
  • With the increasing mobility of citizens across countries for reasons related to work, the postal ballot method has been internationally recognized.
  • A postal ballot mechanism that allows for proper authentication of the ballot at designated consular/embassy offices and an effective postal system should ease this process for NRIs.

Back2Basics: NRI vs OCI

Non-Resident Indian (NRI)

  • To mention it, NRI is someone who is not a resident of India.
  • However, the law is much more complicated and must be delved deeper to gain an inclusive insight into the sector.
  • A person is considered a resident of India if he/she has been staying in India for a minimum tenure of 182 days during the previous financial year of a particular year. OR
  • A person living in India for a total of 365 days during the previous four financial years and a minimum of 60 days during the last financial years is considered a citizen for a particular year.
  • Now an NRI or a non-resident of India is eligible to pay charges for only the first two situations, which means either the income received or earned in India.
  • Therefore, the NRI status also influences the enjoyable rights of that person.

Overseas Citizen of India (OCI)

  • OCI is a card issued by the government of India that denotes that a non-resident or foreigner has been permitted to stay and work within Indian boundaries.
  • Hence, this card provides foreigners with an immigration status without any limited tenure.
  • There are cases where PIOs of specific categories are allowed for OCI cards that have migrated from India to foreign countries (except Pakistan and Bangladesh) if the other government agrees for dual citizenship.
  • An individual holding an OCI card can be an overseas citizen of India in layman’s language.
  • So an OCI is not a citizen of India, but the Indian government has given the cardholder permission to reside and work within the boundaries of India.
  • Residents migrating from Pakistan and Bangladesh are not eligible for holding the OCI card. Even if their parents are citizens of both countries, the applicants will be denied having an OCI card.

 

Are you an IAS Worthy Aspirant? Get a reality check with the All India Smash UPSC Scholarship Test

Get upto 100% Scholarship | 900 Registration till now | Only 100 Slots Left

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Election Commission Appointments: Supreme Court’s Landmark Order

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Election Commission

Mains level: Executive and judiciary, Election Commission, appointments and issues

Election

Central Idea

  • The Supreme Court of India (SC) remains the most powerful centre of political power in the country at a time when almost every political issue is a matter of adjudication before the Court. A neutral body for the selection of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and other Election Commissioners was the principal relief sought in Anoop Baranwal v. Union of India, which has been granted by the Court as per Thursday’s verdict. The judgment revives the era of judicial activism.

Get your Rs 10,000 worth of UPSC Strategic Package for FREE | PDFs, Zoom session, Tests, & Mentorship.

Anoop Baranwal v. Union of India: The chronology

  • PIL: Current system of appointing Election Commissioners is unconstitutional: In January 2015, Anoop Baranwal filed a PIL on the ground that the current system for appointing members of the Election Commission of India (ECI) is unconstitutional. Currently, the Executive enjoys the power to make appointments.
  • Pleads for Independent system: The PIL pleads for the Court to issue directions to set up an independent, Collegium-like system for ECI appointments.
  • Article 324:
  • Article 324 specifies that while the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners will be appointed by the President, this is subject to Parliamentary law (if such law exists).
  • While this provision places an expectation on Parliament to draft a relevant a law, it has not done so up until now. In the absence of such a law, the President has been making appointments as per the recommendations of the Prime Minister.
  • Union government’s defence: The Union has defended the current mechanism of appointments, citing the honest record of all past Chief Commissioners.
  • Urged court not to intervene: It has urged the Court to not intervene, submitting that the matter falls within the executive domain.
  • Recent verdict: The Supreme Court held that a committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Justice of India will advise the President on appointments to the Election Commission of India until Parliament enacts a law on the subject.

What are the issues with Election commission?

  • The bone of contention: Petitioners argued that as per Article 324(2), CEC and ECs appointments must be based on a law, but no law was enacted. Taking advantage of this scenario, the dispensation at the Centre chooses the CEC and ECs, who are often seen to act in tune with those in power and those who select them. Therefore, the petitioners pleaded for an independent body for appointments.
  • Immunity for CEC and Susceptibility of ECs: Article 324(5) provides immunity to CEC but not to other ECs. CEC can only be removed like a Supreme Court judge. Other ECs may be more susceptible to the executive due to lack of security of tenure.
  • CEC and EC’s autonomy is linked to their selection process. In an electoral autocracy, executive control undermines fair elections.

Back to Basics: What is judicial activism and judicial overreach?

  • Judicial Review: It is the process by which a court reviews the constitutionality of a statue or the application of a statute, and rules either for it or against it on that basis.
  • Judicial Activism: It is the view that courts make political rather than legal decisions to further some agenda, rather than strictly reviewing the legality of a law under the letter of the law and prior precedent. It refers to the process in which judiciary steps into the shoes of legislature and comes up with new rules and regulations, which the legislature ought to have done earlier.
  • Judicial Overreach: It refers to an extreme form of judicial activism where arbitrary, unreasonable and frequent interventions are made by judiciary into the legislature’s domain, often with the intention of disrupting the balance of powers between executive, legislature and judiciary.

Election

Supreme court’s Judgement: A great leap

  • Great leap towards a sustainable democracy: An independent committee consisting of the prime minister, leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha or the leader of the largest party in opposition and the Chief Justice of India for selecting the CEC is a great leap towards a sustainable democracy.
  • Total Independence: The far-reaching verdict also means the Election Commission will have an independent secretariat, rule-making powers, an independent budget, and equal protection from impeachment.
  • Bench remarks: Democracy can succeed only if all stakeholders work on it to maintain the purity of the election process, so as to reflect the will of the people.

Conclusion

  • The recent SC verdict regarding the selection of the commission is not a cure-all solution for electoral democracy. However, it corrects an unjust method of selection and significantly improves the legitimacy of the process.

Mains Question

Q. A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has ordered that the election commissioners will be appointed on the advice of a committee. Discuss what led to this judgment?

Attempt UPSC 2024 Smash Scholarship Test | FLAT* 100% OFF on UPSC Foundation & Mentorship programs

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Supreme Court verdict on ECI appointments

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Election Commissioner, ECI

Mains level: Read the attached story

Central idea: The Supreme Court has directed the central government to form a permanent selection committee consisting of consist of the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition, and the Chief Justice of India or his nominee to recommend the appointment of Election Commissioners.

Supreme Court Ruling

  • The Supreme Court ruled that the appointment of the CEC should be made through a transparent and participatory process.
  • It directed the government to set up a permanent selection committee to recommend names for the appointment of the CEC.
  • The committee will consist of the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition, and Chief Justice of India or his nominee.
  • The court emphasized that the appointment process should ensure the independence of the Election Commission and be free from executive interference.

Why such move?

  • The ruling will bring more transparency and accountability to the appointment process of the CEC.
  • It will prevent any undue influence by the ruling government in the appointment of the CEC.
  • The ruling also reinforces the importance of an independent Election Commission in ensuring the fairness of the democratic process in India.

Why did the SC debate the issue?

  • In 2015, a PIL was filed challenging the constitutional validity of the practice of the Centre appointing members of the Election Commission.
  • In October 2018, a two-judge bench of the SC referred the case to a larger bench since it would require a close examination of Article 324 of the Constitution.

What is the challenge?

Article 324(2) states that the President appoints the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners, subject to any law made by Parliament.

  • Absence of law: The crux of the challenge is that since there is no law made by Parliament on this issue.
  • Urge for judicial intervention: The Court must step in to fill the constitutional vacuum, urges the PIL.
  • Question of executive non-interference: This examination also leads to the larger question of separation of powers and if the judiciary is overstepping its role in filling this gap in the law.

About Election Commission of India

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

Litigations against EC

  • The decisions of the Commission can be challenged in the High Court and the Supreme Court of India by appropriate petitions.
  • By long-standing convention and several judicial pronouncements, once the actual process of elections has started, the judiciary does not intervene in the actual conduct of the polls.

Why is EC under lens these days?

  • Executive interference: ECs are expected to maintain distance from the executive — a constitutional safeguard to insulate the commission from external pressure and allow it to continue as an independent authority.
  • Violating official channels: The EC’s communication with the Government on election matters is through the bureaucracy — either with its administrative ministry — the Law Ministry or the Home Ministry.
  • Breach of protocol: The Law Ministry spells the fine print on law for the country and is expected not to breach the constitutional safeguard provided to the commission to ensure its autonomy.

Recent incidence of criticisms

Ans. Partiality in Elections

  • Over the last couple of years, several actions and omissions of the commission have come in for criticism.
  • Nearly 66 former bureaucrats in a letter addressed to the President, expressed their concern over the working of the Election Commission.
  • They felt was suffering from a credibility crisis, citing various violations of the model code of conduct during the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections.

Importance of ECI for India

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

Issues with ECI

  • Flaws in the composition: The Constitution doesn’t prescribe qualifications for members of the EC. They are not debarred from future appointments after retiring or resigning.
  • No security of tenure: Election commissioners aren’t constitutionally protected with the security of tenure.
  • Partisan role: The EC has come under the scanner like never before, with increasing incidents of breach of the Model Code of Conduct in the 2019 general elections.
  • Political favor: The opposition alleged that the ECI was favoring the ruling party by giving a clean chit to the model code of conduct violations made by the PM.
  • Non-competence: Increased violence and electoral malpractices under influence of money have resulted in political criminalization, which ECI is unable to arrest.

 

Attempt UPSC 2024 Smash Scholarship Test | FLAT* 100% OFF on UPSC Foundation & Mentorship programs

Get your Rs 10,000 worth of UPSC Strategic Package for FREE | PDFs, Zoom sessions, Tests, & Mentorship

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Corrupt Practices according to Representation of People Act, 1951

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Various provisions for disqualifications of MP/MLAs

Mains level: Represenation of People's Act

Central idea: The article provides an overview of Sections 123 (2) and Section 123 (4) of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951. It highlights how the section makes it illegal for candidates who have been convicted of certain offenses to contest elections to Parliament and state legislatures.

Recent context: Promise of Freebies

  • Recently, the Supreme Court directed to look into prayers for reconsidering its 2013 judgment in ‘S. Subramaniam Balaji vs. State of Tamil Nadu’ Case.
  • The court held that promises of freebies cannot be termed a corrupt practice. However, the matter is still yet to be decided.

Illicit Practices under the RPA, 1951

corrupt

  • Under the provisions of the Act, an elected representative can be disqualified if convicted of certain offences on grounds of-
  1. Corrupt practices
  2. Failing to declare election expenses
  3. Interests in government contracts or works

What amounts to Corrupt Practices?

  • Section 123 of the Act defines ‘corrupt practices’: It includes bribery, undue influence, false information, and promotion or attempted promotion of “feelings of enmity or hatred between different classes of the citizens of India on grounds of religion, race, caste, community, or language” by a candidate for the furtherance of his prospects in the election.
  • Section 123 (2) deals with ‘undue influence’: It defines as “any direct or indirect interference or attempt to interfere on the part of the candidate or his agent, or of any other person, with the consent of the candidate or his election agent, with the free exercise of any electoral right.” This could also include threats of injury, social ostracism and expulsion from any caste or community.
  • Section 123 (4) extends ambit of “corrupt practices”: It covers the intentional publication of false statements which can prejudice the outcome of the candidate’s election.

What practices has the court held as corrupt practices in the past?

  • Jamuna Prasad Mukhariya v. Lacchi Ram, 1995: The encroachment of religion into secular activities is strictly prohibited, the court stated while adding that the same is clear from Section 123(3). However, even as far back as 1955, the Apex Court in Jamuna Prasad Mukhariya Case upheld the constitutional validity of Section 123 (3).
  • SR Bommai v. Union of India, 1994: In this case, otherwise held secularism to be a part of the ‘basic structure’, the court said, “whatever the attitude of the State towards the religions, religious sects, and denominations, religion cannot be mixed with any secular activity of the State.”
  • Abhiram Singh v C.D. Commachen, 2017: In 2017, a seven-judge constitution bench of the apex court held that an election will be annulled if votes are sought in the name of a candidate’s religion, race, caste, community, or language, as per Section 123 (3) which prohibits the same.

 

Attempt UPSC 2024 Smash Scholarship Test | FLAT* 100% OFF on UPSC Foundation & Mentorship programs

Get your Rs 10,000 worth of UPSC Strategic Package for FREE | PDFs, Zoom session, Tests, & Mentorship

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

How did Election Commission decide who gets Party Symbol?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Election symbols

Mains level: Read the attached story

Central idea: A faction within a political party led by the Maharashtra CM has been officially recognized as the legitimate group by the Election Commission of India. The faction has been allotted the “bow and arrow” symbol and the original name for use in future elections.

Why discuss this?

  • The allotment of election symbols can have a significant impact on the electoral fortunes of political parties and that the current system of allotment may need to be reviewed to ensure greater transparency and fairness.

EC’s powers in Election Symbol Dispute

  • The question of a split in a political party outside the legislature is dealt by Para 15 of the Symbols Order, 1968.
  • It states that the Election Commission of India’s (ECI) may take into account all the available facts and circumstances and undertake a test of majority.
  • The decision of the ECI shall be binding on all such rival sections or groups emerged after the split.
  • This applies to disputes in recognized national and state parties.
  • For splits in registered but unrecognized parties, the EC usually advises the warring factions to resolve their differences internally or to approach the court.

How did the EC deal with such matters before the Symbols Order came into effect?

  • Before 1968, the EC issued notifications and executive orders under the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961.
  • The most high-profile split of a party before 1968 was that of the CPI in 1964.
  • A breakaway group approached the ECI in December 1964 urging it to recognize them as CPI(Marxist). They provided a list of MPs and MLAs of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and West Bengal who supported them.
  • The ECI recognized the faction as CPI (M) after it found that the votes secured by the MPs and MLAs supporting the breakaway group added up to more than 4% in the 3 states.

Options for ECI

  • The ECI in all likelihood can freeze the symbol so that neither of the two sides is able to use it until a final decision is made.
  • EC hearings are long and detailed and may take at least six months.

What was the first case decided under Para 15 of the 1968 Order?

  • It was the first split in the Indian National Congress in 1969.
  • Indira Gandhi’s tensions with a rival group within the party came to a head with the death of President Dr Zakir Hussain on May 3, 1969.

Is there a way other than the test of the majority to resolve a dispute over election symbols?

  • In almost all disputes decided by the EC so far, a clear majority of party delegates/office bearers, MPs and MLAs have supported one of the factions.
  • Whenever the EC could not test the strength of rival groups based on support within the party organization (because of disputes regarding the list of office bearers), it fell back on testing the majority only among elected MPs and MLAs.

What happens to the group that doesn’t get the parent party’s symbol?

  • The EC in 1997 did not recognize the new parties as either state or national parties.
  • It felt that merely having MPs and MLAs is not enough, as the elected representatives had fought and won polls on tickets of their parent (undivided) parties.
  • The EC introduced a new rule under which the splinter group of the party — other than the group that got the party symbol — had to register itself as a separate party.
  • It could lay claim to national or state party status only on the basis of its performance in the state or central elections after registration.

 

Crack Prelims 2023! Talk to our Rankers

(Click) FREE 1-to-1 on-call Mentorship by IAS-IPS officers | Discuss doubts, strategy, sources, and more

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

What is ‘Office of Profit’?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Office of Profit

Mains level: Read the attached story

Central idea: Jharkhand CM’s chair remains uncertain as the Election Commission (EC) is understood to have conveyed its decision in an office-of-profit complaint against him to the Governor.

Why in news?

  • Under Section 9A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, the CM could face disqualification for entering into a government contract.
  • The Constitution of India does not define the Office of Profit. It has only mentioned it under Article 102 (1) and Article 191 (1).

What is ‘Office of Profit’?

  • In India, the concept of an “Office of Profit” refers to a situation where a person holds a government position that brings them financial gain or other advantages, while at the same time they hold an elected or other public office.
  • The idea behind this concept is to prevent any conflict of interest and ensure that elected representatives do not hold positions that may compromise their independence and impartiality.

Indian context to this

  • MPs and MLAs, as members of the legislature, hold the government accountable for its work.
  • The essence of disqualification is if legislators hold an ‘office of profit’ under the government, they might be susceptible to government influence, and may not discharge their constitutional mandate fairly.
  • The intent is that there should be no conflict between the duties and interests of an elected member.
  • Hence, the office of profit law simply seeks to enforce a basic feature of the Constitution- the principle of separation of power between the legislature and the executive.

What governs the term?

  • At present, the Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Act, 1959, bars an MP, MLA or an MLC from holding any office of profit under the central or state government unless it is exempted.
  • However, it does not clearly define what constitutes an office of profit.
  • Legislators can face disqualification for holding such positions, which bring them financial or other benefits.
  • Under the provisions of Article 102 (1) and Article 191 (1) of the Constitution, an MP or an MLA (or an MLC) is barred from holding any office of profit under the Central or State government.

An undefined term

  • The officials of the law ministry are of the view that defining an office of profit could lead to the filing of a number of cases with the Election Commission and the courts.
  • Also, once the definition is changed, one will also have to amend various provisions in the Constitution including Article 102 (1) (a) and Article 109 (1) (a) that deal with the office of profit.
  • It will have an overarching effect on all the other sections of the Constitution.

Factors constituting an ‘office of profit’

  • The 1959 law does not clearly define what constitutes an office of profit but the definition has evolved over the years with interpretations made in various court judgments.
  • An office of profit has been interpreted to be a position that brings to the office-holder some financial gain, or advantage, or benefit. The amount of such profit is immaterial.
  • In 1964, the Supreme Court ruled that the test for determining whether a person holds an office of profit is the test of appointment.

What is the ‘test of appointment’?

Several factors are considered in this determination including factors such as:

  1. whether the government is the appointing authority,
  2. whether the government has the power to terminate the appointment,
  3. whether the government determines the remuneration,
  4. what is the source of remuneration, and
  5. power that comes with the position

 

Try this MCQ:

Q. What is an “Office of Profit” in India?

a) A position that is controlled by the government and comes with no financial gain or other benefits.

b) A position that is controlled by the government and comes with some financial gain or other benefits.

c) A position that is controlled by the private sector and comes with no financial gain or other benefits.

d) A position that is controlled by the private sector and comes with some financial gain or other benefits.

 

Post your answers here.
2
Please leave a feedback on thisx

 

Crack Prelims 2023! Talk to our Rankers

(Click) FREE 1-to-1 on-call Mentorship by IAS-IPS officers | Discuss doubts, strategy, sources, and more

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

No bar on contesting two seats in one poll: Supreme Court

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Section 33 (7) of the RPA, 1951

Mains level: Not Much

The Supreme Court has refused to set aside a provision in the election law that allows candidates to contest polls from two constituencies simultaneously.

What is the issue?

  • The petition had sought the court to declare Section 33(7) of the Representation of People Act invalid and ultra vires.
  • Like one-person-one-vote, one-candidate-one-constituency is the dictum of democracy, argued the petition.

What did the SC say?

  • This is a policy matter and an issue concerning political democracy.
  • It is for the Parliament to take a call, CJI observed.

Provision for contesting polls from two constituency

  • Under section 33 (7) of the RPA, 1951, a person is allowed to contest polls, whether a general election, more than one by-elections or biennial elections, from a maximum of two seats.
  • Before this law, candidates could run in any number of constituencies.
  • If candidates win both seats, they must vacate one within 10 days, triggering a by-election, as stated under section 70 of the Act.
  • Under the Constitution, an individual cannot simultaneously be a member of either House of Parliament (or a state legislature), or both Parliament and a state legislature, or represent more than one seat in a House.

Issues with two polls provision

  • Issues with twin victories: There have been cases where a person contests election from two constituencies, and wins from both. In such a situation he vacates the seat in one of the two constituencies.
  • Expenses of bye-election: The consequence is that a by-election would be required from one constituency involving avoidable expenditure on the conduct of that bye-election.

ECI supports one-candidate-one-constituency

  • The Election Commission had, in an affidavit in 2018, supported the petition.
  • It had informed the Supreme Court that it had proposed an amendment to Section 33(7) in July 2004.

Way ahead

  • Heavy election deposits: A candidate should deposit an amount of ₹5 lakh for contesting in two constituencies in an Assembly election or ₹10 lakh in a general election.
  • Recurring election expenses: The amount would be used to cover the expenses for a by-election in the eventuality that he or she was victorious in both constituencies and had to relinquish one.

 

Crack Prelims 2023! Talk to our Rankers

(Click) FREE 1-to-1 on-call Mentorship by IAS-IPS officers | Discuss doubts, strategy, sources, and more

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

SC to hear plea against Electoral Bonds Scheme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Electoral Bond Scheme

Mains level: Transparency in election funding

bond

The Supreme Court is scheduled to examine whether petitions challenging the validity of electoral bonds scheme need to be referred to a Constitution Bench.

What is a Constitution Bench?

  • The constitution bench is the name given to the benches of the Supreme Court of India.
  • The Chief Justice of India has the power to constitute a Constitution Bench and refer cases to it.
  • Constitution benches are set up when the following circumstances exist:
  1. Interpretation of the Constitution: Article 145(3) provides for the constitution of at least five judges of the court which sit to decide any case “involving a substantial question of law as to the interpretation” of the Constitution of India.
  2. President of India seeking SC’s opinion: When the President has sought the Supreme Court’s opinion on a question of fact or law under Article 143 of the Constitution. Article 143 of the Constitution provides for Advisory jurisdiction to the SC. As per the provision, the President has the power to address questions to the apex Court, that he deems important for public welfare.
  3. Conflicting Judgments: When two or more three-judge benches of the Supreme Court have delivered conflicting judgments on the same point of law, necessitating a definite understanding and interpretation of the law by a larger bench.
  • The Constitution benches are set up on ad hoc basis as and when the above-mentioned conditions exist.
  • Constitution benches have decided many of India’s best-known and most important Supreme Court cases, such as:
  1. K. Gopalan v. State of Madras (Preventive detention)
  2. Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala (Basic structure doctrine) and
  3. Ashoka Kumar Thakur v. Union of India (OBC reservations) etc.

 

What are Electoral Bonds?

  • Electoral bonds are banking instruments that can be purchased by any citizen or company to make donations to political parties, without the donor’s identity being disclosed.
  • It is like a promissory note that can be bought by any Indian citizen or company incorporated in India from select branches of State Bank of India.
  • The citizen or corporate can then donate the same to any eligible political party of his/her choice.
  • An individual or party will be allowed to purchase these bonds digitally or through cheque.

About the scheme

  • A citizen of India or a body incorporated in India will be eligible to purchase the bond
  • Such 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
  • 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
  • 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).
  • Donors who contribute less than ₹20,000 to political parties through purchase of electoral bonds need not provide their identity details, such as Permanent Account Number (PAN).

Objective of the scheme

  • Transparency in political funding: To ensure that the funds being collected by the political parties is accounted money or clean money.

Who can redeem such bonds?

  • The Electoral Bonds shall be encashed by an eligible Political Party only through a Bank account with the Authorized Bank.
  • 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 Lok Sabha or the State Legislative Assembly, shall be eligible to receive the Electoral Bonds.

Restrictions that are done away

  • Earlier, no foreign company could donate to any political party under the Companies Act
  • A firm could donate a maximum of 7.5 percent of its average three-year net profit as political donations according to Section 182 of the Companies Act.
  • As per the same section of the Act, companies had to disclose details of their political donations in their annual statement of accounts.
  • The government moved an amendment in the Finance Bill to ensure that this proviso would not be applicable to companies in case of electoral bonds.
  • Thus, Indian, foreign and even shell companies can now donate to political parties without having to inform anyone of the contribution.

Issues with the Scheme

  • Opaque funding: While the identity of the donor is captured, it is not revealed to the party or public. So transparency is not enhanced for the voter.
  • No IT break: Also income tax breaks may not be available for donations through electoral bonds. This pushes the donor to choose between remaining anonymous and saving on taxes.
  • No anonymity for donors: The privacy of the donor is compromised as the bank will know their identity.
  • Differential benefits: These bonds will help any party that is in power because the government can know who donated what money and to whom.
  • Unlimited donations: The electoral bonds scheme and amendments in the Finance Act of 2017 allows for “unlimited donations from individuals and foreign companies to political parties without any record of the sources of funding”.

Way ahead

  • The worries over the electoral bond scheme, however, go beyond its patent unconstitutionality.
  • The concern about the possibility of misuse of funds is very pertinent.
  • The EC has been demanding that a law be passed to make political parties liable to get their accounts audited by an auditor from a panel suggested by the CAG or EC. This should get prominence.
  • Another feasible option is to establish a National Election Fund to which all donations could be directed.
  • This would take care of the imaginary fear of political reprisal of the donors.

Crack Prelims 2023! Talk to our Rankers

(Click) FREE 1-to-1 on-call Mentorship by IAS-IPS officers | Discuss doubts, strategy, sources, and more

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Remote EVM for Migrant Voters

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: EVM

Mains level: Voting facilities for migrant workers

evm

The Election Commission of India said that it has developed a prototype for a Multi-Constituency Remote Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) which would enable remote voting by migrant voters.

Electronic Voting Machine (EVM)

  • Electronic voting is the standard means of conducting elections using Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in India.
  • The system was developed and tested by the state-owned Electronics Corporation of India and Bharat Electronics in the 1990s.
  • They were introduced in Indian elections between 1998 and 2001, in a phased manner.

What are Remote EVMs?

  • Remote Electronic Voting Machines (RVM) can handle multiple constituencies from a single remote polling booth.
  • The idea is to implement voter portability as a pilot project in the upcoming Assembly elections in nine states in 2023.
  • This means that if the pilot is successful then in the 2024 general elections voter portability can be fully implemented.

Need for RVMs

  • Ensuring participative elections: The inability to vote due to internal migration is one of the prominent reasons to be addressed to improve voter turnout and ensure participative elections.
  • Migration-based disenfranchisement: There were multifarious reasons for a voter not opting to register in a new place of residence, thus missing out on exercising the right to vote.
  • Increasing voter turnout: The voter turnout in General Elections 2019 was 67.4% and the ECI is concerned about the issue of over 30 crore electors not exercising their franchise and also differential voter turnout in various States/UT.

Significance of the move

  • Panacea to migration-led deprivation: Out-migration due to the need to work, marriage, and education, is predominant among the rural population in overall domestic migration.
  • Increasing voter turnout: Approximately 85% of the internal migration is within the States.
  • Multiple booth targeting: This modified form of EVM can handle up to 72 multiple constituencies from a single remote polling booth.

Challenges for RVMs

Many political parties have already flagged the inherent issues such as-

  • Defining domestic migrants
  • Implementation of Model Code of Conduct
  • Ensuring secrecy of voting
  • Facility of polling agents for identification of voters
  • Process and method of remote voting and
  • Counting of votes

Technical issues

  • Amendment to legacy laws: Among the laws and rules which would need an amendment to implement remote voting is The Representation of People’s Act of 1950 and 1951, The Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 and The Registration of Electors Rules, 1960.
  • Vagueness over Migration: The definition of migrant voter would also need to be reworked with respect to retaining registration at the original place in the context of the legal construct of “ordinary residence” and “temporary absence”.
  • Territorial constituency concept: The territorial constituency concept of remote voting and defining remoteness itself that is an outside constituency, outside the district or outside state will need to be dealt with.
  • Administrative challenges: These include enumerating remote voters-self declaration, ensuring secrecy of voting at remote locations, provision of polling agents at remote voting booths, and ensuring identification of voters to avoid impersonation.
  • Acceptance issues: Acceptance of EVMs has been a contested issues. This has somehow eased after the introduction of the voters-verifiable paper-audit trial (VVPAT).

Way forward

  • The initiative, if implemented, can lead to a social transformation for the migrants and connect with their roots as many times they are reluctant to get themselves enrolled at their place of work.
  • Frequently changing residences, not enough social and emotional connect with the issues of an area of migration will no longer remain obstacles.

 

Click and get your FREE Copy of CURRENT AFFAIRS Micro Notes

(Click) FREE 1-to-1 on-call Mentorship by IAS-IPS officers | Discuss doubts, strategy, sources, and more

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Delimitation exercise in Assam

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Delimitation of constituencies

Mains level: Not Much

The Election Commission is set to begin the delimitation exercise of Assembly and parliamentary constituencies in Assam using census figures of 2001.

Why discuss this?

  • The last delimitation of constituencies in Assam was done on the basis of census figures of 1971 by the then Delimitation Commission in 1976.

What is Delimitation?

  • Delimitation is the act of redrawing boundaries of an Assembly or Lok Sabha seat to represent changes in population over time.
  • This exercise is carried out by a Delimitation Commission, whose orders have the force of law and cannot be questioned before any court.

Why is it needed?

  • The objective is to redraw boundaries (based on the data of the last Census) in a way so that the population of all seats, as far as practicable, be the same throughout the State.
  • Aside from changing the limits of a constituency, the process may result in a change in the number of seats in a state.

How is delimitation carried out?

  • Delimitation is carried out by an independent Delimitation Commission (DC).
  • Under Article 82, the Parliament enacts a Delimitation Act after every Census.
  • Once the Act is in force, the Union government sets up a DC made up of a retired Supreme Court judge, the Chief Election Commissioner and the respective State Election Commissioners.

Terms of reference for DC

  • The Commission is supposed to determine the number and boundaries of constituencies in a way that the population of all seats, so far as practicable, is the same.
  • The Commission is also tasked with identifying seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes; these are where their population is relatively large.
  • All this is done on the basis of the latest Census and, in case of difference of opinion among members of the Commission, the opinion of the majority prevails.

Implementation

  • The draft proposals of the DC are published in the Gazette of India, official gazettes of the states concerned and at least two vernacular papers for public feedback.
  • The Commission also holds public sittings.
  • After hearing the public, it considers objections and suggestions, received in writing or orally during public sittings, and carries out changes, if any, in the draft proposal.
  • The final order is published in the Gazette of India and the State Gazette and comes into force on a date specified by the President.

How often has delimitation been done in the past?

  • The first delimitation exercise in 1950-51 was carried out by the President (with the help of the Election Commission).
  • The Constitution at that time was silent on who should undertake the division of states into Lok Sabha seats.
  • This delimitation was temporary as the Constitution mandated redrawing of boundaries after every Census. Hence, another delimitation was due after the 1951 Census.
  • Pointing out that the first delimitation had left many political parties and individuals unhappy, the EC advised the government that all future exercises should be carried out by an independent commission.
  • This suggestion was accepted and the DC Act was enacted in 1952.
  • DCs have been set up four times — 1952, 1963, 1973 and 2002 under the Acts of 1952, 1962, 1972 and 2002.

Why postponed till 2026?

  • There was no delimitation after the 1981 and 1991 Censuses.
  • Although the freeze on the number of seats in Lok Sabha and Assemblies should have been lifted after the 2001 Census, another amendment postponed this until 2026.
  • This was justified on the ground that a uniform population growth rate would be achieved throughout the country by 2026.
  • So, the last delimitation exercise — started in July 2002 and completed on May 31, 2008 — was based on the 2001 Census and only readjusted boundaries of existing Lok Sabha and Assembly seats and reworked the number of reserved seats.

 

 

Click and get your FREE Copy of CURRENT AFFAIRS Micro Notes

(Click) FREE 1-to-1 on-call Mentorship by IAS-IPS officers | Discuss doubts, strategy, sources, and more

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Election Security Deposit and its symbolic significance

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Election Deposit

Mains level: Not Much

A political party based in New Delhi lost its election deposit for most of its candidates in the assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.

Do you know?

In the first Lok Sabha elections in 1951-52, almost 40 per cent of the total candidates lost their deposits. Nearly 86 per cent of the candidates contesting Lok Sabha elections in 2019 lost deposits, according to a report released by the Election Commission of India.

What is an Election Security Deposit?

  • An election security deposit is an amount that is to be deposited with the Returning Officer when a candidate files their nomination.
  • This is to be submitted either in cash, or a receipt must be enclosed with the nomination paper.
  • It mentions that the said sum has been deposited on the candidate’s behalf in the Reserve Bank of India or in a Government Treasury.
  • The main purpose of this practice is to ensure that only genuinely intending candidates end up filing the nomination to be a part of the electoral process.

Is the amount same for all elections?

  • No, it depends on the particular election being conducted, and the Representation of the People Act of 1951 mentions different amounts depending on the level of election:
  1. In the case of an election from a Parliamentary constituency, meaning a Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha seat, the amount is Rs 25,000 and Rs 12,500 for a Scheduled Caste (SC) or Scheduled Tribe (ST) candidate.
  2. In the case of an election from an Assembly or Council constituency, meaning at the level of legislative bodies in the states, it is Rs 10,000 and Rs 5,000 for an SC/ST candidate.
  3. Even in the case of Presidential and Vice-Presidential elections, a deposit of Rs 15,000 is to be made.

Losing the deposits

  • As per the same Act, the deposit has to be forfeited at an election if the number of valid votes polled by the candidate is less than 1/6th of the total number of valid votes polled.
  • Or, in the case of the election of more than one member, it would be 1/6th of the total number of valid votes so polled divided by the number of members to be elected.
  • This refers to elections by proportional representation method, as is the case in Rajya Sabha.
  • If the candidate does meet the threshold, “the deposit shall be returned as soon as practicable after the result of the election is declared.”
  • If a candidate withdraws their nomination or passes away before the polls, the amount is returned.

 

Click and get your FREE Copy of CURRENT AFFAIRS Micro Notes

(Click) FREE 1-to-1 on-call Mentorship by IAS-IPS officers | Discuss doubts, strategy, sources, and more

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

What it takes to become a ‘National Party’ in India?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: State and National Party

Mains level: Read the attached story

A political party (revived from the anti-corruption movement) is on track to be recognized as a 9th national party by the Election Commission of India (ECI).

What is a national party?

  • The name suggests that a national party would be one that has a presence ‘nationally’, as opposed to a regional party whose presence is restricted to only a particular state or region.
  • National parties are usually India’s bigger parties.
  • However, some smaller parties, like the communist parties, are also recognised as national parties.
  • A certain stature is sometimes associated with being a national party, but this does not necessarily translate into having a lot of national political clout.

So how is a political party defined?

The ECI’s Political Parties and Election Symbols, 2019 handbook species following criteria:

For recognition as a NATIONAL PARTY, the conditions specified are:

  1. a 6% vote share in the last Assembly polls in each of any four states, as well as four seats in the last Lok Sabha polls; or
  2. 2% of all Lok Sabha seats in the last such election, with MPs elected from at least three states; or
  3. recognition as a state party in at least four states.

For recognition as a STATE PARTY, any one of five conditions needs to be satisfied:

  1. two seats plus a 6% vote share in the last Assembly election in that state; or
  2. one seat plus a 6% vote share in the last Lok Sabha election from that state; or
  3. 3% of the total Assembly seats or 3 seats, whichever is more; or
  4. one of every 25 Lok Sabha seats (or an equivalent fraction) from a state; or
  5. an 8% state-wide vote share in either the last Lok Sabha or the last Assembly polls.

Benefits for recognized parties

  • This is subject to the fulfillment of the conditions prescribed by the Commission in the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.

(a) Reserved Sybol

  • If a party is recognised as a ‘state party’, it is entitled for exclusive allotment of its reserved symbol to the candidates set up by it in the state in which it is so recognised.
  • If a party is recognised as a ‘national party’ it is entitled for exclusive allotment of its reserved symbol to the candidates set up by it throughout India.

(b) Proposer for nomination

  • Recognised ‘state’ and ‘national’ parties need only one proposer for filing the nomination.

(c) Campaigning benefits

  • They are also entitled for two sets of electoral rolls free of cost and broadcast/telecast facilities over state-owned Akashvani/Doordarshan during the general elections.

 

Click and get your FREE Copy of CURRENT AFFAIRS Micro Notes

(Click) FREE 1-to-1 on-call Mentorship by IAS-IPS officers | Discuss doubts, strategy, sources, and more

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Who exactly counts your Vote after polling?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Vote counts

Mains level: Not Much

For a country like India where each individual constituency can have lakhs of voters, counting votes is a complex process that requires both pace and precision.

Where are the Votes counted?

  • Ideally, all votes should be counted in one location in the constituency.
  • However, during General Elections, when seats are larger with multiple Assembly constituencies, many counting centres can be appointed, depending on the number of votes that need to be counted.
  • The location(s) for counting votes is decided by the Returning Officer (RO), with multiple centres in assembly segments being under the supervision of the Assistant Returning Officers (ARO).
  • In counting centres, ideally all votes are counted in one big hall having multiple tables.
  • However, if the RO feels there is a risk of overcrowding, more rooms may be opened up after permission from the Election Commission (EC).

Role of Returning Officer

  • The RO is appointed for each constituency by the Election Commission.
  • During the duration of the election, the RO is the highest authority in the constituency having a wide range of powers in order to peacefully and impartially conduct elections.
  • With respect to counting of votes, the RO has the following duties:
  1. To designate the counting centres and get them approved by the Commission well in advance;
  2. To send notice to the candidates about the place, date and time of counting of votes;
  3. To appoint and train counting staff;
  4. To count the votes and declare the result.
  • ROs themselves do not count all votes but verify the counting at multiple stages and announce the results.
  • They are the final authority in the matter of vote counting in an election.

Supervision of the process

  • A counting room will have multiple counting tables with each counting a set number of postal ballots/EVMs on a round-to-round basis.
  • On each table, there is a counting supervisor and up to two assistants who do the actual counting.
  • They should be gazetted officers and are appointed by the RO.
  • They receive specific training pertaining to the tasks they are expected to undertake.
  • For instance, for those counting postal ballots, the training is different from that received for counting EVM votes.

Observers in the counting process

  • The EC appoints observers at each counting room, who are supposed to record the proceedings and file a report.
  • They are generally employees of the GoI, and are tasked with the duty to oversee overall functioning of the election apparatus.
  • Candidates who were on the ballot are also allowed in the counting room along with their representatives.
  • All parties and candidates send counting agents in order to ensure that votes are counted fairly and according to procedure, and lodge complaints, if any.

 

Click and get your FREE Copy of CURRENT AFFAIRS Micro Notes

(Click) FREE 1-to-1 on-call Mentorship by IAS-IPS officers | Discuss doubts, strategy, sources, and more

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Exit Polls and their Regulation in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Exit poll

Mains level: Read the attached story

poll

As voting for Gujarat elections ended, exit polls are out on the news channels.

What are Exit Polls?

  • An exit poll asks voters which political party they are supporting after they have cast their votes in an election.
  • In this, it differs from an opinion poll, which is held before the elections.
  • An exit poll is supposed to give an indication of which way the winds are blowing in an election, along with the issues, personalities, and loyalties that have influenced voters.
  • Today, exit polls in India are conducted by a number of organisations, often in tie-ups with media organisations.
  • The surveys can be conducted face to face or online.

Issues with exit polls

  • Accuracy: Some common parameters for a good, or accurate, opinion poll would be a sample size that is both large and diverse, and a clearly constructed questionnaire without an overt bias.
  • Politicization: Political parties often allege that these polls are motivated, or financed by a rival party.
  • Manipulation for popularity: Critics also say that the results gathered in exit polls can be influenced by the choice, wording and timing of the questions, and by the nature of the sample drawn.

History of exit polls in India

  • In 1957, during the second Lok Sabha elections, the Indian Institute of Public Opinion had conducted such a poll.

Rules governing exit polls in India

  • In India, results of exit polls for a particular election are not allowed to be published till the last vote has been cast.
  • The issue of when exit polls should be allowed to be published has gone to the Supreme Court thrice in various forms.
  • Currently, exit polls can’t be telecast from before voting begins till the last phase concludes.

Need of such polls

  • Popular opinion: Polls are simply a measurement tool that tells us how a population thinks and feels about any given topic.
  • Specific viewpoint: Polls tell us what proportion of a population has a specific viewpoint.
  • Opportunity to express: Opinion polling gives people who do not usually have access to the media an opportunity to be heard.

Issues with such polls (in context of elections)

  • Authenticity: Critics have often questioned their authenticity.
  • Manipulation of voters: This largely manipulates voting behavior.
  • Sensationalization by media: The media, on the other hand, invariably opposes the idea of a ban as seat forecasts attract primetime viewership.
  • Ridiculing the public mandate: The exit polls largely disrespect public opinions inciting confusion regarding the election mandate.

Why does it persist in India?

Ans. Exercise of Free Speech

  • The opposition to the ban in India is mainly on the ground that freedom of speech and expression is granted by the Constitution (Article 19).
  • What is conveniently forgotten is that this freedom is not absolute and allows for “reasonable restrictions” in the same article.

Limited restrictions that we have in India

  • RP Act: The Indian Penal Code and Representation of the People Act, 1951 do contain certain restrictions against disinformation.
  • Restrictions on A19: While the Constitution allows for reasonable restrictions on freedom of expression, its mandate to the ECI for free and fair elections is absolute.
  • Supreme Court interpretations: The Supreme Court (SC), in a series of judgments, has emphasized this requirement.
  • Basic structure doctrine: It considers free and fair elections is the basic structure of the Constitution (PUCL vs Union of India, 2003; NOTA judgment, 2013).

How does it impact the election process?

  • Prevalence of paid news in India: Having seen “paid news” in action, it apprehends that some opinion polls may be sponsored, motivated and biased.
  • Opacity: Almost all polls are non-transparent, providing little information on the methodology.
  • Propaganda: Subtle propaganda on casteist, religious and ethnic basis as well as by the use of sophisticated means like the alleged poll surveys create public distrust in poll process.
  • Disinformation: With such infirmities, many “polls” amount to misinformation that can result in “undue influence”, which is an “electoral offense” under IPC Section 171 (C). It is a “corrupt practice” under section 123 (2) of the RP Act.
  • Betting: The polling agencies manipulate the margin of error, victory margin for candidates, seat projections for a party or hide negative findings.

Way forward

  • Independent regulator: Ideally a body like the British Polling Council would be a viable option. India could set up its own professional, self-regulated body on the same lines say Indian Polling Council.
  • Mandatory disclosure: All polling agencies must disclose for scrutiny the sponsor, besides sample size, methodology, time frame, quality of training of research staff, etc.

 

Click and get your FREE Copy of CURRENT AFFAIRS Micro Notes

(Click) FREE1-to-1 on-call Mentorship by IAS-IPS officers | Discuss doubts, strategy, sources, and more

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Criminalization of Politics

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Criminalization of Politics

Politics

Context

  • The increasing trend of criminalization of politics is dangerous and has steadily been eating into the vitals of our democratic polity along with growing corruption of a humongous nature.

What is criminalization of politics?

  • Criminals becomes legislators: The criminals entering the politics and contesting elections and even getting elected to the Parliament and state legislature. Criminalization of politics is the focus of public debate when discussion on electoral reforms takes place.
  • Criminal nexus: It is result of nexus between politicians and criminals.

Click and get your FREE Copy of CURRENT AFFAIRS Micro Notes

What are the reasons for criminalization of politics

  • Political control of state machinery: Increasing trend of criminalization of politics is linked to political control of state machinery, corruption, vote-bank politics and above all, loopholes in the legal system.
  • Inaction from bureaucrats: We cannot expect probity and integrity from the bureaucracy if it is controlled in large measure, by criminals. Good governance gets seriously undermined when, for instance, criminals, gangsters or mafia dons, become the political bosses of bureaucrats and subvert the system to serve their interests.
  • Embracing the corruption: In such a scenario, the bureaucratic system ceases to resist corruption and often embraces it to carry out the diktats of criminal political bosses and also to suit its own ends.

Politics

What are the effects of criminalization of politics?

  • Hampering free and fair election: limited choice of voters to elect a candidate to parliament or state. It is against the spirit of free and fair election which is the bedrock of a democracy.
  • Unhealthy democratic practice: The major problem is that the law-breakers become law-makers, this affects the efficacy of the democratic process in delivering good governance. These unhealthy tendencies in the democratic system reflect a poor image of the nature of India’s state institutions and the quality of its elected representatives.
  • Circulation of black money: It also leads to increased circulation of black money during and after elections, which in turn increases corruption in society and affects the working of public servants.
  • Culture of violence: It introduces a culture of violence in society and sets a bad precedent for the youth to follow and reduces people’s faith in democracy as a system of governance.
  • Weakening the institutions: This is a pervasive malaise in our body politic, which is assuming cancerous proportions. As a result, the three main pillars of our democracy, namely, Parliament, judiciary and executive, get progressively weakened, and the fundamental concept of a democratic system gets subverted.

What should be done?

  • Fast judicial process: Fast-tracking the judicial process will weed out the corrupt as well as criminal elements in the political system.
  • Political consensus is necessary: It is high time all political parties came together and developed a consensus on keeping criminals some of them with serious charges including kidnapping, rape, murder, grave corruption and crimes against women out of the system.
  • Warning by Vohra committee: The Vohra Committee set up by the Centre in 1993 sounded a note of warning saying that “some political leaders become the leaders of these gangs/armed senas and, over the years, get themselves elected to local bodies, state assemblies and the national Parliament.” This was nearly three decades ago.

Politics

Efforts by Supreme court and Executive

  • Disclosure of criminal records: In 2002, the Court ruled that every candidate contesting election has to declare his criminal and financial records along with educational qualifications. It must be said that mandatory declaration of assets and existing criminal charges in self-sworn affidavits to the EC, prior to elections, has brought in some degree of transparency.
  • Formation of special courts: As a follow-up to these directives, in 2017, the Union government started a scheme to establish 12 special courts for a year to fast track the trial of criminal cases against MPs and MLAs. The apex court has since then issued many directions, including asking the Centre to set up a monitoring committee to examine reasons for delay of investigation in these cases.
  • Tackling the pendency of cases: The number of pending cases continues to be a matter of grave concern, so much so that the Supreme Court had been informed, as per media reports of February 2022, that the number of pending criminal cases against sitting and former MLAs and MPs had risen to close to 5,000 towards the end of December 2021.

Conclusion

  • There cannot be any leniency to criminals and the corrupt in public life, especially when it comes to a range of crimes which are serious and heinous in nature. Fast tracking trials and expediting the judicial process through a time-bound justice delivery system alone can cleanse our public life and rid it of this widespread disease.

Mains Question

Q. What is the criminalization of Politics? Enlist the reasons for criminalization of politics and solution to tackle the same.

(Click) FREE1-to-1 on-call Mentorship by IAS-IPS officers | Discuss doubts, strategy, sources, and more

 

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

In news: Electoral Bond Scheme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Electoral Bond Scheme

Mains level: Read the attached story

The government has opened yet another week-long window for electoral bond sales starting December 5.

What are Electoral Bonds?

  • Electoral bonds are banking instruments that can be purchased by any citizen or company to make donations to political parties, without the donor’s identity being disclosed.
  • It is like a promissory note that can be bought by any Indian citizen or company incorporated in India from select branches of State Bank of India.
  • The citizen or corporate can then donate the same to any eligible political party of his/her choice.
  • An individual or party will be allowed to purchase these bonds digitally or through cheque.

About the scheme

  • A citizen of India or a body incorporated in India will be eligible to purchase the bond
  • Such 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
  • 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
  • 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).
  • Donors who contribute less than ₹20,000 to political parties through purchase of electoral bonds need not provide their identity details, such as Permanent Account Number (PAN).

Objective of the scheme

  • Transparency in political funding: To ensure that the funds being collected by the political parties is accounted money or clean money.

Who can redeem such bonds?

  • The Electoral Bonds shall be encashed by an eligible Political Party only through a Bank account with the Authorized Bank.
  • 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 Lok Sabha or the State Legislative Assembly, shall be eligible to receive the Electoral Bonds.

Restrictions that are done away

  • Earlier, no foreign company could donate to any political party under the Companies Act
  • A firm could donate a maximum of 7.5 per cent of its average three year net profit as political donations according to Section 182 of the Companies Act.
  • As per the same section of the Act, companies had to disclose details of their political donations in their annual statement of accounts.
  • The government moved an amendment in the Finance Bill to ensure that this proviso would not be applicable to companies in case of electoral bonds.
  • Thus, Indian, foreign and even shell companies can now donate to political parties without having to inform anyone of the contribution.

Issues with the Scheme

  • Opaque funding: While the identity of the donor is captured, it is not revealed to the party or public. So transparency is not enhanced for the voter.
  • No IT break: Also income tax breaks may not be available for donations through electoral bonds. This pushes the donor to choose between remaining anonymous and saving on taxes.
  • No anonymity for donors: The privacy of the donor is compromised as the bank will know their identity.
  • Differential benefits: These bonds will help any party that is in power because the government can know who donated what money and to whom.
  • Unlimited donations: The electoral bonds scheme and amendments in the Finance Act of 2017 allows for “unlimited donations from individuals and foreign companies to political parties without any record of the sources of funding”.

Way ahead

  • The worries over the electoral bond scheme, however, go beyond its patent unconstitutionality.
  • The concern about the possibility of misuse of funds is very pertinent.
  • The EC has been demanding that a law be passed to make political parties liable to get their accounts audited by an auditor from a panel suggested by the CAG or EC. This should get prominence.
  • Another feasible option is to establish a National Election Fund to which all donations could be directed.
  • This would take care of the imaginary fear of political reprisal of the donors.

 

 

Click and get your FREE Copy of CURRENT AFFAIRS Micro Notes

(Click) FREE 1-to-1 on-call Mentorship by IAS-IPS officers | Discuss doubts, strategy, sources, and more

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Reforming the Election Commission

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Office of Election Commission

Mains level: Issues with the Election Commission

Election Commission

Context

  • A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court is examining a bunch of petitions recommending reforms in the process of appointment of members of the Election Commission.

Click and get your FREE Copy of CURRENT AFFAIRS Micro Notes

Electoral reforms and reluctant Governments

  • Long pending reforms: A list of over 20 reform proposals was compiled in 2004. More proposals were added to the list over time and are pending with government.
  • Ineffective model code of conduct: These range from strengthening the Commission’s inherent structure to handling the misuse of muscle and money power during elections, which violate the Model Code of Conduct.
  • Judicial intervention because of reluctant Government: It is hoped that the Bench will also examine electoral reforms suggested to governments by successive Election Commissions over the last two decades or so.

Issue of appointment of election commissioners

  • The Dinesh Goswami Committee in 1990: It is suggested that the Chief Election Commissioner be appointed by the President (read: executive) in consultation with the Chief Justice of India and the Leader of the Opposition (and in case the Leader of the Opposition was not available, then consultation be held with the leader the largest opposition group in the Lok Sabha).
  • Statutory backing for collegium led appointment: It said this process should have statutory backing. Importantly, it applied the same criteria to the appointments of Election Commissioners, along with consultation with the Chief Election Commissioner.
  • The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution: The commission under Justice M.N. Venkatachalam, said that the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners should be appointed on the recommendation of a body comprising the Prime Minister, the Leaders of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
  • The 255th Report of the Law Commission: Chaired by Justice A.P. Shah, said the appointment of all the Election Commissioners should be made by the President in consultation with a three-member collegium consisting of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition of the Lok Sabha (or the leader of the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha), and the Chief Justice of India.

Election Commission

What is T.N.Seshan case?

  • Conferred equal power on election commissioners: The T.N.Seshan case conferred equal powers on the Election Commissioners as those enjoyed by the Chief Election Commissioner (referring to the Chief Election Commissioner as primus inter pares, or first among equals).
  • Equal protection was not conferred: Supreme court offered majority power, whereby any two can overrule even the Chief Election Commissioner. Yet, it did not accord the Election Commissioners the same constitutional protection (of removal by impeachment) as is accorded to the Chief Election Commissioner.

Election Commission

Why security of tenure is important for Election Commissioners?

  • Hesitancy to act: Without security of tenure, they may hesitate to act independently, which they otherwise might if they were truly secure.
  • Junior to chief election commission: In the absence of full constitutional security, an Election Commissioner could feel they must keep on the right side of the Chief Election Commissioner.
  • Remain loyal to government: They might also feel they should remain within the ambit favoured by the government.
  • Fear of non-elevation: An Election Commissioner can never be sure whether they will automatically be elevated to the top post because nowhere has elevation been statutorily decreed.

What are the suggested reforms?

  • Same procedure for removal of judge: It is suggested measures to safeguard Election Commissioners from arbitrary removal, in a manner similar to what is accorded to the Chief Election Commissioner, who can only be removed by impeachment, which is by no means easy.
  • Appointment by collegium: While the Chief Election Commissioner should be appointed by a collegium, this must apply equally to the Election Commissioners.
  • Reform by constitutional amendments: The Election Commissioners must now equally be protected from arbitrary removal by a constitutional amendment that would ensure a removal process that currently applies only to the Chief Election Commissioner.

Election Commission

Conclusion

  • Reforms in election commission is absolutely necessary but manner of reforms is debatable. Judiciary’s role is not to reform the institution but to deliver the justice. This might be another case of judicial overreach in legislative domain any reform. Any reform in election commission has to come from legislature.

Mains Question

Q. What are the necessary reforms in Election commission of India? Why security of tenure is important for election commissioners?

(Click) FREE1-to-1 on-call Mentorship by IAS-IPS officers | Discuss doubts, strategy, sources, and more

 

 

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Enhancing the credibility of the Election Commission (ECI)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Election Commission

Mains level: Issues with the Election Commission and Appointments

Election Commission

Context

  • A vital issue of national importance dominating the headlines for the last three days is the PIL in the Supreme Court regarding the autonomy and neutrality of the Election Commission of India (ECI).

Election Commission

Constitutional mandate for Election Commission of India (ECI).

  • The Constitution intended the Election Commission to be fiercely independent and vested it with enormous powers of superintendence, direction and control over all elections.
  • The apex court has repeatedly adjudged these powers to be absolute and unquestionable.
  • It has declared Article 324 to be the reservoir of all powers of the ECI and has repeatedly declared free and fair elections to be part of the basic structure of the Constitution.

Click and get your FREE Copy of CURRENT AFFAIRS Micro Notes

Back to basics: Appointment & Tenure of Commissioners

  • The President has the power to select Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners.
  • They have tenure of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
  • They have the same status and receive pay and perks as available to Judges of the Supreme Court of India.
  • The Chief Election Commissioner can be removed from office only through accusation by Parliament.
  • Election commissioner or a regional commissioner shall not be removed from office except on the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner.

What are the issues regarding the appointment of the Election commissioners?

  • Flawed system of appointment of the Election Commissioners: They are appointed unilaterally by the government of the day.
  •  B. R. Ambedkar’s remark on tenure: Tenure B R Ambedkar’s statement to the Constituent Assembly “the tenure can’t be made a fixed and secure tenure if there is no provision in the Constitution to prevent a fool or a naive or a person who is likely to be under the thumb of the executive”
  • Uncertainty over the elevation: Uncertainty over the elevation of an Election Commissioner to the post of CEC, which makes them vulnerable to government pressure. They consider themselves on probation, always conscious of how their conduct is viewed by the government, which can exploit this fear. Since all three members have equal voting rights and all decisions in the commission are taken by the majority, the government can even control an independent-minded CEC through the majority voting power of the two Election Commissioners.

Election Commission

What are the demands for the appointment of EC’s?

  • Appointments through a broad-based consultation: There has been a demand for appointments through a broad-based consultation, including parliamentary scrutiny.
  • The Proposed mechanism: A collegium consisting of the Prime Minister, leader of the Opposition (LOP) and the Chief Justice of India (CJI).This system is already in operation for the appointment of the Central Vigilance Commissioner, Chief Information Commissioner and Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation.
  • The probable benefit of this mechanism: This will obviate the possibility of allegations against the incumbent of being partisan to the government. Opposition parties would not be able to raise a finger against the incumbent since the LOP would be a party to the selection.
  • Collegium system for appointing Election Commissioners: In its 255th Report, the Law Commission of India also recommended a collegium system for appointing Election Commissioners. Political stalwarts and many former CECs including BB Tandon, N Gopalaswami, TS Krishnamurthy supported the idea.
  • Extending protection to Election Commissioners: At present, only the CEC is protected from being removed (except through impeachment). One has to remember that the Constitution enabled protection for the CEC as it was initially a one-man Commission. Logically, this should have been extended to the other two Commissioners, who were added in 1993, as they collectively represent the ECI.

Memory shot: Constitutional Provisions in short

  • 324: Functions of EC and its composition.
  • 325: One general electoral roll and equality among the citizens.
  • 326: Adult suffrage.
  • 327: Power to Parliament: To make provisions with respect to elections to federal and State Legislatures.
  • 328: Power to State Legislature: To make laws with respect to elections to such legislature.
  • 329: Bars interference by courts in electoral matters. Notwithstanding anything said in the constitution i.e., validity of any law relating to the delimitation of constituencies or the allotment of seats to such constituencies shall not be called in question in any court.

Election Commission

Added Information: Conditions for filing an Election Petition

  • No election to either House of Parliament or either House of the Legislature of a State shall be called in question except by an election petition.
  • Any elector or candidate can file an election petition on grounds of malpractice during the election.
  • In respect of elections to the Parliament and State Legislatures, they can only be filed before the High Court.
  • In respect of elections for the offices of President and Vice President, such petitions can only be filed before the Supreme Court.

Conclusion

  • The recent questions raised about the ECI’s credibility are certainly worrisome. An ECI in office with the express consent of both the ruling and opposition parties is a great opportunity to convince the country and all the parties contesting the elections of its neutrality and impartiality.

Mains Question

Q. Election Commission of India, the most powerful in the world, is said to have the most flawed appointment system. What are the concerns and demands raised from time to time? Discuss

(Click) FREE1-to-1 on-call Mentorship by IAS-IPS officers | Discuss doubts, strategy, sources, and more

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Arun Goel appointed as Election Commissioner

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Election Commissioner, ECI

Mains level: NA

Former secretary of the Ministry of Heavy Industries Arun Goel has been appointed as the Election Commissioner.

About Election Commission of India (ECI)

  • The ECI is a constitutional body was established by the Constitution of India to conduct and regulate elections in the country.
  • Article 324 of the Constitution provides that the power of superintendence, direction, and control of elections.
  • The body administers elections to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, State Legislative Assemblies, State Legislative Councils and the offices of the President and Vice President of the country.
  • Thus, the Election Commission is an all-India body in the sense that it is common to both the Central government and the state governments.
  • The Election Commission operates under the authority of Constitution per Article 324 and subsequently enacted Representation of the People Act.

Composition of ECI

  • The ECI was established in 1950 and originally only had one Chief Election Commissioner.
  • Two additional Commissioners were appointed to the commission for the first time during the 1989 General Election, but they had a very short tenure, ending on 1 January 1990.
  • The Election Commissioners are assisted by Deputy Election Commissioners, who are generally IAS officers.
  • They are further assisted by Directors General, Principal Secretaries, and Secretaries and Under Secretaries.
  • At the state level, Election Commission is assisted by the Chief Electoral Officer of the State, who is an IAS officer of Principal Secretary rank.
  • At the district and constituency levels, the District Magistrates (in their capacity as District Election Officers), Electoral Registration Officers and Returning Officers perform election work.

Tenure

  • The tenure of election commissioners is not prescribed by Indian Constitution.
  • However, the Election Commission conduct of service Act, 1991 prescribes the term of service.
  • Chief Election Commissioner or an Election Commissioner shall hold office for a term of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier, from the date on which he/she assumes his/her office.

Removal from office

  • The Chief Election Commissioner of India can be represented removed from their office in a manner similar to the removal of a judge of the Supreme Court of India.
  • It requires a resolution passed by the Parliament of India a two-thirds majority in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha on the grounds of proved misbehaviour or incapacity.
  • Other Election Commissioners can be removed by the President of India on the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner.
  • A Chief Election Commissioner has never been impeached in India.

Recent incidence of criticisms of ECI

Ans. Partiality in Elections

  • Over the last couple of years, several actions and omissions of the commission have come in for criticism.
  • Nearly 66 former bureaucrats in a letter addressed to the President, expressed their concern over the working of the Election Commission.
  • They felt was suffering from a credibility crisis, citing various violations of the model code of conduct during the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections.

Importance of ECI for India

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

Issues with ECI

  • Flaws in the composition: The Constitution doesn’t prescribe qualifications for members of the EC. They are not debarred from future appointments after retiring or resigning.
  • No security of tenure: Election commissioners aren’t constitutionally protected with security of tenure.
  • Partisan role: The EC has come under the scanner like never before, with increasing incidents of breach of the Model Code of Conduct in the 2019 general elections.
  • Political favor: The opposition alleged that the ECI was favoring the ruling party by giving clean chit to the model code of conduct violations made by the PM.
  • Non-competence: Increased violence and electoral malpractices under influence of money have resulted in political criminalization, which ECI is unable to arrest.

 

Click and get your FREE Copy of CURRENT AFFAIRS Micro Notes

(Click) FREE1-to-1 on-call Mentorship by IAS-IPS officers | Discuss doubts, strategy, sources, and more

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Regulating the election funding system

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: ECI and its mandate,

Mains level: Issues with the electoral bonds and political parties funding mechanism

election

Context

  • Elections are to democracy what financial markets are to the economy. The absence of an omnibus law to regulate elections and political parties in India is a legislative gap waiting to be filled.

Significance of political parties in democracy

  • A political party is an organized group of citizens who hold common views on governance and act as a political unit that seeks to obtain control of government with a view to further the agenda and policy they profess.
  •  Political parties maintain a continuous connection between the people and those who represent them either in government or in the opposition.
  • Political parties in India are extra-constitutional, but they are the breathing air of the political system.

Current procedure of recognizing and regulating the political parties In India

  • Registration of political parties: The Representation of the People Act 1951 was amended in 1988 to add a new section IVA on “Registration of political parties” by which the Election Commission of India (ECI) exercises its mandate for superintendence, direction, and control of elections under Article 324 of the Constitution of India.
  • Recognition as national or state political party: Association of citizens can apply to the ECI to be registered by submitting its Memorandum of Association and swearing allegiance to the Constitution. It requires fulfilment of performance criteria, including a minimum share of the electoral votes cast in the last election and the number of seats won to become a recognized national or a state party.
  • A regulatory gap in Municipal political parties: Municipalities became the third level of government, three decades ago in 1992, through the 74thconstitutional amendment. But a parallel recognition for political parties operating only at the municipal level is yet to be conceptualized.

Mechanism of Election funding

  • Encouraging private corporates and individual investment: Indian government does not directly fund election campaigns of parties or independents. However, it has made political parties exempt from income tax, to encourage private corporate and individual investment in building political parties.
  • Limit on election campaign expenditure: The ECI set upper-end limits (January 2022) for election campaign expenditure in parliamentary seats at INR9.5 million and INR4 million in state legislature seats.

election

Electoral bonds to end large cash payments in election finance.

  • Scheme of electoral bonds:
  • A publicly owned commercial bank, with the largest network of branches is the only designated vendor.
  • Bonds remain valid for 15 days within which they can be encased through the bank account of the selected political party.
  • The purchaser-donor enjoys tax credits on the purchased bonds as in any other donation to charities.
  • Association of democratic records: The idea was to facilitate large donors, preferring anonymity whilst donating funds for elections, with an alternative to cash payments.

election

What is the cause of concerns over the electoral bonds?

  • Anonymity of the electoral bonds: The anonymity afforded by the bonds is primarily versus citizens.
  • Bond vendor is a government owned bank: SBI is a government-owned bank, which can be persuaded by the government into sharing data informally regarding the bond purchases and encashments by political parties

What can be done to ensure the security of the donor?

  • Bond Digitization: Bonds should be digitized and the privacy of the transfer should be protected through encryption.
  • Authorized access: Redemption is through banking the audit trail of the donor and the recipient would exist for authorized access.
  • Enhancing transparency with ECI: Transparency should be enhanced whilst protecting anonymity by authorizing ECI to collect and publish de-personalized information.
  • Personal data should be accessed with the specific orders only: Access for security and criminal investigation agencies to the personal data should come via a specific order of the ECI allowing such privileged access.

What are the suggestions for better governance of the political parties?

  • Strict Supervision of political parties: Poor Intra-party governance is concentrated in the Registered Unrecognize Political Parties (RUPP). Most are in breach of their undertaking to fight an election within five years and remain active thereafter.
  • Strengthen the Regulatory compliance: The benefit of income tax exemption should only be available after registered parties demonstrate a five-year record of compliance with the regulations.
  • Enforce inner-party democracy and avoiding conflict of interest: Making party members occupying party positions, ineligible for holding executive positions in government. This is necessary to create a complete segregation of functions within the ruling party and the government
  • Empower ECI to regulate political parties: The misuse of the fiscal privileges afforded to political parties can be minimized through targeted regulatory tweaks, within the existing construct of private financing and the inner functioning of parties improved through targeted regulation.

Conclusion

  • “Secrecy is a darkness where corruption gets nurtured”. Funding to the political parties need to be transparent. Transparent funding will pave the way for level playing field for all the political parties.

Mains Question

Q. What are the pitfalls of anonymous political funding through electoral bonds. Suggest solutions to ensure the transparent political funding.

(Click) FREE1-to-1 on-call Mentorship by IAS-IPS officers | Discuss doubts, strategy, sources, and more

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Mulling remote Voting facility for NRIs: Govt. tells SC

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NRI, OCI, PIO

Mains level: Voting rights issue

The Union government has said that it was considering ways to facilitate non-resident Indians (NRI) to cast their votes remotely while ensuring the integrity of the electoral process.

Who are the NRIs?

  • Overseas Indians, officially collectively known as Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI).
  • NRIs are Indian citizens who are not residents of India and OCI are people of Indian birth or ancestry who live outside and also are not the citizens of Republic of India.

Classification of Overseas Indians

(A) Non-Resident Indian (NRI)

  • Strictly asserting non-resident refers only to the tax status of a person who, as per section 6 of the Income-tax Act of 1961, has not resided in India for a specified period for the purposes of the Act.
  • The rates of income tax are different for persons who are “resident in India” and for NRIs.

(B) Person of Indian Origin (PIO)

Person of Indian Origin (PIO) means a foreign citizen (except a national of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, Iran, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and/or Nepal), who:

  • at any time held an Indian passport OR
  • either of their parents/grandparents/great-grandparents were born and permanently resident in India as defined in GoI Act, 1935 and other territories that became part of India thereafter provided neither was at any time a citizen of any of the aforesaid countries OR
  • is a spouse of a citizen of India or a PIO.

(C) Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI)

  • After multiple efforts by leaders across the Indian political spectrum, a pseudo-citizenship scheme was established, the “Overseas Citizenship of India”, commonly referred to as the OCI card.
  • The Constitution of India does not permit full dual citizenship.
  • The OCI card is effectively a long-term visa, with restrictions on voting rights and government jobs.

Why need remote Voting facility?

  • There had been several petitions to allow NRIs to vote through postal ballots.
  • Many migrant labourers often find it beyond their limited means to fly in just to cast their vote.
  • Allowing NRIs to vote from abroad might emerge as a decisive force in the country’s electoral politics.

 

Click and get your FREE copy of Current Affairs micro notes

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Election Commission can not breach Fundamental Rights

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: ECI

Mains level: Election Commission , Electoral reforms and related issues

Election

Context

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

Background

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

All you need to know about Election Commission of India

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

Importance of Election Commission of India

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

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

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

Election

What are the legal and constitutional provisions for a citizen?

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

Rulings of the supreme court on the matter of voting rights

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

Election

What does the Election Commission say over this new development?

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

Election

How to address the issue of less participation of voters?

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

Conclusion

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

Mains Question

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

UPSC 2023 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Untitled

Context

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

Background

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

All you need to know about Election Commission of India

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

Importance of Election Commission of India

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

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

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

What are the legal and constitutional provisions for a citizen?

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

Rulings of the supreme court on the matter of voting rights

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

What does the Election Commission say over this new development?

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

 How to address the issue of less participation of voters? 

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

Conclusion

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

Mains Question

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

UPSC 2023 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Will electoral bonds reveal the source of funds, SC asks Centre

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Electoral Bond

Mains level: Transparency in election funding

The Supreme Court has asked the government whether the electoral bonds system reveals the source of money pumped in to fund political parties even as the Centre maintained that the scheme is “absolutely transparent”.

What are Electoral Bonds?

  • Electoral bonds are banking instruments that can be purchased by any citizen or company to make donations to political parties, without the donor’s identity being disclosed.
  • It is like a promissory note that can be bought by any Indian citizen or company incorporated in India from select branches of State Bank of India.
  • The citizen or corporate can then donate the same to any eligible political party of his/her choice.
  • An individual or party will be allowed to purchase these bonds digitally or through cheque.

About the scheme

  • A citizen of India or a body incorporated in India will be eligible to purchase the bond
  • Such 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
  • 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
  • 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).
  • Donors who contribute less than ₹20,000 to political parties through purchase of electoral bonds need not provide their identity details, such as Permanent Account Number (PAN).

Objective of the scheme

  • Transparency in political funding: To ensure that the funds being collected by the political parties is accounted money or clean money.

Who can redeem such bonds?

  • The Electoral Bonds shall be encashed by an eligible Political Party only through a Bank account with the Authorized Bank.
  • 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 Lok Sabha or the State Legislative Assembly, shall be eligible to receive the Electoral Bonds.

Restrictions that are done away

  • Earlier, no foreign company could donate to any political party under the Companies Act
  • A firm could donate a maximum of 7.5 per cent of its average three year net profit as political donations according to Section 182 of the Companies Act.
  • As per the same section of the Act, companies had to disclose details of their political donations in their annual statement of accounts.
  • The government moved an amendment in the Finance Bill to ensure that this proviso would not be applicable to companies in case of electoral bonds.
  • Thus, Indian, foreign and even shell companies can now donate to political parties without having to inform anyone of the contribution.

Issues with the Scheme

  • Opaque funding: While the identity of the donor is captured, it is not revealed to the party or public. So transparency is not enhanced for the voter.
  • No IT break: Also income tax breaks may not be available for donations through electoral bonds. This pushes the donor to choose between remaining anonymous and saving on taxes.
  • No anonymity for donors: The privacy of the donor is compromised as the bank will know their identity.
  • Differential benefits: These bonds will help any party that is in power because the government can know who donated what money and to whom.
  • Unlimited donations: The electoral bonds scheme and amendments in the Finance Act of 2017 allows for “unlimited donations from individuals and foreign companies to political parties without any record of the sources of funding”.

Way ahead

  • The worries over the electoral bond scheme, however, go beyond its patent unconstitutionality.
  • The concern about the possibility of misuse of funds is very pertinent.
  • The EC has been demanding that a law be passed to make political parties liable to get their accounts audited by an auditor from a panel suggested by the CAG or EC. This should get prominence.
  • Another feasible option is to establish a National Election Fund to which all donations could be directed.
  • This would take care of the imaginary fear of political reprisal of the donors.

 

UPSC 2023 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

What is Model Code of Conduct?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: MCC

Mains level: Read the attached story

The Election Commission of India announced the date for Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections 2022.  Hence the model code of conduct comes into picture.

Model Code of Conduct

  • It is a set of guidelines issued by ECI to regulate political parties and candidates prior to elections.
  • The rules range from issues related to speeches, polling day, polling booths, portfolios, content of election manifestos, processions and general conduct, so that free and fair elections are conducted.

When does it come into effect?

  • According to the PIB, a version of the MCC was first introduced in the state assembly elections in Kerala in 1960.
  • It was largely followed by all parties in the 1962 elections and continued to be followed in subsequent general elections.
  • In October 1979, the EC added a section to regulate the ‘party in power’ and prevent it from gaining an unfair advantage at the time of elections.
  • The MCC comes into force from the date the election schedule is announced until the date that results are out.

Restrictions imposed under MCC

The MCC contains eight provisions dealing with general conduct, meetings, processions, polling day, polling booths, observers, the party in power, and election manifestos.

For Governments

  • As soon as the code kicks in, the party in power whether at the Centre or in the States should ensure that it does not use its official position for campaigning.
  • Hence, no policy, project or scheme can be announced that can influence the voting behaviour.
  • The code also states that the ministers must not combine official visits with election work or use official machinery for the same.
  • The ruling government cannot make any ad-hoc appointments in Government, Public Undertakings etc. which may influence the voters.
  • Political parties or candidates can be criticised based only on their work record and no caste and communal sentiments can be used to lure voters.

For Political Parties

  • The party must also avoid advertising at the cost of the public exchequer or using official mass media for publicity on achievements to improve chances of victory in the elections.
  • The ruling party also cannot use government transport or machinery for campaigning.
  • It should also ensure that public places such as maidans etc., for holding election meetings, and facilities like the use of helipads are provided to the opposition parties on the same terms and conditions on which they are used by the party in power.

Campaigning

  • Holding public meetings during the 48-hour period before the hour fixed for the closing of the poll is also prohibited.
  • The 48-hour period is known as “election silence”.
  • The idea is to allow a voter a campaign-free environment to reflect on events before casting her vote
  • The issue of advertisement at the cost of public exchequer in the newspapers and other media is also considered an offence.
  • Mosques, Churches, Temples or any other places of worship should not be used for election propaganda. Bribing, intimidating or impersonation of voters is also barred.

Is it legally binding?

  • The fact is the MCC evolved as part of the ECI’s drive to ensure free and fair elections and was the result of a consensus among major political parties.
  • It has no statutory backing. Simply put, this means anybody breaching the MCC can’t be proceeded against under any clause of the Code..
  • The EC uses moral sanction or censure for its enforcement.

What if violated?

  • The ECI can issue a notice to a politician or a party for alleged breach of the MCC either on its own or on the basis of a complaint by another party or individual.
  • Once a notice is issued, the person or party must reply in writing either accepting fault and tendering an unconditional apology or rebutting the allegation.
  • In the latter case, if the person or party is found guilty subsequently, he/it can attract a written censure from the ECI — something that many see as a mere slap on the wrist.
  • However, in extreme cases, like a candidate using money/liquor to influence votes or trying to divide voters in the name of religion or caste, the ECI can also order registration of a criminal case under IPC or IT Act.
  • In case of a hate speech, a complaint can be filed under the IPC and CrPC; there are laws against the misuse of a religious place for seeking votes, etc.

Using powers under Art. 324

  • The Commission rarely resorts to punitive action to enforce MCC, there is one recent example when unabated violations forced EC’s hand.
  • During the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the EC had banned a leader and now party president from campaigning in order to prevent them from further vitiating the poll atmosphere with their speeches.
  • The Commission resorted to its extraordinary powers under Article 324 of the Constitution to impose the ban.
  • It was only lifted once the leaders apologised and promised to operate within the Code.

What if given Statutory Backing?

  • Both the ECI and several independent experts, believe that giving statutory backing to the MCC would only make the job of the Commission more difficult.
  • This is because every alleged offence will then have to go to an appropriate court, and right up to the Supreme Court.
  • Given the flaws of our legal system, election petitions filed decades ago are still pending before many High Courts — it is anybody’s guess what that situation might lead to.

 

 

UPSC 2023 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Private: Freezing of Election Symbols

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Election symbols

Mains level: Not Much

In an interim order the Election Commission of India (ECI) froze the well-known ‘bow and arrow’ election symbol of a political party in Maharashtra.

What is the EC order?

In the operative part of its order, the ECI said that-

  1. Neither of the two groups shall be permitted to use the name of the party.
  2. Neither group shall be permitted to use the symbol ‘Bow & Arrow’.
  3. Both groups shall be known by such names as they may choose.

EC’s powers in Election Symbol Dispute

  • The question of a split in a political party outside the legislature is dealt by Para 15 of the Symbols Order, 1968.
  • It states that the Election Commission of India’s (ECI) may take into account all the available facts and circumstances and undertake a test of majority.
  • The decision of the ECI shall be binding on all such rival sections or groups emerged after the split.
  • This applies to disputes in recognized national and state parties.
  • For splits in registered but unrecognized parties, the EC usually advises the warring factions to resolve their differences internally or to approach the court.

How did the EC deal with such matters before the Symbols Order came into effect?

  • Before 1968, the EC issued notifications and executive orders under the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961.
  • The most high-profile split of a party before 1968 was that of the CPI in 1964.
  • A breakaway group approached the ECI in December 1964 urging it to recognize them as CPI(Marxist). They provided a list of MPs and MLAs of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and West Bengal who supported them.
  • The ECI recognized the faction as CPI(M) after it found that the votes secured by the MPs and MLAs supporting the breakaway group added up to more than 4% in the 3 states.

Options for ECI

  • The ECI in all likelihood can freeze the symbol so that neither of the two sides is able to use it until a final decision is made.
  • EC hearings are long and detailed and may take at least six months.

What was the first case decided under Para 15 of the 1968 Order?

  • It was the first split in the Indian National Congress in 1969.
  • Indira Gandhi’s tensions with a rival group within the party came to a head with the death of President Dr Zakir Hussain on May 3, 1969.

Is there a way other than the test of the majority to resolve a dispute over election symbols?

  • In almost all disputes decided by the EC so far, a clear majority of party delegates/office bearers, MPs and MLAs have supported one of the factions.
  • Whenever the EC could not test the strength of rival groups based on support within the party organization (because of disputes regarding the list of office bearers), it fell back on testing the majority only among elected MPs and MLAs.

What happens to the group that doesn’t get the parent party’s symbol?

  • The EC in 1997 did not recognize the new parties as either state or national parties.
  • It felt that merely having MPs and MLAs is not enough, as the elected representatives had fought and won polls on tickets of their parent (undivided) parties.
  • The EC introduced a new rule under which the splinter group of the party — other than the group that got the party symbol — had to register itself as a separate party.
  • It could lay claim to national or state party status only on the basis of its performance in the state or central elections after registration.

 

UPSC 2023 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Classifying Merit and Non merit Freebies

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Paper 2- Freebies issue

FreebieContext

  • The debate that began with an RBI 2022 report on state finances followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comment on revdi culture aka freebies, has garnered substantial attention so much so that the Supreme Court is hearing on this issue. Freebies have now assumed more importance than ever.

What are freebies?

  • Freebies could be defined as non-merit subsidies. The term Freebies is not new; rather it is a prevalent culture in Indian politics (in the name of socialism).
  • The political parties are always trying to outdo each other in luring the Indian voters with freebies.

What are Subsidies?

  • Subsidies are money transfers (implicit or explicit) by the government in an attempt to drive prices artificially below market prices.
  • As a National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP) study by Sudipto Mundle and Satadru Sirkar puts it, budget subsidies, in particular, are defined as the unrecovered cost of economic and social services.
  • However, all subsidies cannot be easily classified into merit or non-merit.

FreebieWhat are the objectives behind providing freebies?

  • Welfare state: It could be said that providing freebies empowers the state to, first, deliver welfare as a welfare state should, by providing subsidised merit goods like health and education;
  • Combating poverty: To help households combat poverty (especially in economically stressed times characterised by fewer job opportunities, lower incomes, high inflation, etc.) by providing subsidised public goods like food, electricity, etc.
  • Populist spending: To appeal to the electorate through outright populist spending.

Question of classification between a merit and a non-merit freebies?

  • Blur Boundary: The boundaries between the aforementioned objectives begin to blur when it comes to classifying one form of freebie as a merit or a non-merit subsidy.
  • Few examples: Are corporate tax cuts non-merit subsidies or a measure to boost investment? 2. Is making bus rides free for women in the national capital a non-merit subsidy or a way to boost women’s mobility and labour-force participation? 3. Are free laptops to students in Tamil Nadu not a way to bridge the digital divide in education?
  • Varying definition: The existing arguments develop an understanding that freebies cannot be defined in a finite context, and that the definition varies across space and economic conditions.

FreebieHow freebies impact revenue of the state?

  • Adverse impact on revenues: Regardless of which one gets classified as good or bad, freebies are simply expenditures or foregone revenues. Any freebie-induced debt burden could have an adverse effect on the state finances if, one, it hasn’t been properly accounted for through transparent budgeting procedures (including off-budget borrowings in debt calculations)
  • Increase in Fiscal deficit: Either way, they lead to an increase in fiscal deficit whose financing could necessitate taking on debt. It threatens fiscal sustainability, i e, it limits the state’s ability to service its debt-related commitments without making an unrealistic fiscal adjustment.
  • Lack of data leading to leakages: The targeting of beneficiaries to ease the burden on the exchequer is one way to check these expenditures but lack of data has forced a situation wherein leakages and duplication of beneficiaries is commonplace.
  • Jeopardises long-term growth and development: In the absence of adequate avenues of revenue mobilisation, any fiscal adjustment achieved by contracting critical expenditures on the social sector and capital formation further jeopardises long-term growth and development. The emanating risk of fiscal sustainability means a “revdi” today would take a toll on tomorrow’s generation.

What could be the solution?

  • Setting up an independent fiscal council: Setting up an independent fiscal council that has been recommended by the FRBM Review Committee (2017), and recently constituted Finance Commissions too, including the 15th Finance Commission.
  • Providing information and advisory: FRBM report says, the council will serve both an ex-ante role providing independent forecasts on key macro variables like real and nominal GDP growth, tax buoyancy, commodity prices as well as an ex-post monitoring role, and also serve as the institution to advise on triggering the escape clause and also specify a path of return.
  • Monitoring finance: Such a council should work for the union as well as the states. Monitoring of finances and fiscal rules could also help ensure that states comply with a medium-term fiscal policy framework, which has been long argued for by economists.

FreebieConclusion

  • Freebies cannot be defined easily, and constitutionally, any state government should be empowered to spend the way it wants, provided the fiscal policy is sustainable. The message from the freebies debate is to make informed economic decisions whilst attending to key development objectives.

Mains Question

Q. There is nothing wrong in having social security programme that aims to lift the poor get out of poverty and empower the vulnerable sections of the society. In this context, where do you see the goal of sustainable economic development? Comment.

UPSC 2023 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Maharashtra Election Symbols Issue

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Allocation of election symbols

Mains level: Read the attached story

In a blow to one faction, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court allowed the Election Commission (EC) to take a decision on the Maharashtra CM claim that his faction represents the “real” party.

What is the news?

  • The Bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud rejected the plea to stay the EC proceedings under the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order of 1968.

What is the news?

  • A party has lost a large number of members in the rebellion that eventually caused the fall of the government in Maharashtra.
  • The rebel has claimed to be the only original leader of the party on the basis of the support of more than two-thirds of the party’s legislators in the Maharashtra Assembly.

Options for ECI

  • The ECI in all likelihood can freeze the symbol so that neither of the two sides is able to use it until a final decision is made.
  • EC hearings are long and detailed, and may take at least six months.

EC’s powers in Election Symbol Dispute

  • The question of a split in a political party outside the legislature is dealt by Para 15 of the Symbols Order, 1968.
  • It states that the ECI may take into account all the available facts and circumstances and undertake a test of majority.
  • The decision of the ECI shall be binding on all such rival sections or groups emerged after the split.
  • This applies to disputes in recognised national and state parties.
  • For splits in registered but unrecognized parties, the EC usually advises the warring factions to resolve their differences internally or to approach the court.

How did the EC deal with such matters before the Symbols Order came into effect?

  • Before 1968, the EC issued notifications and executive orders under the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961.
  • The most high-profile split of a party before 1968 was that of the CPI in 1964.
  • A breakaway group approached the ECI in December 1964 urging it to recognise them as CPI(Marxist). They provided a list of MPs and MLAs of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and West Bengal who supported them.
  • The ECI recognised the faction as CPI(M) after it found that the votes secured by the MPs and MLAs supporting the breakaway group added up to more than 4% in the 3 states.

What was the first case decided under Para 15 of the 1968 Order?

  • It was the first split in the Indian National Congress in 1969.
  • Indira Gandhi’s tensions with a rival group within the party came to a head with the death of President Dr Zakir Hussain on May 3, 1969.

Is there a way other than the test of majority to resolve a dispute over election symbols?

  • In almost all disputes decided by the EC so far, a clear majority of party delegates/office bearers, MPs and MLAs have supported one of the factions.
  • Whenever the EC could not test the strength of rival groups based on support within the party organisation (because of disputes regarding the list of office bearers), it fell back on testing the majority only among elected MPs and MLAs.

What happens to the group that doesn’t get the parent party’s symbol?

  • The EC in 1997 did not recognise the new parties as either state or national parties.
  • It felt that merely having MPs and MLAs is not enough, as the elected representatives had fought and won polls on tickets of their parent (undivided) parties.
  • The EC introduced a new rule under which the splinter group of the party — other than the group that got the party symbol — had to register itself as a separate party.
  • It could lay claim to national or state party status only on the basis of its performance in the state or central elections after registration.

 

UPSC 2023 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Private: Revisiting the S. Subramaniam Balaji vs. Tamil Nadu Judgment

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: S. Subramaniam Balaji vs. Tamil Nadu Judgment

Mains level: Not Much

The Supreme Court has referred to a three-judge Bench a series of petitions seeking a judicial direction that political parties who make wild promises should also reveal in their poll manifestos where they will get the money to pay for them.

The reference is a shift from the court’s own stand in the S. Subramaniam Balaji vs Tamil Nadu judgment of 2013.

Hefty promises: A no lesser corrupt practice

  • In the Balaji case judgment, a Division Bench of the Supreme Court had held that making promises in election manifestos do not amount to a ‘corrupt practice’ under Section 123 of the Representation of People Act (RP).
  • However, the Supreme Court is now worried that freebies promised by political parties to win elections could bleed the public exchequer dry.
  • The Court said that parties who form the government riding the wave created by their pre-poll promises of free gifts are bleeding the State finances dry.
  • Parties actually try to fulfil their outlandish promises using public money.

The Supreme Court has therefore decided to revisit the Balaji verdict.

What triggered the Balaji case?

  • The course of events started in 2006, during the run-up to the Tamil Nadu Assembly elections.
  • A party released its election manifesto announcing a scheme of free distribution of colour television sets (CTVs) to each and every household if voted to power.
  • The party swept to power in the polls and decided to implement its scheme and portioned off ₹750 crore from the budget for the project.
  • The government finally distributed 30,000 TV sets across the State.
  • In 2011, the rival party also announced its election manifesto with free gifts to “equalise” the gifts offered.
  • It promised grinders, mixies, electric fans, laptop computers, four gram gold thalis, a cheque of ₹50,000 for women’s marriage, green houses, 20 kg of rice to ration card holders and free cattle and sheep.

The Balaji case

  • Balaji, a resident of Tamil Nadu, challenged the schemes introduced by the parties in the Madras High Court.
  • He said that the expenditure was incurred by the State from the exchequer.
  • This was “unauthorised, impermissible and ultra vires the constitutional mandates”.
  • The High Court dismissed his case, following which he had moved the apex court.

How did the case play out?

  • Balaji argued that the State cannot act in furtherance of “eccentric principles of socialistic philanthropy”.
  • He argued that the promises of free distribution of non-essential commodities in an election manifesto amounts to electoral bribe under Section 123 of the RP Act.
  • Money can be taken out of the Consolidated Fund of the State only for “public purposes”.
  • The distribution of goods to certain sections of people was violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.

Argument provided against the Balaji Case

  • In response, the State of Tamil Nadu countered that promises do not constitute corrupt practice.
  • Political parties are not the State and ‘freebies’ is a nebulous term which has no legal status.
  • The promises implemented by the party after forming the government is an obligation under the Directives Principles of State Policy.
  • The State is only doing its duty to promote the welfare of its people.
  • The promises are implemented by framing various schemes/guidelines/eligibility criteria etc. as well as with the approval of the legislature.
  • Thus, it cannot be construed as a waste of public money or be prohibited by any statute or scheme.

Outcome of the Judgement

  • The court’s judgment held that promises by a political party cannot constitute a ‘corrupt practice’ on its part.
  • It would be “misleading” to generalize that all promises in the election manifesto would amount to corrupt practice.
  • The manifesto is a statement of the policy for a political party.
  • The question of implementing the manifesto arises only if the political party forms a government.
  • It is the promise of a future government and not of an individual candidate.

Scope for revisiting the judgment

  • The court agreed that freebies create an “uneven playing field”.
  • It had asked the Election Commission of India to consult political parties and issue guidelines on the election manifesto and make it a part of the Model Code of Conduct.

Why is the Court’s move to review the Balaji judgment significant?

  • In its order, the court foresees that “freebies may create a situation wherein the State governments cannot provide basic amenities due to lack of funds and the State is pushed towards imminent bankruptcy”.
  • The court said it wants a transparent debate before the three-judge Bench on whether an “enforceable” judicial order can stop political parties from promising and distributing ‘irrational freebies’.
  • The case is unique as the Supreme Court is exploring whether judicial parameters can be set on a purely political act of promising freebies.

 

UPSC 2023 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Intra party elections

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: election commission of india

Mains level: electoral reforms

Intra party electionContext

  • Congress party has issued a notification for the party’s presidential election hinting towards intra party election.
  • As per the official notification, party leaders can file nominations from 24 September to 30 September. The voting will be held on 17 October and the results will be declared on 19 October.

What are the elections?

  • An election is a way people can choose their representatives of their preferences in a representative democracy. Elections enable people to judge the performance of the government.

Why they are important?

  • Elections give people a chance to evaluate their leaders, chance to change the government.
  • Elections help the people in the selection of their representatives and it provides law making power directly to the people.
  • Elections make a fundamental contribution to democratic governance.

Intra party electionWhat is mean by Intra party elections?

  • It is a mechanism to choose the candidates for various posts of the political through a democratic process, it’s a mandate given by the members of the party itself.
  • The intra-party election is a fundamental indicator to explore the authenticity of democratization and decentralization of political parties.

Why elections are necessary within the political parties?

  • Internal debates: During intra party elections there would be contests between leaders. There will be debate, discussions some criticism, and differences of opinion. There should be a dialogue between the leaders, members and volunteers
  • Democratic culture: Political parties don’t have to be homogeneous in terms of both ideas and leadership. Political parties are aggregations of interests yet Party workers should not feel they are being ignored, that their efforts are not appreciated or not going in vain under the shadow of a leader came from the family lines.
  • Political career: Having these internal elections, meetings and contests of ideas is important.  Internal election is a key for upward mobility. It gives better understanding of the party’s idea, culture and the work process.
  • High command culture: High command culture is what we are witnessing today in India and South Asia is problematic for democracy, where all political parties are centralized. The few members at the helm are controlling even the smallest decisions about what party should do. Members are not able to express freely their personal views.
  • Feudalism: They are family-controlled parties, and dynastic politics has become a norm. Won’t be able to name more than three or four political parties which have survived 30 years in Indian politics and are today not controlled by apolitical family.
  • Favoritism: where you can only rise up the ranks in the system depending on the relationship you share with the first family of that party. Irrespective of difference of opinions with the top leaders of the party, the upward mobility majorly depends on the relationship.

Intra party electionWhat is a Legal framework for election?

There is no law for intra-party elections as of now.

  • Seshan effect: When T.N. Seshan was at the helm of the Election Commission of India (ECI); by an executive order political parties were ordered to conduct intra party elections. And because Seshan was a much respected and feared person, political parties complied with it. Since then, elections are held periodically in every recognized party.
  • What Constitution says: Article 324 says free and fair elections to parliament, state assemblies, president and vice-president. It doesn’t say anything about political party or election within.
  • What Courts argue: The courts have made an observation that nothing in Article 324 of the Constitution, or Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 tells us that the ECI can actually regulate internal structures, organizations or elections of the party. Which is why parties, on the left or right, have not been conducting internal elections as we want them to conduct them

Worldwide practice

  • USA: In the U.S. election, the selection of the candidate to be the presidential nominee is done via debate, in which the contenders condemn and criticize each other.
  • UK: In the U.K. Democracy should be at every level, and political parties are an essential pillar of democracy. Intra party election happens to choose the leader of party.

What is state funding of election?

  • It is an idea where state or Government of India provides funding to political parties according to their electoral performance.
  • As of today, state does provide land at concessional rate, free air time on national television but today political parties do not come under RTI. Hence some suggest state funding of elections to regulate the behavior of political parties.

What is the Role of Election Commission in organizational election of political parties?

  • The ECI does insist on organizational elections, but only gently. They do go through the process.
  • Election can happen only if there are two or more candidates in the fray. Getting elected unopposed is also a valid election. It is not just within the political parties, we have

Seen it in panchayat elections and sometimes even in Lok Sabha and State Assembly elections that candidates have got elected unopposed.

Intra party electionHow to fix the accountability of the political parties?

  • ECI re-interpreting the existing laws, as happened in the 1990s. ECI has to imagine its role as a regulator of these political parties and in some ways. They have to try out milder options.
  • Political parties are required to hold organizational elections regularly. The parties are required to inform the ECI about changes in their office-bearers.
  • They are required to submit a document of expenditure incurred during elections and in the non-election periods. But there is no cost attached to non-compliance.
  • Expert suggests state funding of election would ensure the accountability of parties as it will bring parties under ambit of RTI and voters can seek the expenditure report from parties. Election commission can also penalize party for non-compliance.

Conclusion

  • Election for a gram panchayat or presidential it is always a booster for democracy. Intraparty elections are beneficial for party, contesting individual and country at large, it culminates into emergence of quality leadership which in turn a boon for good governance.

Mains Question

Q. Intra party elections are essential feature of healthy democracy. Discuss the role of election commission, the courts and the political parties for the healthy functioning of intra party democracy.

Do follow

Internal democracy in political parties

UPSC 2023 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

 

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Donations to recognised Political Parties come under EC lens

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Issues with Political Funding

The Election Commission’s ongoing drive to clean up the electoral space has now gone beyond RUPPs (registered unrecognised political parties) to cover recognised national and State parties.

What is Political Funding?

  • Political Funding implies the methods that political parties use to raise funds to finance their campaign and routine activities.
  • A political party needs money to pitch itself, its objectives, and its intended actions to get votes for itself. (Reference)

Why need political funding?

  • Across the world, political parties need access to money in order to reach out to the electorate, explain their policies and receive inputs from people.
  • And in order to do the same, parties resort to political party funding.

Generally who makes these funding?

  • Individuals: One of the primary sources of this funding is voluntary contributions made by individuals.
  • Corporates: Besides this, corporates pay hefty donations to parties in different forms.
  • Foreign aid: This is yet another source but highly controversial.

Statutory Provisions

  • Section 29B of the Representation of the People Act (RPA) entitles parties to accept voluntary contributions by any person or company, except a Government Company.
  • Section 29C of the RPA mandates political parties to declare donations that exceed 20,000 rupees. Such a declaration is made by making a report and submitting the same to the EC. Failure to do so on time disentitles a party from tax relief under the Income Tax Act, 1961.

Methods used by Indian Political Parties

  1. Individual Persons: Section 29B of RPA allows political parties to receive donations from individual persons.

 

  1. State/Public Funding: Here, the government provides funds to parties for election related purposes. State Funding is of two types:
  • Direct Funding: The government provides funds directly to the political parties. Direct funding by tax is prohibited in India.
  • Indirect Funding: It includes other methods except direct funding, like free access to media, free access to public places for rallies, free or subsidized transport facilities. It is allowed in India in a regulated manner.

 

  1. Corporate Funding: In India, donations by corporate bodies are governed under the Companies Act, 2013. Section 182 of the Act provides that:
  • A company needs to be at least three years old to be able to donate to a political party.
  • Companies can donate up to 7.5% of average net profits made during three simultaneous preceding financial years. (Now removed after Finance Act, 2017)
  • Such contributions must be disclosed in the company’s profit and loss account. (Removed)

 

  1. Electoral Trusts: A non-profit company created in India for orderly receipt of voluntary contributions from any person like an individual or a domestic company.
  • According to the Election Commission Guidelines, all electoral trusts formed after January 2013 are required to declare details of the money received and disbursed.
  • The Central Government rules mandate these firms to donate 95% of their total income to registered political parties in a financial year.

Issues with Political Funding

  • Money laundering: One of the biggest disadvantages of the corporate funding is the use of fake companies to route black money.
  • Influence of contributor: Influence of people and companies over political parties to which they provide funds.
  • Election malpractices: There are various gaps in Indian rules, the benefit of which political parties take to avoid any kind of reporting.
  • Money politics: Hidden sources of funding lead to more spending of funds in election campaigns, thus impacting the economy of the country.

Recent steps taken

  • FCRA Reforms: In March, 2018, the government passed a key amendment to the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010 allowing foreign companies to fund political parties in India.
  • Electoral Bonds Schemes: The government notified the Electoral Bond Scheme on 2nd January, 2018 to establish and cleanse the system of political funding in the country.

What is Electoral Bond Scheme?

  • An electoral bond is a bearer instrument like a Promissory Note.
  • It can be purchased by any citizen of India or a body incorporated in India to donate to the political party of their choice.
  • Donor’s name is not there on the bond.
  • These bonds can be used for making donations to the political parties registered under Section 29A of the RP Act, 1951.
  • The party should have secured not less than one per cent of the votes polled in the last general election to the Lok Sabha or a Legislative Assembly.

Issues with the scheme

  • Opaque funding: While the identity of the donor is captured, it is not revealed to the party or public. So transparency is not enhanced for the voter.
  • No IT break: Also income tax breaks may not be available for donations through electoral bonds. This pushes the donor to choose between remaining anonymous and saving on taxes.
  • No anonymity for donors: The privacy of the donor is compromised as the bank will know their identity.
  • Differential benefits: These bonds will help any party that is in power because the government can know who donated what money and to whom.

Way forward

Former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi has suggested an alternative worth exploring:

  • A National Electoral Fund to which all donors can contribute.
  • The funds would be allocated to political parties in proportion to the votes they get.
  • Not only would this protect the identity of donors, it would also weed out black money from political funding.
  • There can be a tax benefit for those who donate to the fund.

 

Try this question from our AWE Initiative

Q.2) Examine the issues with political funding in India. How far has the introduction of electoral bonds succeeded in dealing with the issues with political funding? (10 marks)

 

UPSC 2023 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Vacant offices, unaware office-bearers: curious case of delisted parties

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Registration and de-registration of Political Parties, RP Act

Mains level: Read the attached story

The EC has been on a mission to clean up the list of registered unrecognized political parties, deleting 284 since May for either being untraceable during a physical check or not responding to communications.

Why de-list political parties?

  • The news highlights the tale of a Bharatiya xyz Party.
  • Its registered address, the ground floor of a Delhi Development Authority flat, has been home to a family since they purchased the house in 2008.

When is a party de-registered?

  • The EC’s recent order has highlighted that a party must contest an election within five years of its registration, and should continue to contest thereafter.
  • If the party does not contest elections continuously for six years, the party shall be taken off the list of registered parties.

Registering a Political Party

  • The registration of all political parties is governed by the provisions of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
  • According to the Election Commission (EC), any party seeking registration has to submit an application to the Commission within a period of 30 days.
  • This is done as per guidelines prescribed by the EC in exercise of the powers conferred by Article 324 of the Constitution and Section 29A of the RP Act, 1951.

Note: There is no procedure available for de-registration of dormant political parties.

Process of registration

  • The applicant is asked to publish a proposed party name in two national daily newspapers and two local daily newspapers, and provide two days for submitting objections, if any.
  • The notice for publication is also displayed on the website of the Election Commission.

Why registering with the EC is important?

  • It is not mandatory to register with the Election Commission.
  • However, registering as a political party with the EC has its advantage in terms of intending to avail itself of the provisions of the RP Act, 1951.
  • The candidates set up by a political party registered with the EC will get preference in the matter of allotment of free symbols vis-à-vis purely independent candidates.
  • More importantly, these registered political parties, over course of time, can get expanded recognition as a ‘state party’ or a ‘national party’.

How EC recognises a political party as a state or national party?

For recognition as a NATIONAL PARTY, the conditions specified are:

  1. a 6% vote share in the last Assembly polls in each of any four states, as well as four seats in the last Lok Sabha polls; or
  2. 2% of all Lok Sabha seats in the last such election, with MPs elected from at least three states; or
  3. recognition as a state party in at least four states.

For recognition as a STATE PARTY, any one of five conditions needs to be satisfied:

  1. two seats plus a 6% vote share in the last Assembly election in that state; or
  2. one seat plus a 6% vote share in the last Lok Sabha election from that state; or
  3. 3% of the total Assembly seats or 3 seats, whichever is more; or
  4. one of every 25 Lok Sabha seats (or an equivalent fraction) from a state; or
  5. an 8% state-wide vote share in either the last Lok Sabha or the last Assembly polls.

Benefits for recognized parties

  • This is subject to the fulfilment of the conditions prescribed by the Commission in the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.

(a) Reserved Sybol

  • If a party is recognised as a ‘state party’, it is entitled for exclusive allotment of its reserved symbol to the candidates set up by it in the state in which it is so recognised.
  • If a party is recognised as a ‘national party’ it is entitled for exclusive allotment of its reserved symbol to the candidates set up by it throughout India.

(b) Proposer for nomination

  • Recognised ‘state’ and ‘national’ parties need only one proposer for filing the nomination.

(c) Campaigning benefits

  • They are also entitled for two sets of electoral rolls free of cost and broadcast/telecast facilities over state-owned Akashvani/Doordarshan during the general elections.

UPSC 2023 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Three-judge bench to review SC Verdict on Poll Promises

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Lofty poll promises and election freebies

The Supreme Court has decided to reconsider a 2013 judgment on Poll Promises, which held that promises in the election manifesto do not constitute a “corrupt practice” under the law.

What is the news?

  • A Bench led by the CJI, Ramana, ordered a three-judge Bench to be set up to review the court’s earlier position.

Subramaniam Balaji Judgment: Invalidating certain Poll Promises

  • It was held that pre-poll promises made by political parties to entice voters do not fall within the ambit of Section 123 (corrupt practices) under the Representation of the People (RP) Act.
  • The judgment, delivered by a two-judge Bench, had observed that although the law is obvious that the promises in the election manifesto cannot be construed as ‘corrupt practice’ under Section 123 of RP Act.
  • The reality cannot be ruled out that distribution of freebies of any kind, undoubtedly, influences all people.

Why revisit this judgment?

  • Rationale of the freebie: Now the CJI has said the three-judge Bench should consider whether an enforceable order can be passed to stop political parties in power from promising and distributing “irrational freebies”.
  • Freebie vs. Welfare schemes: He opined that such freebies are completely divorced from actual welfare schemes, using public money in order to merely “capture vote banks”.
  • Prevent bankruptcy: Freebies may create a situation wherein the State government cannot provide basic amenities due to lack of funds and the State is pushed towards imminent bankruptcy.
  • Expert review: The new Bench would also deliberate if an expert body can be formed to independently study and make recommendations against the distribution of largesse at the cost of the national economy and public welfare.

What amounts to Freebie?

  • The term Freebies is not new; rather it is a prevalent culture in Indian politics (in the name of socialism).
  • The political parties are always trying to outdo each other in luring the Indian voters with assorted freebies.
  • From free water to free smartphones the Indian politicians promise everything to attract prospective voters in favour.
  • This trend has gained more momentum in the recent times with the political parties being innovative in their offerings as the ‘traditional free water and electricity’ is no longer sufficient as election goodies.

Examples of freebies

  1. Promise of Rs 15 lakh in our bank accounts
  2. Free TV, Laptops
  3. Free electricity
  4. Loan waivers
  5. Offering free public transport ride to all women in Delhi

Why are such policies popular among the public?

  • Failure of economic policies: The answer lies in the utter failure of our economic policies to create decent livelihood for a vast majority of Indians.
  • Quest for decent livelihood: The already low income had to be reoriented towards spending a disproportionately higher amount on education and health, from which, the state increasingly withdrew.
  • Prevailing unemployment:  Employment surveys have shown that employment growth initially slowed down from the 1990s, and then has turned negative over the past few years.
  • Increased cost of living: Real income growth of the marginal sections has actually slowed down since 1991 reforms.
  • Increased consumerism: The poor today also spend on things which appear to be luxuries; cellphones and data-packs are two such examples which are shown as signs of India’s increased affluence.
  • Necessity: For migrant workers, the mobile phone helps them keep in touch with their families back home, or do a quick video-call to see how their infant is learning to sit up or crawl.

Can Freebies be compared with Welfare Politics?

  • These freebies are not bad. It is a part of social welfare.
  • Using freebies to lure voters is not good.
  • Voter’s greediness may lead to a problem in choosing a good leader.
  • When we don’t have a good leader then democracy will be a mockery.

Impact of such policies

  • Never ending trail: The continuity of freebies is another major disadvantage as parties keep on coming up with lucrative offers to lure more number of votes to minimize the risk of losing in the elections.
  • Burden on exchequer: People forget that such benefits are been given at the cost of exchequer and from the tax paid.
  • Ultimate loss of poors: The politicians and middlemen wipe away the benefits and the poor have to suffer as they are deprived from their share of benefits which was to be achieved out of the money.
  • Inflationary practice: Such distribution freebie commodity largely disrupts demand-supply dynamics.
  • Lethargy in population: Freebies actually have the tendency to turn the nation’s population into: Lethargy and devoid of entrepreneurship.
  • Money becomes only remedy: Everyone at the slightest sign of distress starts demanding some kind of freebies from the Govt.
  • Popular politics: This is psychology driving sections of the population expecting and the government promptly responds with immediate monetary relief or compensation.

What cannot be accounted to a freebie?

  • MGNREGA scheme (rural employment guarantee scheme)
  • Right to Education (RTE)
  • Food Security through fair price shops ( under National Food Security Act)
  • Prime Minister Kisan Samman Yojana (PM-KISAN)

Arguments in favour

  • Social investment: Aid to the poor is seen as a wasteful expenditure. But low interest rates for corporates to get cheap loans or the ‘sop’ of cutting corporate taxes are never criticized.
  • Socialistic policy: This attitude comes from decades of operating within the dominant discourse of market capitalism.
  • Election manifesto: Proponents of such policies would argue that poll promises are essential for voters to know what the party would do if it comes to power and have the chance to weigh options.
  • Welfare: Economists opine that as long as any State has the capacity and ability to finance freebies then its fine; if not then freebies are the burden on economy.
  • Other wasteful expenditure: When the Centre gives incentives like free land to big companies and announce multi-year tax holidays, questions are not asked as to where the money will come from.

Conclusion

  • There is nothing wrong in having a policy-led elaborate social security programme that seeks to help the poor get out of poverty.
  • But such a programme needs well thought out preparation and cannot be conjured up just before an election.

 

Also read:

[Sansad TV] Mudda Aapla: Culture of Freebies

 

 

UPSC 2023 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Jharkhand CM may face disqualification

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Office of Profit

Mains level: Read the attached story

Jharkhand CM’s chair remains uncertain as the Election Commission (EC) is understood to have conveyed its decision in an office-of-profit complaint against him to the Governor.

Why in news?

  • Under Section 9A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, the CM could face disqualification for entering into a government contract.
  • The Constitution of India does not define the Office of Profit. It has only mentioned it under Article 102 (1) and Article 191 (1).

What is Office of Profit?

  • MPs and MLAs, as members of the legislature, hold the government accountable for its work.
  • The essence of disqualification is if legislators hold an ‘office of profit’ under the government, they might be susceptible to government influence, and may not discharge their constitutional mandate fairly.
  • The intent is that there should be no conflict between the duties and interests of an elected member.
  • Hence, the office of profit law simply seeks to enforce a basic feature of the Constitution- the principle of separation of power between the legislature and the executive.

What governs the term?

  • At present, the Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Act, 1959, bars an MP, MLA or an MLC from holding any office of profit under the central or state government unless it is exempted.
  • However, it does not clearly define what constitutes an office of profit.
  • Legislators can face disqualification for holding such positions, which bring them financial or other benefits.
  • Under the provisions of Article 102 (1) and Article 191 (1) of the Constitution, an MP or an MLA (or an MLC) is barred from holding any office of profit under the Central or State government.

An undefined term

  • The officials of the law ministry are of the view that defining an office of profit could lead to the filing of a number of cases with the Election Commission and the courts.
  • Also, once the definition is changed, one will also have to amend various provisions in the Constitution including Article 102 (1) (a) and Article 109 (1) (a) that deal with the office of profit.
  • It will have an overarching effect on all the other sections of the Constitution.

Factors constituting an ‘office of profit’

  • The 1959 law does not clearly define what constitutes an office of profit but the definition has evolved over the years with interpretations made in various court judgments.
  • An office of profit has been interpreted to be a position that brings to the office-holder some financial gain, or advantage, or benefit. The amount of such profit is immaterial.
  • In 1964, the Supreme Court ruled that the test for determining whether a person holds an office of profit is the test of appointment.

What is the ‘test of appointment’?

Several factors are considered in this determination including factors such as:

  1. whether the government is the appointing authority,
  2. whether the government has the power to terminate the appointment,
  3. whether the government determines the remuneration,
  4. what is the source of remuneration, and
  5. the power that comes with the position.

 

UPSC 2023 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

SC to take up plea to ban convicts from polls for life

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Decriminalization of Politics

The Supreme Court has said that it would consider a plea seeking a lifetime ban on people convicted of offenses from contesting elections and becoming MPs and MLAs.

Why such petition?

  • The petition has made a very logical argument that even a constable can lose his job after conviction for corruption.
  • The Centre maintained affirmation on the existing (namesake) bar of disqualification was enough for legislators.
  • The disqualification under the Representation of the People Act of 1951 is the period of prison sentence and six years thereafter.

What did the Centre argue against lifetime ban?

  • In 2017, the ECI endorsed the call for a life ban in the top court. This was a boost for the cause of decriminalisation of politics.
  • In Dec 2020, the Centre rejected the idea of a lifetime ban on convicted persons contesting elections or forming or becoming an office-bearer of a political party.
  • It had reasoned that MPs and MLAs were not bound by specific “service conditions”.
  • They are bound by their oath to serve citizens and country along with propriety, good conscience and interest of the nation.

Criminalization of politics: Indian Case

  • The criminalization of politics has become a headache for the Indian democracy and it is a harsh reality now.
  • Criminalization of politics in India includes political control of the police, state money, corruption, weak laws, lack of ethics, values, vote bank politics and loopholes in the function of the election commission.
  • Deep down, it’s a large nexus of police, money, corrupt bureaucracy, casteism, religion and the drawbacks of functioning in the election commission.

Why are tainted candidates inducted by political parties?

  • Innocent until proven guilty maxim: The other reason offered by political parties is summarised by the maxim of Indian law, which is that any accused is innocent until proven guilty.
  • Popularity: Such candidates with serious records seem to do well despite their public image, largely due to their ability to finance their own elections and bring substantive resources to their respective parties.
  • Prospected victory: The logic of a candidate with criminal charges doing better for the cause of people of is another flawed argument.
  • Destabilizing other electors: Others do not seek to punish these candidates in instances where they are in contest with other candidates with similar records.
  • Vested interests: Some voters tend to view such candidates through a narrow prism: of being able to represent their interests by hook or by crook.

A harsh reality of Political Asylum

  • The NN Vohra committee’s report on the criminalization of politics discussed how criminal gangs flourish under the care and protection of politicians.
  • Many times the candidates themselves are the gang leaders.
  • This protection is paid back to them during elections through capital investment in election spending and voter support.

Issues with Criminals in Politics

  • Morality of the process: It is extremely important that the people who enter the field of politics have a clear image and high moral character.
  • No rule of law: A leader with criminal character undoubtedly tends to undermine the rule of law.
  • Violation of right to equality: There were 4.78 lakh prisoners (as of December 2019) of whom 3.30 lakh were under trial, i.e. not yet proven guilty.
  • Problem of undertrial: An “innocent” undertrial cannot vote, but a man chargesheeted for murder can even contest election from jail.

Supreme Courts guidelines in this regard

The Supreme Court earlier in Feb 2020 had ordered political parties to publish the entire criminal history of their candidates for Assembly and Lok Sabha elections.

  • Reasons for nomination: It has also asked for the reasons that goaded them to field suspected criminals over decent people.
  • Publication of records: The information should be published in a local as well as a national newspaper as well as the parties’ social media handles.
  • 48hr time frame: It should mandatorily be published either within 48 hours of the selection of candidates or less than two weeks before the first date for filing of nominations, whichever is earlier.
  • Contempt for non-compliance: It also ordered political parties to submit compliance reports with the Election Commission of India within 72 hours or risk contempt of court action.
  • No escape: The judgment is applicable to parties both at Central and State levels.

Immediate Reason for Judicial Action

  • The immediate provocation is the finding that 46% of MPs have criminal records.
  • The number might be inflated as many politicians tend to be charged with relatively minor offences —“unlawful assembly” and “defamation”.
  • The real worry is that the current cohort of Lok Sabha MPs has the highest (29%) proportion of those with serious declared criminal cases compared to its recent predecessors.

Way forward

(1) ECI suggestion on vendetta politics

The ECI has suggested some safeguards against vendetta politics.

  • First, only offences that carry an imprisonment of at least 5 years are to be considered.
  • The case against the candidate should have been filed at least six months before the scheduled elections for it to be considered.
  • And finally, a competent court must have framed the charges.

(2) Speedy trials

  • An alternative solution would be to try cases against political candidates in fast-track courts.
  • The SC had sent a directive in 2014, directing that cases against political candidates must be completed within a year, failing which the matter should be reported to the CJs.

(3) Legislative reforms

  • We must have a law which debars persons with serious criminal cases from entering the assemblies and the Parliament.
  • There must be stringent criteria in Representation of Peoples Act as well.

(4) Revamping Criminal Justice System

  • The criminal justice system must be revamped as recommended by the Malimath Committee.
  • An institution comprising representatives of the police/CBI/NIA, IB, IT department, Revenue Intelligence and Enforcement Directorate should be set up to monitor the activities of the mafia and criminal syndicates in the country.

 

 

UPSC 2023 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

SC calls for a panel to inquire Freebies Issue

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Cost of election freebies

The Supreme Court has said that Parliament may not be able to effectively debate the issue of doing away with “irrational freebies” offered to voters during elections, saying the “reality” is that not a single political party wants to take away freebies.

Why in news?

  • The freebies were paving the way for an “economic disaster” besides “distorting the informed decision of voters”, CJI said.

What did the CJI say?

Ans. Compose a non-partisan panel

  • The court suggested setting up a specialized body composed of persons who can “dispassionately” examine the problem.
  • The court directed the parties to make “suggestions for the composition of a body”.
  • It proposed that this body could examine ways to resolve the issue of freebies and file a report before the Centre or the Election Commission of India (ECI).
  • The court said once the parties come up with suggestions on the composition of such a body in a week, it would pass orders.

What is Freebie?

  • The term Freebies is not new; rather it is a prevalent culture in Indian politics (in the name of socialism).
  • The political parties are always trying to outdo each other in luring the Indian voters with assorted freebies.
  • From free water to free smartphones the Indian politicians promise everything to attract prospective voters in favour.
  • This trend has gained more momentum in the recent times with the political parties being innovative in their offerings as the ‘traditional free water and electricity’ is no longer sufficient as election goodies.

Examples of freebies

  1. Promise of Rs 15 lakh in our bank accounts
  2. Free TV, Laptops
  3. Free electricity
  4. Loan waivers
  5. Offering free public transport ride to all women in Delhi

Why are such policies popular among the public?

  • Failure of economic policies: The answer lies in the utter failure of our economic policies to create decent livelihood for a vast majority of Indians.
  • Quest for decent livelihood: The already low income had to be reoriented towards spending a disproportionately higher amount on education and health, from which, the state increasingly withdrew.
  • Prevailing unemployment:  Employment surveys have shown that employment growth initially slowed down from the 1990s, and then has turned negative over the past few years.
  • Increased cost of living: Real income growth of the marginal sections has actually slowed down since 1991 reforms.
  • Increased consumerism: The poor today also spend on things that appear to be luxuries; cellphones and data-packs are two such examples which are shown as signs of India’s increased affluence.
  • Necessity: For migrant workers, the mobile phone helps them keep in touch with their families back home, or do a quick video-call to see how their infant is learning to sit up or crawl.

Can Freebies be compared with Welfare Politics?

  • These freebies are not bad. It is a part of social welfare.
  • Using freebies to lure voters is not good.
  • Voter’s greediness may lead to a problem in choosing a good leader.
  • When we don’t have a good leader then democracy will be a mockery.

Impact of such policies

  • Never ending trail: The continuity of freebies is another major disadvantage as parties keep on coming up with lucrative offers to lure more number of votes to minimize the risk of losing in the elections.
  • Burden on exchequer: People forget that such benefits are been given at the cost of exchequer and from the tax paid.
  • Ultimate loss of poors: The politicians and middlemen wipe away the benefits and the poor have to suffer as they are deprived from their share of benefits which was to be achieved out of the money.
  • Inflationary practice: Such distribution freebie commodity largely disrupts demand-supply dynamics.
  • Lethargy in population: Freebies actually have the tendency to turn the nation’s population into: Lethargy and devoid of entrepreneurship.
  • Money becomes only remedy: Everyone at the slightest sign of distress starts demanding some kind of freebies from the Govt.
  • Popular politics: This is psychology driving sections of the population expecting and the government promptly responds with immediate monetary relief or compensation.

What cannot be accounted to a freebie?

  • MGNREGA scheme (rural employment guarantee scheme)
  • Right to Education (RTE)
  • Food Security through fair price shops ( under National Food Security Act)
  • Prime Minister Kisan Samman Yojana (PM-KISAN)

Arguments in favour

  • Social investment: Aid to the poor is seen as a wasteful expenditure. But low interest rates for corporates to get cheap loans or the ‘sop’ of cutting corporate taxes are never criticized.
  • Socialistic policy: This attitude comes from decades of operating within the dominant discourse of market capitalism.
  • Election manifesto: Proponents of such policies would argue that poll promises are essential for voters to know what the party would do if it comes to power and have the chance to weigh options.
  • Welfare: Economists opine that as long as any State has the capacity and ability to finance freebies then its fine; if not then freebies are the burden on economy.
  • Other wasteful expenditure: When the Centre gives incentives like free land to big companies and announce multi-year tax holidays, questions are not asked as to where the money will come from.

A rational analysis of freebies

  • Winning election and good governance are two different things. The role of freebies to avail good governance is definitely questionable.
  • The social, political and economic consequences of freebies are very short-lived in nature.
  • There are many freebies and subsidies schemes available in many States but we still find starvation deaths, lack of electricity, poor education and health service.
  • Hence the sorrow of the masses of India cannot be solved by freebies or by incentives.

So are not freebies meant only to attract voters and swing voters by concentrating on a preferential group or community?

Way forward

  • It can be agreed that democracy requires popular support for its rule to continue. The sops and freebies to the poor buy it the requisite votes.
  • But the democratic process of election and election promises should be clear. It should not control voters thought.
  • What some people term as ‘populism’ actually constitutes what real economics should be.
  • If you deprive people of what they really need, you will have to throw allurements at them.
  • This can only be stopped if political masters try to follow what economist EA Schumacher had conveyed through his seminal work Small is beautiful – “Treat economics as if people matter.”

 

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Law panel to examine Simultaneous Elections

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Simultaneous Elections

Mains level: Read the attached story

The issue of holding simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections had been referred to the Law Commission for a practicable road map and a framework can be worked out, the Union Law Minister informed the Lok Sabha.

What are simultaneous polls?

  • Currently, elections to the state assemblies and the Lok Sabha are held separately — that is whenever the incumbent government’s five-year term ends or whenever it is dissolved due to various reasons.
  • This applies to both the state legislatures and the Lok Sabha. The terms of Legislative Assemblies and the Lok Sabha may not synchronize with one another.
  • For instance, Rajasthan faced elections in late 2018, whereas Tamil Nadu will go to elections only in 2021.
  • But the idea of “One Nation, One Election” envisages a system where elections to all states and the Lok Sabha will have to be held simultaneously.

Simultaneous polls in India

  • India had concurrent elections for the first two decades.
  • Starting from the first general elections of free India in 1951 and the next three cycles of elections, the country witnessed concurrent Lok Sabha and Assembly elections.
  • Exceptions to these were a few states like Kerala where a mid-term election was held in 1960 on the premature dissolution of the Assembly.
  • In Nagaland and Pondicherry where the Legislative Assembly was created only after the 1962 general elections.

End of the era

  • The fourth Lok Sabha constituted in 1967 was dissolved prematurely in 1971 ahead of its normal term resulting in a mid-term Lok Sabha election.
  • This was the beginning of the end of simultaneous elections in India.
  • Extension of the term of Lok Sabha during the National Emergency declared in 1975 and the dissolution of Assemblies of some States after the 1977 Lok Sabha election further disturbed this cycle.
  • Currently, there are at least two rounds of Assembly general elections every year.

Making simultaneous elections a reality

  • Sections 14 and 15 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, empower the Election Commission to notify elections any time during the last six months of the term of the House and not earlier than that.
  • Therefore, if the terms of the Houses are expiring within a window of three to four months, it would be legally possible to hold elections simultaneously to constitute the new Houses.
  • In other words, to contemplate simultaneous elections, we need, as a starting point, a situation where the Lok Sabha and the Legislative Assemblies of all States and UTs have their terms ending together.

Synchronizing the terms of the Houses

  • Both the Lok Sabha and Legislative Assemblies (ordinarily) have a term of five years.
  • Article 83 of the Constitution provides for the tenure of Lok Sabha. Identical provisions are present in Article 172(1) regarding the term of the Legislative Assemblies.

There is no duplication of work in preparing the electoral rolls for the two elections and hence no extra labor or expenditure is involved on this count.

What is required?

  • This necessarily calls for either extending the terms of several of the Houses or curtailing of terms or a combination of both, that too by two to three years in some cases.
  • For enabling such curtailing or extension of the term, the relevant Articles of the Constitution mentioned above will have to be suitably amended.

Why Simultaneous Elections?

Two seemingly relevant factors in favor of simultaneous elections, as opposed to separate elections, are:

  1. Effort saving: Simultaneous elections reduce labour, time and expenditure in the conduct of elections; and
  2. Instances of pause in governance are addressed if elections are conducted in one go instead of staggered elections.

[1] How is effort saving possible?

  • Electoral roll: Polling stations for Lok Sabha and Legislative Assembly elections are the same. So is the electoral roll.
  • Labour: There is no duplication of work in preparing the electoral rolls for the two elections and hence no extra labour or expenditure is involved on this count.
  • Logistics: In the conduct of elections, all logistic arrangements are replicated for the two elections when the same drill can cater to both the elections if held together.
  • Security: This will also mean saving in terms of human resources. Another area of saving in simultaneous elections would be in the deployment of the Central Police Force.

[2] Governance pause can be avoided

  • Instances of pause in governance is due to the Model Code of Conduct (MCC).
  • MCC is a set of behavior guidelines for candidates and political parties that comes into operation from the date election is announced by the Election Commission.
  • A crucial part of the MCC is the restrictions on the party in power.  If all elections are held together, the restrictions under MCC will be through in one go.

[3] Help reduce campaign expenses

  • Simultaneous elections can bring considerable savings in the election propaganda campaign expenditure for the political parties.
  • Given that political funding is a major factor in the increasing menace of corruption, the move to reduce campaign expenditure is a welcome initiative.

[4] Voter turnout

  • A nationwide election could push up the voter turnout since a once-in-five-years event is bound to attract more enthusiastic participation across all sections.
  • Frequent elections can bring in the election-fatigue factor at least among some sections of electors.
  • The simultaneous elections help address the fatigue element and the usually observed urban apathy in voting. Better electors’ participation will further add to the credibility of the election.

Exceptions to this debate: Local Bodies’ Elections

  • The local bodies’ elections have not been considered for the analysis here.
  • This is for the reason that the elections to local bodies cannot be clubbed with the proposed simultaneous elections for the Lok Sabha.

Why?

  • The elections to local bodies are conducted under the superintendence, direction, and control of a different constitutional authority, namely, the respective State Election Commission.
  • Holding local bodies’ elections along with the other elections will require the team of the same polling officials to report to and take instructions from two different authorities simultaneously.
  • There is a distinct set of polling stations too for local bodies’ elections.
  • Further, the litigation forum before which these elections can be challenged is different.

Challenges in ensuring simultaneous elections in India:

[1] Synchronizing the Houses

  • Bringing the terms of all the Houses to sync with one another necessarily calls for either extending the terms of several of the Houses or curtailing of terms or a combination of both.
  • This may be by two to three years in some cases.
  • For this, relevant Articles of the Constitution will have to be suitably amended.

[2] Midterm dissolution cannot be controlled

  • Even if the terms of the Houses are in sync as a one-time measure, we will still need an adequate legal safeguard in place to avoid mid-term dissolution and protect the simultaneous elections cycle.
  • This can be a tough task in conventionally fragile states with smaller assemblies with coalitions.

[3] EVM related expenses

  • One aspect that could offset the savings would be the doubling of expenses on electronic voting machines (EVMs).
  • Considering that the incidental recurring expense in the storage and security of the EVMs will also be a considerable amount.
  • The overall expenditure in holding elections may not see any substantial dip on account of simultaneous elections.

Arguments against the idea

  • National and state issues are different, and holding simultaneous elections is likely to affect the judgment of voters.
  • Since elections will be held once in five years, it will reduce the government’s accountability to the people. Repeated elections keep legislators on their toes and increase accountability.
  • When an election in a State is postponed until the synchronized phase, President’s rule will have to be imposed in the interim period in that state.
  • This will be a blow to democracy and federalism.

Way forward

  • We need an adequate legal safeguarding place to avoid mid-term dissolution and protect the simultaneous elections cycle.
  • For maintaining the electoral cycle, some countries have legal provisions to the effect that for a ‘no-confidence motion’.
  • Their proposed resolution also contains a constructive ‘vote of confidence in an alternative government to continue with the tenure.

 

UPSC 2023 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

EC deletes 111 ‘Non-existent’ Parties from List

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Registration and de-registration of Political Parties, RP Act

Mains level: Read the attached story

The Election Commission has ordered the deletion of 111 registered unrecognized political parties that it found to be “non-existent” and referred three of the parties to the Department of Revenue for legal action for “serious financial impropriety”.

What is the news?

  • The Representation of the People Act, 1951 provides ECI to register and de-register the political parties.
  • This was the second such action in the recent past against registered parties that have been found violating the RP Act, 1951.

Registering a Political Party

  • The registration of all political parties is governed by the provisions of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
  • According to the Election Commission (EC), any party seeking registration has to submit an application to the Commission within a period of 30 days.
  • This is done as per guidelines prescribed by the EC in exercise of the powers conferred by Article 324 of the Constitution and Section 29A of the RP Act, 1951.

Note: There is no procedure available for de-registration of dormant political parties.

Process of registration

  • The applicant is asked to publish a proposed party name in two national daily newspapers and two local daily newspapers, and provide two days for submitting objections, if any.
  • The notice for publication is also displayed on the website of the Election Commission.

Why registering with the EC is important?

  • It is not mandatory to register with the Election Commission.
  • However, registering as a political party with the EC has its advantage in terms of intending to avail itself of the provisions of the RP Act, 1951.
  • The candidates set up by a political party registered with the EC will get preference in the matter of allotment of free symbols vis-à-vis purely independent candidates.
  • More importantly, these registered political parties, over course of time, can get recognition as a ‘state party’ or a ‘national party’.

How EC recognizes a political party as a state or national party?

For recognition as a NATIONAL PARTY, the conditions specified are:

  1. a 6% vote share in the last Assembly polls in each of any four states, as well as four seats in the last Lok Sabha polls; or
  2. 2% of all Lok Sabha seats in the last such election, with MPs elected from at least three states; or
  3. recognition as a state party in at least four states.

For recognition as a STATE PARTY, any one of five conditions needs to be satisfied:

  1. two seats plus a 6% vote share in the last Assembly election in that state; or
  2. one seat plus a 6% vote share in the last Lok Sabha election from that state; or
  3. 3% of the total Assembly seats or 3 seats, whichever is more; or
  4. one of every 25 Lok Sabha seats (or an equivalent fraction) from a state; or
  5. an 8% state-wide vote share in either the last Lok Sabha or the last Assembly polls.

Benefits for recognized parties

  • This is subject to the fulfilment of the conditions prescribed by the Commission in the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.

(a) Reserved Symbol

  • If a party is recognised as a ‘state party’, it is entitled for exclusive allotment of its reserved symbol to the candidates set up by it in the state in which it is so recognised. If a party is recognised as a ‘national party’ it is entitled for exclusive allotment of its reserved symbol to the candidates set up by it throughout India.

(b) Proposer for nomination

  • Recognised ‘state’ and ‘national’ parties need only one proposer for filing the nomination.

(c) Campaigning benefits

  • They are also entitled for two sets of electoral rolls free of cost and broadcast/telecast facilities over state-owned Akashvani/Doordarshan during the general elections.

 

UPSC 2023 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Goan politician accorded Lifetime Rank of Cabinet Minister

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: 91st Amendment

Mains level: Read the attached story

Recently a politician in Goa was accorded the lifetime status of the rank of Cabinet Minister who was, a six-time Chief Minister of Goa and a legislator for a full 50 years. Hence a PIL has been filed in the High Court of Bombay at Goa.

What is the “Lifetime Status of the rank of Cabinet minister”?

  • The former Chief Minister and former Speaker (of the Goa Legislative Assembly) had completed 50 years as a legislator.
  • The Cabinet decided that in future also, those who complete 50 years and hold posts like CM and Speaker will be given the Cabinet status even after their retirement.

What is the PIL against this designation?

  • The PIL has urged the High Court to quash the notification of the government under which the person was conferred with the “lifetime status”.
  • It has contended that Goa has a 12-member Cabinet, and the conferment of Cabinet status results in the number of Cabinet ranks rising to 13, which exceeds the ceiling mandated by the Constitution.
  • This ceiling was mandated by the 91st Amendment which aimed to prevent jumbo Cabinets and the resultant drain on the public exchequer.

How the 91st Amendment Act does relates here?

  • The Constitution (91st Amendment) Act, 2003 inserted clause 1A in Article 164.
  • It says the total number of Ministers, including the Chief Minister, in the Council of Ministers in a State shall not exceed 15% of the total number of members of the Legislative Assembly of that State.
  • It provided a condition that the number of Ministers, including the Chief Minister in a State shall not be less than twelve.
  • There are 40 seats in the unicameral Goa Assembly.

Why is the designation problematic?

  • A cabinet minister for life would be entitled to 12 staff members – OSDs, support staff, peons, driver – which would cost the exchequer Rs 90 lakh a year.
  • The ‘Cabinet’ rank would also entitle him to government accommodation, vehicle and unlimited free travel for him and his spouse.
  • This is just none other case but political self-appeasement.

Back2Basics: 91st Constitutional Amendment Act, 2003

  • It made the provisions to limit the size of Council of Ministers, to debar defectors from holding public offices, and to strengthen the anti-defection law.
  • The total number of ministers, including the Prime Minister, in the Central Council of Ministers shall not exceed 15% of the total strength of the Lok Sabha.
  • A member of either house of Parliament belonging to any political party who is disqualified on the ground of defection shall also be disqualified to be appointed as a minister.
  • The total number of ministers, including the Chief Minister, in the Council of Ministers in a state shall not exceed 15% of the total strength of the legislative Assembly of that state.
  • But, the number of ministers, including the Chief Minister, in a state shall not be less than 12.
  • A member of either House of a state legislature belonging to any political party who is disqualified on the ground of defection shall also be disqualified to be appointed as a minister.
  • The provision of the Tenth Schedule (anti-defection law) pertaining to exemption from disqualification in case of split by one-third members of legislature party has been deleted.
  • It means that the defectors have no more protection on grounds of splits.

UPSC 2023 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Election Freebies and Related Issues

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Cost of election freebies

India could end up facing a Sri Lanka-type economic crisis if it doesn’t stop the “culture of freebies” and subsidies in sectors like agriculture, NITI Aayog member Ramesh Chand has warned.

What is a Freebie?

  • The term Freebies is not new; rather it is a prevalent culture in Indian politics (in the name of socialism).
  • The political parties are always trying to outdo each other in luring the Indian voters with assorted freebies.
  • From free water to free smartphones the Indian politicians promise everything to attract prospective voters in favour.
  • This trend has gained more momentum in the recent times with the political parties being innovative in their offerings as the ‘traditional free water and electricity’ is no longer sufficient as election goodies.

Examples of freebies

  1. Promise of Rs 15 lakh in our bank accounts
  2. Free TV, Laptops
  3. Free electricity
  4. Loan waivers
  5. Offering free public transport ride to all women in Delhi

Why are such policies popular among the public?

  • Failure of economic policies: The answer lies in the utter failure of our economic policies to create decent livelihood for a vast majority of Indians.
  • Quest for decent livelihood: The already low income had to be reoriented towards spending a disproportionately higher amount on education and health, from which, the state increasingly withdrew.
  • Prevailing unemployment:  Employment surveys have shown that employment growth initially slowed down from the 1990s, and then has turned negative over the past few years.
  • Increased cost of living: Real income growth of the marginal sections has actually slowed down since 1991 reforms.
  • Increased consumerism: The poor today also spend on things which appear to be luxuries; cellphones and data-packs are two such examples which are shown as signs of India’s increased affluence.
  • Necessity: For migrant workers, the mobile phone helps them keep in touch with their families back home, or do a quick video-call to see how their infant is learning to sit up or crawl.

Can Freebies be compared with Welfare Politics?

  • These freebies are not bad. It is a part of social welfare.
  • Using freebies to lure voters is not good.
  • Voter’s greediness may lead to a problem in choosing a good leader.
  • When we don’t have a good leader then democracy will be a mockery.

Impact of such policies

  • Never ending trail: The continuity of freebies is another major disadvantage as parties keep on coming up with lucrative offers to lure more number of votes to minimize the risk of losing in the elections.
  • Burden on exchequer: People forget that such benefits are been given at the cost of exchequer and from the tax paid.
  • Ultimate loss of poors: The politicians and middlemen wipe away the benefits and the poor have to suffer as they are deprived from their share of benefits which was to be achieved out of the money.
  • Inflationary practice: Such distribution freebie commodity largely disrupts demand-supply dynamics.
  • Lethargy in population: Freebies actually have the tendency to turn the nation’s population into: Lethargy and devoid of entrepreneurship.
  • Money becomes only remedy: Everyone at the slightest sign of distress starts demanding some kind of freebies from the Govt.
  • Popular politics: This is psychology driving sections of the population expecting and the government promptly responds with immediate monetary relief or compensation.

What cannot be accounted to a freebie?

  • MGNREGA scheme (rural employment guarantee scheme)
  • Right to Education (RTE)
  • Food Security through fair price shops ( under National Food Security Act)
  • Prime Minister Kisan Samman Yojana (PM-KISAN)

Arguments in favour

  • Social investment: Aid to the poor is seen as a wasteful expenditure. But low interest rates for corporates to get cheap loans or the ‘sop’ of cutting corporate taxes are never criticized.
  • Socialistic policy: This attitude comes from decades of operating within the dominant discourse of market capitalism.
  • Election manifesto: Proponents of such policies would argue that poll promises are essential for voters to know what the party would do if it comes to power and have the chance to weigh options.
  • Welfare: Economists opine that as long as any State has the capacity and ability to finance freebies then its fine; if not then freebies are the burden on economy.
  • Other wasteful expenditure: When the Centre gives incentives like free land to big companies and announce multi-year tax holidays, questions are not asked as to where the money will come from.

A rational analysis of freebies

  • Winning election and good governance are two different things. The role of freebies to avail good governance is definitely questionable.
  • The social, political and economic consequences of freebies are very short-lived in nature.
  • There are many freebies and subsidies schemes available in many States but we still find starvation deaths, lack of electricity, poor education and health service.
  • Hence the sorrow of the masses of India cannot be solved by freebies or by incentives.

So are not freebies meant only to attract voters and swing voters by concentrating on a preferential group or community?

Way forward

  • It can be agreed that a democracy requires popular support for its rule to continue. The sops and freebies to the poor buy it the requisite votes.
  • But the democratic process of election and election promises should be clear. It should not control voters thought.
  • What some people term as ‘populism’ actually constitutes what real economics should be.
  • If you deprive people of what they really need, you will have to throw allurements at them.
  • This can only be stopped if political masters try to follow what economist EA Schumacher had conveyed through his seminal work Small is beautiful – “Treat economics as if people matter.”

Conclusion

  • There is nothing wrong in having a policy-led elaborate social security programme that seeks to help the poor get out of poverty.
  • But such a programme needs well thought out preparation and cannot be conjured up just before an election.

 

 

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

SC to hear plea against Electoral Bonds Scheme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Electoral Bonds

Mains level: Issues with Electoral Bonds

The CJI N will soon take up a long-pending challenge against the government’s electoral bonds scheme.

What are Electoral Bonds?

  • Electoral bonds are banking instruments that can be purchased by any citizen or company to make donations to political parties, without the donor’s identity being disclosed.
  • It is like a promissory note that can be bought by any Indian citizen or company incorporated in India from select branches of State Bank of India.
  • The citizen or corporate can then donate the same to any eligible political party of his/her choice.
  • An individual or party will be allowed to purchase these bonds digitally or through cheque.

About the scheme

  • A citizen of India or a body incorporated in India will be eligible to purchase the bond
  • Such 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
  • 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
  • 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).
  • Donors who contribute less than ₹20,000 to political parties through purchase of electoral bonds need not provide their identity details, such as Permanent Account Number (PAN).

Objective of the scheme

  • Transparency in political funding: To ensure that the funds being collected by the political parties is accounted money or clean money.

Who can redeem such bonds?

  • The Electoral Bonds shall be encashed by an eligible Political Party only through a Bank account with the Authorized Bank.
  • 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 Lok Sabha or the State Legislative Assembly, shall be eligible to receive the Electoral Bonds.

Restrictions that are done away

  • Earlier, no foreign company could donate to any political party under the Companies Act
  • A firm could donate a maximum of 7.5 per cent of its average three year net profit as political donations according to Section 182 of the Companies Act.
  • As per the same section of the Act, companies had to disclose details of their political donations in their annual statement of accounts.
  • The government moved an amendment in the Finance Bill to ensure that this proviso would not be applicable to companies in case of electoral bonds.
  • Thus, Indian, foreign and even shell companies can now donate to political parties without having to inform anyone of the contribution.

Issues with the Scheme

  • Opaque funding: While the identity of the donor is captured, it is not revealed to the party or public. So transparency is not enhanced for the voter.
  • No IT break: Also income tax breaks may not be available for donations through electoral bonds. This pushes the donor to choose between remaining anonymous and saving on taxes.
  • No anonymity for donors: The privacy of the donor is compromised as the bank will know their identity.
  • Differential benefits: These bonds will help any party that is in power because the government can know who donated what money and to whom.
  • Unlimited donations: The electoral bonds scheme and amendments in the Finance Act of 2017 allows for “unlimited donations from individuals and foreign companies to political parties without any record of the sources of funding”.

Way ahead

  • The worries over the electoral bond scheme, however, go beyond its patent unconstitutionality.
  • The concern about the possibility of misuse of funds is very pertinent.
  • The EC has been demanding that a law be passed to make political parties liable to get their accounts audited by an auditor from a panel suggested by the CAG or EC. This should get prominence.
  • Another feasible option is to establish a National Election Fund to which all donations could be directed.
  • This would take care of the imaginary fear of political reprisal of the donors.

 

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

The move to ease Voting for Overseas Citizens

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NRI vs OCI

Mains level: Voting rights issue

The Union Government was exploring the possibility of allowing online voting for non-resident Indians (NRI).

Why in news?

  • The matter of to ease voting for NRIs comes in the wake of a proposal made by the Election Commission of India (ECI).
  • The Law Ministry in November 2020 decided to extend the facility of postal ballots to eligible NRIs for the various State Assembly elections to be held in 2021.
  • The ECI then, had proposed amending the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, in order to allow this facility.

NRI vs. OCI

  • The term NRI is a residential status designed by the Income Tax Department of the Indian government and has efficiency only during filing Income Tax returns.
  • On the other hand, OCI is an immigration status or special visa in layman’s language provided to foreign nationals of Indian origin by the Indian government to work or live indefinitely.

How can overseas voters currently vote in Indian elections?

  • Prior to 2010, an Indian citizen who is an eligible voter and was residing abroad for more than six months, would not have been able to vote in elections.
  • This was because the NRI’s name was deleted from electoral rolls if he or she stayed outside the country for more than six months at a stretch.
  • After the passing of the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 2010, eligible NRIs who had stayed abroad beyond six months have been able to vote, but only in person at the polling station where they have been enrolled as an overseas elector.
  • Just as any resident Indian citizen above the age of 18 years) is eligible to vote in the constituency where she/he is a resident, overseas Indian citizens are also eligible to do so.
  • In the case of overseas voters, their address mentioned in the passport is taken as the place of ordinary residence and chosen as the constituency for the overseas voter to enroll in.

How has the existing facility worked so far?

  • Hike in voters: From merely 11,846 overseas voters who registered in 2014, the number went up to close to a lakh in 2019. But the bulk of these voters (nearly 90%) belonged to just one State — Kerala.
  • Section 20-1A, Part III of the RP Act: It addresses this to some extent by qualifying “a person absenting himself temporarily from his place of ordinary residence shall not by reason thereof cease to be ordinarily resident therein.
  • Proxy provisions: The Bill provided for overseas voters to be able to appoint a proxy to cast their votes on their behalf, subject to conditions laid down in the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961.
  • Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System: The ECI then approached the government to permit NRIs to vote via postal ballots similar to a system that is already used by service voters, (a member of the armed Forces of the Union; or a member of a force to which provisions of the Army Act, 1950 (46 of 1950) which is ETPBS. The ECI proposed to extend this facility to overseas voters as well.

What is ETPBS and how does it function?

  • The Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 was amended in 2016 to allow service voters to use the ETPBS.
  • Under this system, postal ballots are sent electronically to registered service voters.
  • The service voter can then download the ETPB (along with a declaration form and covers), register their mandate on the ballot and send it to the returning officer of the constituency via ordinary mail.
  • The post will include an attested declaration form (after being signed by the voter in the presence of an appointed senior officer who will attest it).
  • The postal ballot must reach the returning officer by 8 a.m. on the day of the counting of results.
  • In the case of NRI voters, those seeking to vote through ETPBS will have to inform the returning officer at least five days after notification of the election.

Will this facility be available to all overseas voters across countries?

  • There were news reports that the ECI had indicated to the Ministry of External Affairs that it would want postal voting introduced on a pilot basis in non-Gulf countries.
  • But the ECI had asked the Law Ministry to explore the possibility of extending postal ballots to overseas electors and not restrict it to any particular country.
  • In March 2021, the Ministry of External Affairs informed ECI that the implementation could require to overcome “huge logistical challenges” and needs “a realistic assessment of requirements”

Are postal ballots a viable means of voting?

  • The ETPBS method allowed for greater turnout among service voters in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
  • With the increasing mobility of citizens across countries for reasons related to work, the postal ballot method has been internationally recognized.
  • A postal ballot mechanism that allows for proper authentication of the ballot at designated consular/embassy offices and an effective postal system should ease this process for NRIs.

Back2Basics: NRI vs OCI

Non-Resident Indian (NRI)

  • To mention it, NRI is someone who is not a resident of India.
  • However, the law is much more complicated and must be delved deeper to gain an inclusive insight into the sector.
  • A person is considered a resident of India if he/she has been staying in India for a minimum tenure of 182 days during the previous financial year of a particular year. OR
  • A person living in India for a total of 365 days during the previous four financial years and a minimum of 60 days during the last financial years is considered a citizen for a particular year.
  • Now an NRI or a non-resident of India is eligible to pay charges for only the first two situations, which means either the income received or earned in India.
  • Therefore, the NRI status also influences the enjoyable rights of that person.

Overseas Citizen of India (OCI)

  • OCI is a card issued by the government of India that denotes that a non-resident or foreigner has been permitted to stay and work within Indian boundaries.
  • Hence, this card provides foreigners with an immigration status without any limited tenure.
  • There are cases where PIOs of specific categories are allowed for OCI cards that have migrated from India to foreign countries (except Pakistan and Bangladesh) if the other government agrees for dual citizenship.
  • An individual holding an OCI card can be an overseas citizen of India in the layman’s language.
  • So an OCI is not a citizen of India, but the Indian government has given the cardholder permission to reside and work within the boundaries of India.
  • Residents migrating from Pakistan and Bangladesh are not eligible for holding the OCI card. Even if their parents are citizens of both countries, the applicants will be denied having an OCI card.

 

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Opinion polls

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Read the attached story

Mains level: Exit and Opinion Polls in India

Every election season, we find television channels flooded with opinion polls and subsequently exit polls after the casting of votes.

What are Opinion Polls?

  • Opinion polls are similar to surveys or an inquiry designed to gauge public opinion about a specific issue or a series of issues in a scientific and unbiased manner.
  • This term has got wide recognition for assessing outcomes of elections in India.
  • In most democracies, opinion and exit polls are common during elections.
  • In India, the ECI allows the dissemination of the exit poll results half an hour after the end of polling on the last poll day.

How are they conducted?

  • Interviewers/reporters ask questions of people chosen at random from the population being measured.
  • Responses are given, and interpretations are made based on the results.
  • It is important in a random sample that everyone in the population being studied has an equal chance of participating.
  • Otherwise, the results could be biased and, therefore, not representative of the population.

Need of such polls

  • Popular opinion: Polls are simply a measurement tool that tells us how a population thinks and feels about any given topic.
  • Specific viewpoint: Polls tell us what proportion of a population has a specific viewpoint.
  • Opportunity to express: Opinion polling gives people who do not usually have access to the media an opportunity to be heard.

Issues with such polls (in context to elections)

  • Authenticity: Critics have often questioned their authenticity.
  • Manipulation of voters: This largely manipulates the voting behavior.
  • Sensationalization by media: The media, on the other hand, invariably opposes the idea of a ban as seat forecasts attract primetime viewership.
  • Ridiculing the public mandate: The exit polls largely disrespect public opinions inciting confusion regarding the election mandate.

Why does it persist in India?

Ans. Exercise of Free Speech

  • The opposition to the ban in India is mainly on the ground that freedom of speech and expression is granted by the Constitution (Article 19).
  • What is conveniently forgotten is that this freedom is not absolute and allows for “reasonable restrictions” in the same article.

Limited restrictions that we have in India

  • RP Act: The Indian Penal Code and Representation of the People Act, 1951 do contain certain restrictions against disinformation.
  • Restrictions on A19: While the Constitution allows for reasonable restrictions on freedom of expression, its mandate to the ECI for free and fair elections is absolute.
  • Supreme Court interpretations: The Supreme Court (SC), in a series of judgments, has emphasized this requirement.
  • Basic structure doctrine: It considers free and fair elections is the basic structure of the Constitution (PUCL vs Union of India, 2003; NOTA judgment, 2013).

Examples of restrictions

  • Restrictions are imposed in many countries, extending from two to 21 days prior to the poll — Canada, France, Italy, Poland, Turkey, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, to name a few examples.
  • In India, all political parties too have opposed these polls, demanding a ban — except when they are shown as winning.

Why does the ECI feel that opinion polls interfere with free and fair elections?

  • Prevalence of paid news in India: Having seen “paid news” in action, it apprehends that some opinion polls may be sponsored, motivated and biased.
  • Opacity: Almost all polls are non-transparent, providing little information on the methodology.
  • Propaganda: Subtle propaganda on casteist, religious and ethnic basis as well as by the use of sophisticated means like the alleged poll surveys create public distrust in poll process.
  • Disinformation: With such infirmities, many “polls” amount to misinformation that can result in “undue influence”, which is an “electoral offense” under IPC Section 171 (C). It is a “corrupt practice” under section 123 (2) of the RP Act.
  • Betting: The polling agencies manipulate the margin of error, victory margin for candidates, seat projections for a party or hide negative findings.

Call for a ban in India

  • The demand for a ban on opinion polls is not new.
  • At all-party meets called by the Election Commission in 1997 and 2004, there was unanimous demand for a ban.
  • The difference of opinion was only on whether the ban should apply from the announcement of the poll schedule or the date of notification.

Moves by ECI

  • In 1998, the ECI issued guidelines that were challenged in the SC.
  • A five-judge Constitution Bench asked the ECI how it would enforce these decisions in the absence of a law.
  • Realizing its weakness, the ECI withdrew the guidelines.
  • Unfortunately, this left the constitutionality of the issue

Way forward

  • Independent regulator: Ideally a body like the British Polling Council would be a viable option. India could set up its own professional, self-regulated body on the same lines say Indian Polling Council.
  • Mandatory disclosure: All polling agencies must disclose for scrutiny the sponsor, besides sample size, methodology, time frame, quality of training of research staff, etc.

 

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Electoral bond scheme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Electoral bonds

Mains level: Paper 2- Issues with electoral bonds

Context

Ever since its introduction, the electoral bond scheme has envenomed the democratic process, by destroying altogether any notion of transparency in political funding.

Issue of anonymity in electoral bond

  • The electoral bond scheme is designed to allow an individual, or any “artificial juridical person”, including body corporates, to purchase bonds issued by the State Bank of India during notified periods of time.
  • These instruments are issued in the form of promissory notes, and in denominations ranging from ₹1,000 to ₹1 crore.
  • Once purchased, the buyer can donate the bond to any political party of their choice and the party can then encash it on demand.

Supreme Court’s opinion

  • The Supreme Court has allowed the scheme to continue unabated and has denied an interim stay on its operation.
  • In one such provisional order, the Court asserted that the bonds were not, in fact, anonymous.
  • According to the Court, since both the purchase and the encashment of bonds are made through banking channels, all it would take for a person to glean the identity of a donor was for her to look through every corporation’s financial statement — these records, the Court said, ought to be available with the Registrar of Companies.
  • What the order ignored was that there is no attendant obligation on political parties to provide details to the public on each donation received by them through electoral bonds.
  • Companies are also under no obligation to disclose the name of the party to whom they made the donation.

Violation of voter’s right

  •  The Supreme Court has consistently held that voters have a right to freely express themselves during an election and that they are entitled to all pieces of information that give purpose and vigour to this right.
  • Surely, to participate in the electoral process in a meaningful manner and to choose one’s votes carefully, a citizen must know the identity of those backing the candidates.

Electoral bond does not eliminate the role of black money in funding elections

  • As affidavits filed by the Election Commission of India in the Supreme Court have demonstrated, the scheme, if anything, augments the potential role of black money in elections.
  • It does so by, among other things, removing existing barriers against shell entities and dying concerns from donating to political parties.
  • Moreover, even if the bonds were meant to eliminate the presence of unaccounted currency, it is difficult to see what nexus the decision to provide complete anonymity of the donor bears to this objective.
  • It is for this reason that the Reserve Bank of India reportedly advised the Government against the scheme’s introduction.

Conclusion

The worries over the electoral bond scheme, however, go beyond its patent unconstitutionality. This is because in allowing anonymity it befouls the basis of our democracy and prevents our elections from being truly free and fair.

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Need to recast the selection process of the ECs

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Article 324

Mains level: Paper 2- Need to change the selection process of Election Commissioners

Context

The attendance of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and his Election Commissioner (EC) colleagues at an “informal” meeting with the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister has brought renewed focus on the independence and impartiality of the Election Commission of India (ECI).

Need for changes in the appointment process

  • The changes in the appointment process for ECs can strengthen ECI’s independence, neutrality and transparency. 
  • The appointment of ECs falls within the purview of Article 324(2) of the Constitution, which establishes the institution.
  • Article 324(2) contains a ‘subject to’ clause which provides that both the number and tenure of the ECs shall be “subject to provisions of any law made in that behalf by Parliament, be made by the President.”
  • Apart from enacting a law in 1989 enlarging the number of ECs from one to three, Parliament has so far not enacted any changes to the appointment process.
  • In 1975 itself, the Justice Tarkunde Committee recommended that ECs be appointed on the advice of a Committee comprising the Prime Minister, Lok Sabha Opposition Leader and the Chief Justice.
  • This was reiterated by the Dinesh Goswami Committee in 1990 and the Law Commission in 2015.
  • The 4th Report (2007) of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission additionally recommended that the Law Minister and the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha be included in such a Collegium.
  • Violation of Article 14 and 324: Three Writ Petitions, with one pending since 2015, are urging the Supreme Court to declare that the current practice of appointment of ECs by the Centre violates Article 14, Article 324(2), and Democracy as a basic feature of the Constitution.
  • Precedent does exist in the case of Rojer Mathew v South Indian Bank Ltd, to argue against the Executive being the sole appointer for a quasi-judicial body.
  • The Supreme Court had recognised that “Election Commission is not only responsible for conducting free and fair elections but it also renders a quasi-judicial function between the various political parties including the ruling government and other parties.”
  • In such circumstances, the executive cannot be a sole participant in the appointment of members of Election Commission as it gives unfettered discretion to the ruling party.

Way forward

  • Establishing a multi-institutional, bipartisan committee for fair and transparent selection of ECs can enhance the perceived and actual independence of ECI.
  • Such a procedure is already followed with regard to other Constitutional and Statutory Authorities such as the Chief Information Commissioner, Lokpal, Vigilance Commissioner, and the Director of the Central Bureau of Intelligence.

Consider the question “What is the procedure for the appointment of Election Commissioners? What are the issues with this procedure? Suggest the way forward.”

Conclusion

ECI’s constitutional responsibilities require a fair and transparent appointment process that is beyond reproach, which will reaffirm our faith in this vital pillar of our polity.

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Election Campaign Funding by Political Parties

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Cap on election expenditure

Mains level: Use of money power in elections

With several Assembly elections coming up, the issue of campaigning is back on the track. Campaign funding reforms are one of the biggest issues in electoral reforms worldwide.

Why in news?

  • Elections are fought with huge funds nowadays.
  • Estimates vary, but a candidate may spend in crores in just one constituency.
  • This vital issue is neglected by voters in the noise of campaigns, leaders, celebrities, and media coverage.

Caps on Election Expenditure

The Election Commission of India (ECI) imposes limits on campaign expenditure incurred by a candidate and not political parties.

The ceiling on poll expenditure varies across States:

(a) Bigger states

  • With candidates in Assembly Elections in bigger states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu now allowed to spend up to 40L (from ₹30.8 lakhs as against ₹28 lakhs earlier.)
  • For a candidate contesting a Lok Sabha Poll in these States, the revised ceiling on poll expenditure is now 90lakh (₹77 lakhs earlier).

(b) Smaller states

  • While the enhanced ceiling for a Lok Sabha candidate is now 75Lakh (Earlier ₹59.4 lakhs) those contesting an Assembly can spend up to 28 Lakh( earlier ₹22 lakhs.)
  • Goa, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and a few Union Territories (AGMUT states) based on the size of their constituencies and population, have a lower ceiling on poll expenditure.

How are such ceilings made?

  • Such changes are made by amending the Conduct of Elections Rules.
  • The last time the expenditure ceiling was enhanced was in 2014 just ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

What happens when expenditure exceeds the limit?

  • Contesting candidates are required to file a mandatory true account of election expenses with the EC.
  • An incorrect account or expenditure beyond the ceiling can attract disqualification for up to three years as per Section 10A of The Representation of the People Act, 1951.

What doesn’t account to Election expenditure?

  • The expenditure incurred by leaders of a political party on account of travel by air or by any other means of transport for propagating programme of the political party is not considered to be the election expenditure.
  • Any expenditure which is done for service of the Government and discharge of official duty is also not considered to be election expenditure.

Why is this issue important for the voter?

  • Voters vote for candidates, political parties and leaders so that they deliver benefits to the citizens.
  • If election funds are obtained from other sources, the Governments in power are obliged to the funders more than the voters.
  • The government may take decisions that benefit the donors rather than the voters.
  • Even if a rich candidate funds his own election, the focus is on recovering the investment made rather on public service.

Situation in India on Election Funding

  • Transparency in funding is absent after the introduction of Electoral Bonds.
  • Now citizens cannot know who is funding the political parties.

Way forward

There is also much to learn from international experience. Broadly there are three classes of remedies.

  • First is to make all election funding completely transparent so that voters know who is funding whom.
  • Second is to prevent private interests from unduly influencing elections or Governments. This is done by a set of rules on limiting funding.
  • Third is to try and have a more level playing field so that good politicians, candidates and parties with less funds also stand a chance of competing in elections.

 

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Why EC can’t delay upcoming polls

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Paper 2- Powers of Election Commission

Context

Ever since the Allahabad High Court urged the Election Commission of India to consider banning all political rallies or postponing the upcoming Assembly elections due to the increasing threat of Omicron, the focus of debate has shifted to the EC.

Why and when does the Election Commission clubs the elections?

  • To avoid the influence of result: As per practice, the EC clubs all elections that are so close to each other to ensure that the results in one state do not influence the voters in the state going to the polls soon after.
  • Earliest date: The earliest due date of a state determines the poll dates for all the clubbed states.
  • No delay allowed: The EC cannot delay an election even by a day, although it can advance it by up to six months.
  • The Assembly elections of five states are due in the early months of 2022, four of these in March itself — Goa (by March 15), Manipur (March 19), Uttarakhand (March 23) and Punjab (March 27).
  • The fifth — UP — is due by May 14.
  • Goa being the earliest, we must have all five elections completed before March 15.

Why EC cannot postpone the elections?

  • Violation of Constitution: Postponing elections is not in the Election Commission’s hands at all and would be a violation of the constitutional mandate that gives every Vidhan Sabha a fixed term.
  • As soon as the term is over, the House stands dissolved automatically.
  • The term of the House cannot be extended except in an emergency declared by Parliament, which the Constitution restricts to only two situations — war and breakdown of law and order.
  • In the seven decades of our electoral history, this has happened only three times — in Assam, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir — in insurgency situations.

Way forward: Strict enforcement of guidelines

  • Before the Bihar elections of 2020, the EC had issued detailed guidelines based on its observation of other countries that conducted elections that year, like South Korea and Sri Lanka.
  • Reduction of the number of electors: These guidelines included the reduction of the number of electors per polling booth from 1,500 to 1,000, to prevent over-crowding, which required the addition of 33,797 auxiliary polling stations.
  • Covid-sensitive capacity building: The guidelines also included Covid-sensitive capacity-building of election officials.
  • Postal ballot option: The ECI also extended the postal ballot option to senior citizens over the age of 80, Covid-positive patients, persons with disabilities and voters in essential services.
  • Virtual campaigning: Virtual campaigning was also encouraged to stop election rallies contributing to Covid.
  • Besides the standard social distancing and sanitising norms, voters were provided with gloves to touch the EVMs.
  • To avoid crowding at the counting centres, the counting tables were reduced from 14 to seven per assembly constituency.

Consider the question “What are the challenges in postponing the Assembly elections beyond the fixed terms of the Assembly? Suggest the way forward.”

Conclusion

This election is an opportunity for the EC to redeem its image. More importantly, it must guard itself against the trap of postponing the polls under any persuasion.

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

[pib] Electoral Bonds Scheme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Electoral Bonds

Mains level: Not Much

The 19th phase of sale of Electoral Bonds will commence ahead of elections is some states.

What are Electoral Bonds?

  • Electoral bonds are banking instruments that can be purchased by any citizen or company to make donations to political parties, without the donor’s identity being disclosed.
  • It is like a promissory note that can be bought by any Indian citizen or company incorporated in India from select branches of State Bank of India.
  • The citizen or corporate can then donate the same to any eligible political party of his/her choice.
  • An individual or party will be allowed to purchase these bonds digitally or through cheque.

About the scheme

  • A citizen of India or a body incorporated in India will be eligible to purchase the bond
  • Such 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
  • 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
  • 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)

Objective of the scheme

  • Transparency in political funding: To ensure that the funds being collected by the political parties is accounted money or clean money.

Who can redeem such bonds?

  • The Electoral Bonds shall be encashed by an eligible Political Party only through a Bank account with the Authorized Bank.
  • 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 Lok Sabha or the State Legislative Assembly, shall be eligible to receive the Electoral Bonds.

Restrictions that are done away

  • Earlier, no foreign company could donate to any political party under the Companies Act
  • A firm could donate a maximum of 7.5 per cent of its average three year net profit as political donations according to Section 182 of the Companies Act.
  • As per the same section of the Act, companies had to disclose details of their political donations in their annual statement of accounts.
  • The government moved an amendment in the Finance Bill to ensure that this proviso would not be applicable to companies in case of electoral bonds.
  • Thus, Indian, foreign and even shell companies can now donate to political parties without having to inform anyone of the contribution.

Issues with the Scheme

  • Opaque funding: While the identity of the donor is captured, it is not revealed to the party or public. So transparency is not enhanced for the voter.
  • No IT break: Also income tax breaks may not be available for donations through electoral bonds. This pushes the donor to choose between remaining anonymous and saving on taxes.
  • No anonymity for donors: The privacy of the donor is compromised as the bank will know their identity.
  • Differential benefits: These bonds will help any party that is in power because the government can know who donated what money and to whom.

 

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Why the Aadhaar-voter ID link must be stopped

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Paper 2- Aadhar-voter ID linking issue

Context

The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 which facilitates amendment to the Representation of People’s Act, is a step toward implementing online-based remote e-voting for which the use of Aadhaar will be the primary identity.

Objectives of linking

  • The linking of Aadhaar with one’s voter ID was primarily to build a biometric dependent voting system from the very beginning.
  • The change could help fight fraud and duplicates in the electoral rolls.

About the pilot programmes on linking the voter id

  • In 2014, the Election Commission of India (ECI) conducted two pilot programmes on linking the voter id with Aadhaar in the districts of Nizamabad and Hyderabad.
  • Based on the effectiveness, the ECI called for a National Consultation on Aadhaar and voter id linking.
  • The ECI launched the National Electoral Roll Purification and Authentication Programme (NERPAP) on April 1, 2015, which had to be completed by August 31, 2015.
  • After a Supreme Court of India order on August 11, 2015, it was announced that this NERPAP would be shut down.
  • But as Telangana and Andhra Pradesh were early adopters of this programme since 2014, both States have nearly completed linking Aadhaar and voter id for all residents.
  • Methodology is unknown: The methodology followed by the ECI to find duplicate voters using Aadhaar is unknown to the general public.
  • SRDH data used: In a letter from the CEO Andhra Pradesh (then for Telangana and Andhra Pradesh) to the ECI, it is clear that the State Resident Data Hub (SRDH) application of the Government of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh was used to curate electoral rolls.
  • The SRDH has data on residents of the State which is supplied by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) or collected further by the State governments.
  •  While the UIDAI was constrained not to collect data on caste, religion and other sensitive information data for Aadhaar, it recommended to the States to collect this information, if required, as part of Aadhaar data collection; it termed the process as Know Your Resident (KYR) and Know Your Resident Plus (KYR+).
  • It is these SRDH applications that the ECI used to curate electoral rolls which resulted in the deletion of a sizeable number of voters from the list in Telangana in 2018.

Concerns

  • Disenfranchisement: The role of the ECI to verify voters using door-to-door verification (in 2015) has been subsumed; a software algorithm commissioned by the Government for purposes unknown to the public and maintained by a private IT company is in control now.
  • Subjecting key electoral rolls to surveillance software damages the concept of universal adult suffrage.
  • What the experience in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh highlights is voter suppression and disenfranchisement.
  • Issue of ensuring electoral integrity: In a situation where the role of money makes a mockery of the democratic process, linking Aadhaar will be futile.
  • Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), if foolproof, put an end to the days of booth capturing prevalent in the days of paper ballots.
  • E-voting can also be gamed using malware to change the outcome of an election.
  • While the Bill does not look into large-scale e-voting, there is an issue of ensuring electoral integrity.
  • Voter profiling: An Aadhaar-voter ID linkage will also help political parties create voter profiles and influence the voting process.
  • Online trends on the day of voting and micro-targeting voters using their data will make it easier for political parties in power to use data for elections.

Consider the question “What are the objectives of Aadhar-Voter Id linking? What are the concerns associated with such linking?”

Conclusion

The linking of Aadhaar with voter ID will create complexities in the voter databases that will be hard to fix. This process will introduce errors in electoral rolls and vastly impact India’s electoral democracy.

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Electoral reform is welcome, but shouldn’t be selective

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: ECI and SECs

Mains level: Paper 2- Electoral reforms

Context

The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill that seeks to link the electoral rolls with the Aadhaar database has been passed by both the Houses of the parliament.

Three electoral reforms

  • A wide range of electoral reform proposals has been pending with the government, several of them for over two decades.
  • The three reforms — common electoral rolls for Vidhan Sabha and panchayat elections, extending the qualifying date for registration of young new voters, and linking of Aadhaar with electoral rolls — taken up by the Union Cabinet on December 15 are, therefore, significant.

[1] Common electoral rolls

  • For years, the ECI has been advocating a common electoral roll for all elections.
  • Currently, separate electoral rolls are maintained for elections to the Lok Sabha, Vidhan Sabha and local government bodies (panchayats or municipal).
  • Role of ECI and SECs: There are two types of election management bodies in the country — the ECI that conducts the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections and SECs that conduct panchayat and municipal elections.
  • The process for making electoral rolls is laid down in the Registration of Electors Rules, 1960.
  • The SECs have the option of either adopting the electoral rolls created by the ECI or preparing such rolls on their own.
  • Most prefer to use the rolls prepared by the ECI.
  • Some states, however, develop their rolls independently.
  • These are Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Odisha, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Considering that a voter for all three tiers of elected bodies is the same, why is it that she finds her name missing from one of the rolls, mostly the panchayat rolls?
  • This is particularly surprising when the officials responsible for making both these rolls are the same.
  • A common electoral roll is thus a logical solution. 

Benefits of common electoral rolls

  • Tackling stuffing voters: A common experience has been the stuffing of bogus voters in the panchayat/municipal rolls.
  • Corrupt practices are proportionately higher in PRI polls.
  • Avoid the involvement of teachers in the non-teaching work: The process of making electoral rolls is usually done by the schoolteachers.
  • Their involvement in non-teaching work takes its toll.
  • Cost-saving: A common electoral roll will obviate the need for deploying them repeatedly, besides saving enormous costs.

Suggestions for preparation of common electoral rolls

  • Issue joint instructions: The ECI and SECs can issue joint instructions for preparing the common rolls. The roll-making machinery stays the same.
  • Pilot studies may be conducted in random constituencies to identify the discrepancies between two sets of rolls and their reasons.

What are the constitutional and legal changes required?

  • Amendment in Article 243K and 243ZA: The SECs derive their powers to supervise local body elections from Articles 243K and 243ZA of the Constitution.
  • Changes in State laws: All state governments would have to change their electoral laws to adopt ECI electoral rolls for local elections.

[2] Eligibility date of new voters

  • According to Section 14(b) of the Representation of People Act of 1950, only those who have turned 18 on or before January 1 of the year are to be registered.
  • This implies that all those who turn 18 between January 2 and December 31 of a year must wait till the next year.
  • This technicality results in the exclusion of a large section of 18-year-olds.

Suggestion by ECI on eligibility date

  • The ECI had sent a letter to the Law Ministry on November 4, 2013, which recommended the issuing of a voter card to an individual ideally on their 18th birthday, or updating voter rolls every month or quarter.
  • A committee of the Ministry of Law and Justice under Sushil Kumar Modi has proposed quarterly cut-off dates for voter registration — January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1.

[3] Aadhar linking

  • The proposal to link electoral rolls with Aadhaar was first mooted by the ECI in 2015 but work on it had to be stopped when the Supreme Court ruled that Aadhaar cannot be used except voluntarily for beneficiary-oriented schemes.
  • Benefits of linking: The linking will help in identifying duplicate voters, something that ECI has been desperately attempting for years using various “de-duplication” software with limited success.

Consider the question “What are the concerns with linking of Aadhar and electoral rolls? Suggest the way forward.”

Conclusion

Any progress in addressing the vexed issue of electoral reform — even in a piecemeal manner — is welcome. The time has, however, come for the government to consider the 40-plus pending proposals, instead of selectively going for some reforms.

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

In electoral reform bill’s passing, a missed opportunity

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Paper 2- Linking Aadhar with electoral roll

Context

The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 was passed in the Lok Sabha recently. It seeks to link electoral rolls with the Aadhaar ecosystem.

What are the concerns with linking of Aadhar with electoral roll?

[1] Aadhar is not proof of citizenship

  • Aadhaar is not meant to be a citizenship proof but only a digital identity for all residents.
  • Residence of 182 days can make even a non-citizen eligible for an Aadhaar ID.

[2] Aadhar is not address proof

  • According to public statements by several government functionaries, Aadhaar was only meant to be identity proof but not address proof.
  • Electoral roll is based on Aadhar: In contrast, the RER clearly stipulates address to be a key index for electoral rolls.
  • Different enrollment process: Moreover, the enrolment processes for voters’ lists and Aadhaar are completely different.
  • Whereas Aadhaar enrolment is based on production of existing documents and the “introducer system”, voter enrolments involve physical verification and “house visits” by a registration officer or representative.

[3] No audit report on the efficacy of Aadhaar deduplication or on the authenticity of the Aadhaar database

  • Even the Supreme Court accepted the Unique Identification Authority of India’s (UIDAI) claims on the integrity of the Aadhaar database at face value without any scrutiny.
  • Risk of exclusion error: Using Aadhaar to clean the electoral rolls involved the risk of disenfranchisement, especially of the marginalised communities.
  • It is to be noted that there is ample publicly documented evidence of large-scale exclusion in PDS and welfare disbursal due to Aadhaar.

[4] Conflict of interest

  • UIDAI is under government control: Maintenance of the voters’ lists is a primary responsibility of the ECI, which is an independent constitutional body, whereas Aadhaar is a government instrument and UIDAI is under government control.
  • Since the ECI has no control on either enrolment or deduplication in Aadhaar, it appears inappropriate — and a potential conflict of interest — to use Aadhaar for electoral rolls.
  • In particular, since Aadhaar is directly used for disbursal of welfare and direct benefit transfers, linking it with voter ID may provide a direct method for the government to influence and manipulate voters.

[5] Risk of profiling and targeting of voters

  • Aadhaar is a ubiquitous ID that is used in a variety of applications.
  • Linking it with the voter ID will open up avenues for profiling and targeting of voters.
  • No audit for purpose limitation: This is of particular concern because neither the UIDAI nor the ECI have publicly audited architectures for purpose limitation and protection against insider attacks.
  • While profiling using public data is not illegal according to current laws, both the electorate and Parliament need to clearly understand the risks of such profiling.
  • It is far easier to win elections through digital analysis of electoral rolls than through attacking the electronic voting process, especially when election results are available at booth-level granularity
  • Both privacy and integrity of the electoral rolls are of paramount importance in the digital age, and the clear tension between the two makes the problem challenging.

Way forward

  • Use of cryptography: The RER of 1960 clearly opted for transparency as a means to the integrity of the electoral rolls, thereby ensuring that all additions and deletions can be publicly audited.
  • However, with the possibility of digital processing of electoral data, the risks associated with such complete transparency have increased manifold.
  • Yet, there are several modern techniques from cryptography and computer science that may help mitigate the risks by enabling both privacy and public auditability.

Consider the question “The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 enable the linking of electoral rolls with the Aadhaar ecosystem. What are the objectives of such linking and concerns raised against it?”

Conclusion

An electoral reforms bill at the onset of 2022 needed to explore and address these issues head-on.

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Election Commission

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: ECI

Mains level: Read the attached story

The “informal interaction” of the CEC and two other Election Commissioners with the Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary has raised questions about the neutrality of the Commission, especially when elections to crucial States are around the corner.

About Election Commission of India

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

Litigations against EC

  • The decisions of the Commission can be challenged in the High Court and the Supreme Court of India by appropriate petitions.
  • By long-standing convention and several judicial pronouncements, once the actual process of elections has started, the judiciary does not intervene in the actual conduct of the polls.

Issues with PMO meeting

  • Executive interference: ECs are expected to maintain distance from the executive — a constitutional safeguard to insulate the commission from external pressure and allow it to continue as an independent authority.
  • Violating official channels: The EC’s communication with the Government on election matters is through the bureaucracy — either with its administrative ministry — the Law Ministry or the Home Ministry.
  • Breach of protocol: The Law Ministry spells the fine print on law for the country and is expected not to breach the constitutional safeguard provided to the commission to ensure its autonomy.

Recent incidence of criticisms

Ans. Partiality in Elections

  • Over the last couple of years, several actions and omissions of the commission have come in for criticism.
  • Nearly 66 former bureaucrats in a letter addressed to the President, expressed their concern over the working of the Election Commission.
  • They felt was suffering from a credibility crisis, citing various violations of the model code of conduct during the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections.

Importance of ECI for India

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

Issues with ECI

  • Flaws in the composition: The Constitution doesn’t prescribe qualifications for members of the EC. They are not debarred from future appointments after retiring or resigning.
  • No security of tenure: Election commissioners aren’t constitutionally protected with security of tenure.
  • Partisan role: The EC has come under the scanner like never before, with increasing incidents of breach of the Model Code of Conduct in the 2019 general elections.
  • Political favor: The opposition alleged that the ECI was favoring the ruling party by giving clean chit to the model code of conduct violations made by the PM.
  • Non-competence: Increased violence and electoral malpractices under influence of money have resulted in political criminalization, which ECI is unable to arrest.

 

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Issues with summoning CEC, EC to PMO

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Paper 2- Independence of Election Commission

Context

The Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners were summoned by the PMO to attend a meeting with the Principal Secretary to the PM.

Why the meeting raises questions?

  • The PMO summoning or “inviting” not just the CEC but the full bench is in violation of the Constitution, irrespective of how important or urgent the issue.
  • Violation of the principle of distancing from executive: When a person is appointed as CEC or EC, that person has to resign from his executive post in order to adhere to important constitutional principle of distancing from the executive/government.
  • The executive could appoint a person to these posts but could not order them, or remove me because of the constitutional scheme of things.
  • Violation of independence: An independent ECI is a gift of the Constitution to the nation. Free and fair and credible elections are sine qua non of the EC.
  • The Supreme Court has repeatedly stressed this point, calling it part of the basic structure of the Constitution.
  • Violation of warrant of precedence: The CEC is very high in the warrant of precedence — ninth, while the PS to PM is 23rd.
  • How can such a high constitutional functionary be summoned to attend a meeting with an officer, howsoever high and mighty?
  • It raises suspicions:  A meeting of the PS to the PM, formal or informal, online or in the PMO or ECI, just before elections raises unnecessary suspicions.

Conclusion

This incident is a transgression that should not happen again. The distance of an arm’s length in interactions between institutions envisaged in the Constitution is sacrosanct. It should not only be maintained but also “seen” to be maintained.

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

How Political Parties are registered in India?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Registering a Political Party

Mains level: Political Party registration benefits

Former Punjab CM has announced that he will be forming his own political party in Punjab ahead of the state assembly elections.

Registering a Political Party

  • The registration of all political parties is governed by the provisions of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
  • According to the Election Commission (EC), any party seeking registration has to submit an application to the Commission within a period of 30 days.
  • This is done as per guidelines prescribed by the EC in exercise of the powers conferred by Article 324 of the Constitution and Section 29A of the RP Act, 1951.

Note: There is no procedure available for de-registration of dormant political parties.

Process of registration

  • The applicant is asked to publish a proposed party name in two national daily newspapers and two local daily newspapers, and provide two days for submitting objections, if any.
  • The notice for publication is also displayed on the website of the Election Commission.

Why registering with the EC is important?

  • It is not mandatory to register with the Election Commission.
  • However, registering as a political party with the EC has its advantage in terms of intending to avail itself of the provisions of the RP Act, 1951.
  • The candidates set up by a political party registered with the EC will get preference in the matter of allotment of free symbols vis-à-vis purely independent candidates.
  • More importantly, these registered political parties, over course of time, can get recognition as a ‘state party’ or a ‘national party’.

How EC recognises a political party as a state or national party?

For recognition as a NATIONAL PARTY, the conditions specified are:

  1. a 6% vote share in the last Assembly polls in each of any four states, as well as four seats in the last Lok Sabha polls; or
  2. 2% of all Lok Sabha seats in the last such election, with MPs elected from at least three states; or
  3. recognition as a state party in at least four states.

For recognition as a STATE PARTY, any one of five conditions needs to be satisfied:

  1. two seats plus a 6% vote share in the last Assembly election in that state; or
  2. one seat plus a 6% vote share in the last Lok Sabha election from that state; or
  3. 3% of the total Assembly seats or 3 seats, whichever is more; or
  4. one of every 25 Lok Sabha seats (or an equivalent fraction) from a state; or
  5. an 8% state-wide vote share in either the last Lok Sabha or the last Assembly polls.

Benefits for recognized parties

  • This is subject to the fulfilment of the conditions prescribed by the Commission in the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.

(a) Reserved Sybol

  • If a party is recognised as a ‘state party’, it is entitled for exclusive allotment of its reserved symbol to the candidates set up by it in the state in which it is so recognised. If a party is recognised as a ‘national party’ it is entitled for exclusive allotment of its reserved symbol to the candidates set up by it throughout India.

(b) Proposer for nomination

  • Recognised ‘state’ and ‘national’ parties need only one proposer for filing the nomination.

(c) Campaigning benefits

  • They are also entitled for two sets of electoral rolls free of cost and broadcast/telecast facilities over state-owned Akashvani/Doordarshan during the general elections.

 

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Internal democracy in political parties

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Paper 2- Internal democracy in political parties

Context

It is obvious that institutional intermediaries in a representative democracy must themselves be democratic. However, beyond the rhetoric, internal democracy in a political party is less straightforward.

How democratic accountability in a political party is different from that in a country

  • Democratic accountability in a political party is qualitatively different from that in a country.
  • A political party is a collaborative platform to capture state power to achieve a certain vision for society. 
  • In a country, there are sharp differences between citizens on the vision and values themselves and the role of democracy is not just to create a framework to negotiate conflict but to ensure that the state is representative of the largest section of the electorate through periodic elections.
  • Thus, while democracy at the level of the country is a bottom-up opportunity to change direction altogether, democratic accountability in a political party exists within an ideological framework.

Is internal elections for party leadership a solution?

  • Subversion of internal institutional process: Proponents underestimate the ability of existing repositories of power to subvert internal institutional processes to consolidate power and maintain the status quo.
  • Independence of lower level: the assumption that the lower levels would be independent and hold the higher levels of leadership to account glosses over the many ways power asserts itself.
  • Independence and quality of electorate: The outcome of internal elections is contingent on the independence and quality of the electorate.
  • In indirect elections (through delegates), the electorate would likely mirror the existing balance of power.
  • In direct elections, there is a concern of ideological dilution and/or capture through opportunistic membership.
  • It is evident that internal elections may factionalise power but cannot establish normative accountability, which extends to all members of the party along three interconnected axes of ideology, organisation and competence.
  • Normative accountability is thus rooted in a dynamic context and is necessarily a deliberative process.

Democratic functioning in political parties is not an end in itself

  • Unlike for the state, democracy is not an end in itself for a political party.
  • The highest possible attainment of individual well-being and individual self-will through a democratic state is an end in itself.
  • The purpose of a political party is the acquisition of state power.
  • Democratic functioning may be an ideological imperative, operational choice, or legitimising tactic but it is not an end in itself for a political party.

Way forward

  • Instead of looking at internal party processes, one way to decentralise power is by getting rid of the anti-defection law.
  • The need to canvass votes in the legislature will create room for negotiation in the party organisation too.
  • Most importantly, this reform will impose a similar burden on all political parties and may create space to change the overall political culture.

Consider the question “Lack of internal democratic functioning in the political parties has bearing on the overall political functioning of the country. Examine the factors responsible for its lack in India and suggest measures to encourage it.”

Conclusion

The role of democracy is not just to create a framework to negotiate conflict but to ensure that the state is representative of the largest section of the electorate through periodic elections.

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Election Symbols after Party Split

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Election symbols

Mains level: Split of political parties

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has frozen an election symbol of a political party in Bihar to which a cabinet minister belonged.

What are the Election Commission’s powers in a dispute over the election symbol when a party splits?

  • The question of a split in a political party outside the legislature is dealt by Para 15 of the Symbols Order, 1968.
  • It states that the ECI may take into account all the available facts and circumstances and undertake a test of majority.
  • The decision of the ECI shall be binding on all such rival sections or groups emerged after the split.
  • This applies to disputes in recognised national and state parties.
  • For splits in registered but unrecognised parties, the EC usually advises the warring factions to resolve their differences internally or to approach the court.

How did the EC deal with such matters before the Symbols Order came into effect?

  • Before 1968, the EC issued notifications and executive orders under the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961.
  • The most high-profile split of a party before 1968 was that of the CPI in 1964.
  • A breakaway group approached the ECI in December 1964 urging it to recognise them as CPI(Marxist). They provided a list of MPs and MLAs of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and West Bengal who supported them.
  • The ECI recognised the faction as CPI(M) after it found that the votes secured by the MPs and MLAs supporting the breakaway group added up to more than 4% in the 3 states.

What was the first case decided under Para 15 of the 1968 Order?

  • It was the first split in the Indian National Congress in 1969.
  • Indira Gandhi’s tensions with a rival group within the party came to a head with the death of President Dr Zakir Hussain on May 3, 1969.

Is there a way other than the test of majority to resolve a dispute over election symbols?

  • In almost all disputes decided by the EC so far, a clear majority of party delegates/office bearers, MPs and MLAs have supported one of the factions.
  • Whenever the EC could not test the strength of rival groups based on support within the party organisation (because of disputes regarding the list of office bearers), it fell back on testing the majority only among elected MPs and MLAs.

What happens to the group that doesn’t get the parent party’s symbol?

  • The EC in 1997 did not recognise the new parties as either state or national parties.
  • It felt that merely having MPs and MLAs is not enough, as the elected representatives had fought and won polls on tickets of their parent (undivided) parties.
  • The EC introduced a new rule under which the splinter group of the party — other than the group that got the party symbol — had to register itself as a separate party.
  • It could lay claim to national or state party status only on the basis of its performance in state or central elections after registration.

 

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

political parties in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Representation of the People Act, 1951

Mains level: Paper 2- Making political parties constitutional in India

Context

Making them constitutional will ensure in-party democracy, make them transparent, and de-communalise them.

Significance of political parties in democracy

  • A political party is an organised group of citizens who hold common views on governance and act as a political unit that seeks to obtain control of government with a view to further the agenda and policy they profess.
  •  Political parties maintain a continuous connection between the people and those who represent them either in government or in the opposition.
  • Political parties in India are extra-constitutional, but they are the breathing air of the political system.

U.S. and U.K. model

  • No constitutional status: The American Constitution does not presume the existence of political parties.
  • In Britain too, political parties are still unknown to the law.
  • Political parties in developed nations maintain high levels of internal democracy.
  • In the U.K., the Conservative Party has the National Conservative Convention as its top body.
  • It has a Central Council and an Executive Committee.
  • The Central Council elects its President, a Chairman and Vice Chairmen at its annual meeting.
  • It also elects an Executive Committee which meets once a month.
  • In the U.S., both the Democratic and the Republican Party have the National Committee as their top decision-making body.
  • The National Committee plays an important role in the presidential election and agenda-setting.

Issues with Indian model

  • No constitutional status: The Indian Constitution is the one of the longest Constitutions in the world.
  • It is astonishing that such a meticulous Constitution overlooked political parties, the vital players in the political system, for constitutional regulation.
  • Section 29A(5) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 is the only major statutory provision dealing with political parties in India.
  • Most of the parties are openly caste- or religious-based.
  • Their finances are dubious and opaque.
  • Almost all the parties — the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Samajwadi Party, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, the Indian Union Muslim League, etc. — are family fiefdoms.
  • There are no periodical in-party elections in Indian parties except in a few like the CPI(M).

Should India follow the German model?

  • The Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany (1949) gives constitutional status to political parties.
  • Article 21 of the Basic Law deals with their status, rights, duties and functions.
  • It provides: Political parties shall participate in the formation of the political will of the people.
  • Under it, parties must publicly account for their assets and for the sources and use of their funds.
  • It also provides that parties that seek to undermine or abolish the free democratic basic order or to endanger the existence of the Federal Republic of Germany shall be unconstitutional.
  • Constitution also provides that details shall be regulated by federal laws.
  • The German model of constitutionalising political parties is more desirable for India than the U.S. and the U.K. models.

Consider the question “Do you agree with the view that making political parties constitutional will help deal with the many ills political parties in India suffer from? Suggest the alternative model.”

Conclusion

It is high time to constitutionalise political parties to ensure in-party democracy, to impart transparency in their finances, and to de-communalise them.

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Criminalisation of politics

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Powers of ECI

Mains level: Paper 2- Electoral reforms in India

Context

According to the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), 233 MPs in the current Lok Sabha are facing criminal charges, up from 187 in 2014, 162 in 2009, and 128 in 2004. Recently, the Supreme Court has imposed fines on political parties for failing to comply with its orders regarding complete disclosure of their candidates’ criminal history.

Order adds strength to Election Commission

  • Through the order in a recent case, the SC has put a new onus on the Election Commission to do something concrete, for example, create a phone app to display the detailed criminal history of any contesting candidate.
  • This should be accompanied with a separate cell in the ECI to monitor the compliance of all the political parties regarding this; any breach should be brought to the attention of the SC without delay.

Why legislature and political parties are reluctant?

  • Two excuses: The legislature has been very slow in addressing this issue, and political parties remain extremely reluctant to change their ways, citing two major excuses.
  • Winnability of candidate: “Winnability” of candidates is the first reason.
  • The logic of a candidate with criminal charges doing good for the people of a constituency is dubious at best.
  • The winnability clause is an attempt by the party to absolve itself of all blame and put the onus of sending a criminally charged candidate to Parliament solely on the voter.
  • Innocent until proven guilty maxim: The other reason offered by political parties is summarised by the maxim of Indian law, which is that any accused is innocent until proven guilty.
  • It is argued that most criminally accused candidates are the victims of “vendetta politics”.

Issues with allowing criminals to contest election

  • The logic of a candidate with criminal charges doing good for the people of a constituency is dubious at best.
  • Violation of right to equality under Article 14: There were 4.78 lakh prisoners (as of December 2019) of whom 3.30 lakh were under trial, i.e. not yet proven guilty.
  • Yet, their fundamental rights — their right to liberty, freedom of movement, freedom of occupation and right to dignity — are curbed completely.
  • An “innocent” undertrial cannot vote, but a man chargesheeted for murder can even contest election from jail.
  • These blatant double standards are a clear violation of Article 14, which guarantees to all citizens equality before the law.

Suggestions

  • ECI suggestion on vendetta politics: The ECI has suggested some safeguards against vendetta politics.
  • First, only offences that carry an imprisonment of at least 5 years are to be considered.
  • The case against the candidate should have been filed at least six months before the scheduled elections for it to be considered.
  • And finally, a competent court must have framed the charges.
  • Fast-track court: An alternative solution would be to try cases against political candidates in fast-track courts.
  • The Supreme Court had sent a directive in 2014, directing that cases against political candidates must be completed within a year, failing which the matter should be reported to the Chief Justices of the respective High Court.
  • This is a matter entirely in the judicial domain.
  • Barring political parties: The Supreme Court has, in the recent order stopped short of drastic steps by rejected the suggestion to direct the Election Commission to bar political parties that fail to comply with criminalisation protocols by using its authority derived from Clause 16A of the Election Symbols Order.
  • This step, the SC reasons, would be going too far and infiltrating the domain of the legislature.

Conclusion

The legislature and the judiciary need to do more to curb the menace of criminalisation of politics.


Feeling anxious about your UPSC preparation? Don’t worry, speak with our mentors and get your problems resolved, personally! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Parties get 48 hours to publish candidates’ criminal records

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: De-criminalization of Politics

The Supreme Court has directed the political parties to publish the criminal history if any, of their election candidates on the homepage of their party websites under the caption ‘candidates with criminal antecedents’ within 48 hours of their selection.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Consider the following statements:

  1. According to the Constitution of India, a person who is eligible to vote can be made a minister in a State for six months even if he/she is not a member of the Legislature of that State.
  2. According to the Representation of People Act, 1951, a person convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to imprisonment for five years is permanently disqualified from contesting an election even after his release from prison.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct? (CSP 2020)

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

 

Post your answers here:
3
Please leave a feedback on thisx

Criminalization of politics: Indian Case

  • The criminalization of politics has become a headache for the Indian democracy and it is a harsh reality now.
  • Criminalization of politics in India includes political control of the police, state money, corruption, weak laws, lack of ethics, values, vote bank politics and loopholes in the function of the election commission.
  • Deep down, it’s a large nexus of police, money, corrupt bureaucracy, casteism, religion and the drawbacks of functioning in the election commission.

On a serious note

  • The Supreme Court has warned Parliament that the nation is losing patience with the advent of criminals in politics even as it imposed fines on major political parties for covering up from voters the criminal past of the candidates.
  • Cleansing the polluted stream of politics is obviously not one of the immediate pressing concerns of the legislative branch of government.
  • The court said it did not take political parties much time to flout its February 2020 judgment, which had directed them to prominently publish the criminal antecedents.

What was the Feb 2020 Judgment?

The Supreme Court earlier in Feb 2020 had ordered political parties to publish the entire criminal history of their candidates for Assembly and Lok Sabha elections.

  • Reasons for nomination: It has also asked for the reasons that goaded them to field suspected criminals over decent people.
  • Publication of records: The information should be published in a local as well as a national newspaper as well as the parties’ social media handles.
  • 48hr time frame: It should mandatorily be published either within 48 hours of the selection of candidates or less than two weeks before the first date for filing of nominations, whichever is earlier.
  • Contempt for non-compliance: It also ordered political parties to submit compliance reports with the Election Commission of India within 72 hours or risk contempt of court action.
  • No escape: The judgment is applicable to parties both at Central and State levels.

Immediate Reason

  • The immediate provocation is the finding that 46% of MPs have criminal records.
  • The number might be inflated as many politicians tend to be charged with relatively minor offences —“unlawful assembly” and “defamation”.
  • The real worry is that the current cohort of Lok Sabha MPs has the highest (29%) proportion of those with serious declared criminal cases compared to its recent predecessors.

Why are such tainted candidates inducted by political parties?

  • Popularity: Such candidates with serious records seem to do well despite their public image, largely due to their ability to finance their own elections and bring substantive resources to their respective parties.
  • Vested interests: Some voters tend to view such candidates through a narrow prism: of being able to represent their interests by hook or by crook.
  • Destabilizing other electors: Others do not seek to punish these candidates in instances where they are in contest with other candidates with similar records.

A harsh reality

  • The NN Vohra committee’s report on the criminalization of politics discussed how criminal gangs flourish under the care and protection of politicians.
  • Many times the candidates themselves are the gang leaders.
  • This protection is paid back to them during elections through capital investment in election spending and voter support.

Need for clean politics

  • Upholding morality: It is extremely important that the people who enter the field of politics have a clear image and high moral character.
  • Ensuring rule of law: A leader with criminal character undoubtedly tends to undermine the rule of law.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Tamil Nadu legislature turns 100

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Montford reforms, Elections in India

Mains level: Read the attached story

The Assembly chambers at Fort St. George, the 17th-century vestige of the colonial era, and Tamil Nadu’s seat of power have completed 100 years of existence.

Do you know?

Fort St. George is the first English fortress in India, founded in 1639 at the coastal city of Madras, the modern city of Chennai. The construction of the fort provided the impetus for further settlements and trading activity, in what was originally an uninhabited land.

Elections in Tamil Nadu

  • Tamil Nadu witnessed elections in November 1920 as a result of the Montagu-Chelmsford Report and the Government of India Act of 1919.
  • The electors included only men, accounting for just 3% of the population.
  • The concept of dyarchy came into being with Ministers, who were Indians, gaining limited control over certain subjects, such as local self-government and education.
  • It was then that the office of the Chief Minister, also called Premier, got instituted.

Key works accomplished

  • Reservations in public employment: For the first time, caste became the basis for appointment to public services. It took over 70 years for the Central government to follow the principle in its institutions for education and employment.
  • Above 50% cap in reservation: In December 1993, the scheme of 69% reservation for Backward Classes, Most Backward Classes, SCs and STs got legal safeguard. The law was subsequently included in the IX Schedule of the Constitution, through an amendment passed in Parliament, so that its validity could not be challenged.

Other facts

  • Women’s suffrage: In early 1927, Muthulakshmi Reddy, the well-known medical practitioner and social activist, became the first woman member of the Council and, in no time, became the Deputy President of the Council.
  • Gopuram as an emblem: The symbol features a ‘gopuram’ (temple tower) – characteristic of south Indian temples has been adopted as the state emblem.
  • Change of name: During the two-year rule of the DMK founder C.N. Annadurai, the Assembly, in July 1967, adopted a motion renaming Madras State as Tamil Nadu, which later got the approval of Parliament.
  • Social reforms: It has passed several landmark laws for the welfare of women, such as Devadasi abolition, equal rights to women in property and the constitution of the State Commission for Women.

Back2Basics: Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms

Central Legislature thereafter called the Indian Legislature was reconstituted on the enlarged and more representative character.

  • Bicameral legislature: The act set up bicameral legislatures at the centre consisting of two houses- the Council of the States (Upper House) and the Central Legislative Assembly (Lower House).
  • Election and nominations: It consisted of the Council of State consisted of 60 members of whom 34 members were elected and the Legislative Assembly consisted of about 145 members, of whom about 104 were elected and the rest nominated.
  • Separation of power: The central and provincial subjects were demarcated and separated.
  • Diarchy: The Provincial subjects were further divided into Transferred Subjects and Reserved Subjects, the legislative council had no say in the latter.
  • Communal representation: The principle of separate electorate was further extended to Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians and Europeans.
  • Working review: It provided for the appointment of a statutory commission to report the working of the act after ten years.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Secrecy of Vote must in any election: SC

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Secret Ballot

Mains level: Secrecy of Vote and its significance

The Supreme Court has again held that in any election, be it to Parliament or State legislature, the maintenance of secrecy of voting is “a must”.

What is the Secret Vote?

  • The secret vote/ secret ballot is a voting method in which a voter’s choices in an election or a referendum are anonymous.
  • It aims for forestalling attempts to influence the voter by intimidation, blackmailing, and potential vote-buying.
  • The system is one means of achieving the goal of political privacy.

What did the Supreme Court rule?

  • Secrecy is a part of the fundamental right of freedom of expression.
  • The confidentiality of choice strengthens democracy.
  • The principle of secrecy of ballots is an important postulate of constitutional democracy, the court said.
  • It is the policy of the law to protect the right of voters to the secrecy of the ballot.
  • Even a remote or distinct possibility that a voter can be forced to disclose for whom she has voted would act as a positive constraint and a check on the freedom to exercise of the franchise.

Voter’s discretion is allowed

  • A voter can also voluntarily waive the privilege of non-disclosure.
  • The privilege ends when the voter decides to waive the privilege and instead volunteers to disclose to whom she had voted.
  • Nor can a complaint be entertained from any, including the person who wants to keep the voter’s mouth sealed as to why she disclosed for whom she voted said the court.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

How poll results are challenged, and when courts have set them aside

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Election Petition

Mains level: Free and fair elections

West Bengal CM has filed an election petition in the Calcutta High Court challenging the Assembly election result of Nandigram constituency, where she had contested and lost.

What is an election petition?

  • The Election Commission’s role ends with the declaration of results, that is once the Returning Officer has signed the final result sheet (Form 20).
  • After that, an election petition is the only legal remedy available to a voter or a candidate who believes there has been malpractice in an election.
  • Such a person can challenge the result through an election petition submitted to the High Court of the state in which the constituency is located.
  • Such a petition has to be filed within 45 days from the date of the poll results; nothing is entertained by courts after that.
  • Although the Representative of the People Act of 1951 suggests that the High Court should try to conclude the trial within six months, it usually drags on for much longer, even years.

On what grounds can an election petition be filed?

Under Section 100 of the RP Act, an election petition can be filed on the grounds that:

  • On the day of the election, the winning candidate was not qualified to contest.
  • The winning candidate, his poll agent or any other person with the consent of the winning candidate has indulged in a corrupt practice. Section 123 of the RP Act has a detailed list of what amounts to corrupt practice, including bribery, use of force or coercion, appeal to vote or refrain from voting on grounds of religion, race, community, and language.
  • Improper acceptance of the nomination of the winning candidate or improper rejection of a nomination.
  • Malpractice in the counting process, which includes improper reception, refusal or rejection of any vote, or the reception of any vote which is void.
  • Non-compliance with the provisions of the Constitution or the RP Act or any rules or orders made under the RP Act.

What happens if the court finds that a contention of malpractice is correct?

  • This depends on relief that is claimed by the petitioner in her election petition.
  • Under Section 84 of the RP Act, the petitioner may ask that the results of all or the winning candidates may be declared void.
  • In addition to that, the petitioner may also ask the court to declare her (in case the petition is filed by a candidate) or any other candidate as the winner or duly elected.
  • So the verdict on an election petition, if found in favour of the petitioner, may result in a fresh election or the court announcing a new winner.

Have there been any election results that were declared void because of an election petition?

  • There are many examples, the most famous being the Allahabad High Court verdict of 1975 which set aside Indira Gandhi’s election from Rae Bareli constituency, four years earlier, on grounds of corrupt practice.
  • The election petition was filed by her nearest rival Raj Narain who had lost by over one lakh votes.
  • The High Court found that Indira Gandhi’s election agent Yashpal Kapur, the DM of Rae Bareli, the Superintendent of Police of Rae Bareli and the Home Secretary of UP government helped in the arrangements for her election tour.
  • This amounted to a corrupt practice under Section 123 (7) of the RP Act.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

ECI releases an Atlas on General Elections 2019

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Atlas on General Elections

Mains level: Unique features of Indian general elections

The Election Commission of India has released ‘General Elections 2019 – An Atlas’.

Atlas on General Elections

  • The Atlas encompasses all the data and statistical figures of this monumental event. It shares interesting facts, anecdotes and legal provisions related to the Indian elections.
  • It brings out salient features such as data of the 23 States and Uts where women voting percentage was more than the male voting percentage.
  • It has information about the largest & smallest parliamentary constituency in terms of electors, candidates and performance of political parties amongst other parameters.
  • The Atlas depicts the elector’s data in different categories and through various comparison charts like Elector Gender Ratio and electors in different age categories.
  • This Atlas serves as an informative and illustrative document that brings to light the nuances of the Indian electoral process and empowers readers to analyze trends and changes.

Data on 2019 Elections

  • The 2019 General Elections witnessed the lowest gender gap in the history of Indian elections.
  • The Elector Gender Ratio which has shown a positive trend since 1971 was 926 in the 2019 General Elections.
  • The Atlas also compares the average number of electors per polling station in different states during the 2014 & 2019 General Elections.
  • The Election Commission of India set up over 10 lakh polling stations in General Elections 2019 with the lowest number of electors per polling station (365) in Arunachal Pradesh.

Why was such Atlas needed?

  • Since the first General Elections in 1951-52, the Commission has been publishing a compilation of electoral data in the form of narrative and statistical books.
  • 17th General Elections conducted in 2019 were the largest democratic exercise in human history which witnessed the participation of 61.468 crore voters at 10.378 lakh polling stations spread over 32 lakh sq km.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Electoral bonds

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Electoral bond and issues related to it

Mains level: Paper 2- Issues with electoral bond

The article highlights the issues with the political funding through electoral bonds.

Changes made for the electoral bond and issues with them

  • Earlier, only profit-making domestic companies could contribute to political parties; now loss-making companies can too.
  • Earlier, foreign companies or companies where the controlling stake was held by a foreign company couldn’t contribute; now they can. 
  • India’s political parties could theoretically be fully funded by a foreign company operating in India or by a foreign entity through a shell company.
  • Only the ruling party via the State Bank of India (SBI) has a full account of all donations being made via electoral bonds, to itself and to Opposition parties.

Issues in the Supreme Court verdict

  • In March 2021, the Supreme Court refused to stay the sale of electoral bonds before the West Bengal elections.
  • Instead, the judgment listed several documents which supposedly establish a paper trail on donations and do some ‘match the following’.
  • This is impractical and plainly incorrect.
  • The Right to Information (RTI) Act of 2005 enables easier access to information held by public authorities.
  • Suggesting a “match the following” is incorrect for three reasons.

1) Full scale of registered entities in unknown

  • If we set aside individual donors and focus just on registered entities, we will find that the full scale of registered entities is unknown. 
  • According to back-of-the-envelope calculations, there are close to 25 lakh potential donors comprising just companies and firms.
  • This includes about 12.6 lakh active private limited companies as of January 31, 2021.
  • Firms, unlike companies, have no regulatory mandate to submit their annual reports except for filing their annual tax returns, since their functioning is regulated by Acts other than the Companies Act of 2013.

2) No disclosure by companies about donation to political parties

  • Even if registered companies filed annual financial statements, many do not disclose political donations.
  • Conveniently, the Finance Bill of 2017 amended Section 182 of the Companies Act of 2013 to remove the requirement for declaring disaggregated donations to political parties.
  • Even if registered companies filed annual financial statements, many do not disclose political donations.

3) Political parties do not need to disclose their donor

  • Crucially, political parties do not need to disclose their electoral bond donors either.
  • Strictly speaking, political parties are not even supposed to know their electoral bond donors.
  • The only requirement is the annual audit reports with a total of all donations received via electoral bonds.
  • These reports are submitted with great delays.
  • Even if these reports are submitted on time, there is no way to match a donation of a company to that received by a political party as only aggregate amounts are available.

Implications

  • Electoral bonds give political power to companies, wealthy individual donors, and foreign entities, thus diluting the universal franchise of one voter-one vote.
  •  Every vote is not equally valuable if companies can influence policies through hidden donations.
  •  The winner of this arrangement is the ruling party, whether at the Centre or in a State, and the loser is the average voter.

Way forward

  • Companies and political parties could exercise moral leadership and voluntarily disclose the identity of recipients and donors, as the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha recently did.

Conclusion

Opacity in political funding goes against the basic tenets of democracy. What we need is a system of political funding which is transparent and fair.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Appointment of Election Commissioners

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Election Commission

Mains level: Appointment in constitutional bodies

President Ram Nath Kovind on Tuesday appointed of Anup Chandra Pandey, a retired Uttar Pradesh cadre IAS officer, to the post of Election Commissioner.

Election Commission of India (ECI)

  • The ECI is a constitutional body responsible for administering elections in India according to the rules and regulations mentioned in the Constitution of India.
  • It was established on January 25, 1950.
  • The major aim of the election commission of India is to define and control the process for elections conducted at various levels, Parliament, State Legislatures, and the offices of the President and Vice President of India.
  • It can be said that the Election Commission of India ensures the smooth and successful operation of the democracy.

Functions

According to Article 324 of the Indian Constitution:

  • the ECI has superintendence, direction, and control of the entire process for conduct of elections to Parliament and Legislature (state legislative assembly & state legislative council) of every State and to
  • the offices of President and Vice-President of India

Answer this PYQ in the comment box:

Q.Consider the following statements:

  1. The Election Commission of India is a five-member body.
  2. Union Ministry of Home Affairs decides the election schedule for the conduct of both general elections and bye-elections.
  3. Election Commission resolves the disputes relating to splits/mergers of recognized political parties.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct? (CSP 2017)

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 only

(c) 2 and 3 only

(d) 3 only

Its composition

  • Initially, the commission had only a Chief Election Commissioner. Presently, it consists of a Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners.
  • For the first time, two additional Commissioners were appointed on 16th October 1989 but they had a very short term till 1st January 1990.
  • Afterward, on 1st October 1993, two additional Election Commissioners were appointed.
  • The concept of a multi-member Commission has been in operation since then, with decision-making power by majority vote.

Appointment & Tenure of Commissioners

  • The President has the power to select Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners.
  • They have a tenure of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
  • They have the same status and receive pay and perks as available to Judges of the Supreme Court of India.
  • The CEC can be removed from office only through accusation by Parliament.
  • The election commissioner or a regional commissioner shall not be removed from office except on the recommendation of the CEC.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Electoral Reforms In India

Simultaneous Elections in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Paper 2- One nation one election

The article deals with the issue frequent elections in the country and highlights the need for debate on the idea of “one nation, one election”.

Need for debate on one nation one election

The idea has been around since at least 1983, when the Election Commission first mooted it. The concept needs to be debated mainly around five issues.

1) Financial costs of  conducting elections

  • The costs of conducting each assembly or parliamentary election are huge and, in some senses, incalculable.
  • Directly budgeted costs are around Rs 300 crore for a state the size of Bihar.
  • But there are other financial costs, and incalculable economic costs.
  • Before each election, a “revision” of electoral rolls is mandatory.
  • The costs of the millions of man-hours used are not charged to the election budget.
  • The economic costs of lost teaching weeks, delayed public works, badly delivered or undelivered welfare schemes to the poor have never