Time and again, many electoral reforms have been proposed by various committees, Law Commission and ECI itself. A discussion on these crops up during every election. We’ve tried to comprehensively list the proposed reforms under various sub-headings. A brute-force memorization of all this information is not required. Go through this list so that you have a background while reading news items on Electoral Reforms and ECI.
I.Amendment to the Constitution of India
1. Constitutional protection for all members of the Commission.
2. Budget of the Commission to be ‘charged’ on the CFI.
3. Independent Secretariat for the Commission.
II.Electoral Roll Matters
While Army personnel are allowed to vote, Navy and Airforce are not.
There are no provisions for overseas electors to vote despite being eligible to do so. Amendments proposed provide the option of proxy voting or postal ballot voting.
At present, the Electoral Rolls prepared by the Election Commission are not used by the State Election Commissions leading to duplication of effort and errors costing both in terms of time and money. Common Electoral Rolls to be used in local elections was a recommendation endorsed by the Law Commission.
III.Election Management Issues
At present, filing false declarations about the background of the candidate attracts penalty under Section 125A of The Representation of the People Act, 1951. The offence is punishable by up to 6 months, or with fine, or with both.
The Commission has proposed that the punishment under section 125A should be increased to 2 years’ imprisonment without the alternative clause of fine, and also that the offence should be included in the list of offences listed in sub-section (1) of section 8 which would attract disqualification on conviction irrespective of the term if sentence. The Commission also proposed that furnishing of false affidavit or suspension of material information in the affidavit should also be specified as ground for challenging the election under section 100 (1) of The Representation of the People Act, 1951.
In S. Subramaniam Balaji vs Govt. Of T.Nadu & Ors, the SC observed that “although, the law is obvious that the promises in the election manifesto cannot be construed as ‘corrupt practice’ under section 123 of The Representation of the People Act, the reality cannot be ruled out that distribution of freebies of any kind, undoubtedly, influences all people. It shakes the root of free and fair elections to a large degree. In this regard the EC has proposed an amendment to RPA, 1951 allowing Adjournment of poll or countermanding of elections on ground of bribery.
IV.Election Officials and Logistics
Use of Totalizer Machines
EVM totalizer can count votes of multiple Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) simultaneously. This way the results of votes in a group of EVMs can be taken without ascertaining the result in individual EVM corresponding to polling booth.
As per the present provisions in The Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, votes in the EVMs are to be counted polling station wise, which leads to situations where voting pattern in various localities/pockets become known to everyone. There is a view that this can result in victimization and/or discrimination and intimidation of electors of particular localities. This issue can be addressed by use of totalizer that can be used for taking out the results of voting in a group of 14 EVMs without revealing the votes in individual EVMs.
V.Nomination of Candidates
Contesting the elections from 2 seats – At present as per RPA 1951, a person is allowed to contest from 2 seats. However it is imperative that he has to vacate one of the two seats should he win both. This leads to holding by-elections which causes inconvenience to voters and financial expenditure. The amendment to RPA 1951 calls for removal of this provision of contesting from 2 seats.
VI.De- Criminalization of politics
2. Misuse of religion for electoral gain
3. Making bribery in elections a cognizable offence
VII.Reforms relating to Political Parties
1. De-registration of political parties
2. Tax Relief for Political Parties
3. Compulsory Maintenance of Accounts by Political Parties
4. Accounting and Auditing Report of Political Parties
5. Form 24A under Rule 85B of The Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961
6. Prohibition on Anonymous Donations
7. Sale of Coupons
8. Maintenance of separate bank accounts by each contesting candidate for poll expenses
9. Cap on Expenditure by Political Party on a Candidate for election campaign
10. Ceiling of campaign expenditure by political parties
11. Limit the Number of Star Campaigners
12. Time period for maintaining books of account under section 77 of The Representation of the People Act, 1951
VIII.Election campaign and advertisements
1. Ban on exit polls and opinion polls
2. Ban on Government Sponsored Advertisement before elections
3. Section 126 of The Representation of the People Act, 1951
4. Paid news in connection with elections
5. Section 125A of The Representation of the People Act, 1951
IX.Election Expenses and Election Petitions
1. Ceiling on Election Expenditure to legislature from Local Authorities’, Graduates’ and Teachers’ Constituencies
2. Election expenditure in case of adjournment of poll under section 52 of The Representation of the People Act, 1951
3. Appointment of additional judges in the High Courts