Electoral System in India ( Part -1) - Indian Polity and Governance Notes | Study Polity and Constitution (Prelims) by IAS Masters - UPSC

UPSC: Electoral System in India ( Part -1) - Indian Polity and Governance Notes | Study Polity and Constitution (Prelims) by IAS Masters - UPSC

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 Electoral System in india

 

India is the most populous democracy in the world with about 75 cores of voters. Being a three­tiered democracy- central , state and local layers of governance-, the depth of democracy is great. India is a great example of representative democracy where periodical elections that are free and fair in which people vote without any coercion or fear, is the norm.AH social groups are free to participate in elections without any discrimination.

Apart from a robust constitutional and legislative framework, universal adult franchise, competitive political party system, statutory right to vote, an informed electorate and a vigilant media and civil society o constitute key elements of a sound and democratic electoral system, and are important prerequisites for a credible electoral democracy. It goes without-saying that a neutral and efficient election management with transparent systems and procedures in place is the most critical of all.

Constitutional provisions, supplemented by laws made by Parliament and the Rules made by the Election Commission are the basis for the conduct of elections.                               ■           -     .

Part XV of the Constitution (Art.324-329 ) contains provisions related to elections. There are two RPAs:   .

  • Representation of the People Act, 1950, which mainly deals with the preparation and- revision of electoral rolls and
  • Representation of the People Act, 1951 which deals, in detail, with all aspects of conduct of elections and post election disputes.

Other laws that confer powers on the EC are Presidential and Vice-Presidential Elections Acts, 1952, Government of Union Territories Act, 1963, Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991 and the Rules and Orders under them.

 Further, the Supreme Court of India held that where the enacted laws are silent or inadequate, the Election Commission has the residuary powers under the Constitution to act in an appropriate manner.

Constitutional provisions                              ’      '

Art. 324 broadly speaks of the functions of the Election Commission and its composition. It confers the power of superintendence, direction and control of elections in the Election Commission. It includes the preparation of the electoral rolls for, and the conduct of, all elections to Parliament and State Legislature; and elections to the offices of President and Vice-President of India.

The Election Commission shall consist of the Chief Election Commissioner and such number of other Election Commissioners, if any, as the President may from time to time fix. President appoints the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners subject to any law made by Parliament.

When any Election Commissioner is appointed, the Chief Election Commissioner shall act as the Chairman of the Election Commission.

Before each general election to the House of the People and to the Legislative Assembly of each State, and before the first general election and thereafter before each biennial election to the Legislative Council of each State having such Council, the President may also appoint, after consultation with the Election Commission, such Regional Commissioners as he may consider necessary to assist the Election Commission .

President determines the conditions of service and tenure of office of the Election Commissioners and the Regional Commissioners, subject to the provisions of any law made by Parliament.

The manner of removal of the CEC and the ground -for removal are the same as the Supreme Court judge- parliamentary vote followed by the Presidential decision. The conditions of service of the Chief Election Commissioner shall riot be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment. 

Election Commissioner or a Regional Commissioner shall not be removed from office except on the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner.

The President, or the Governor of a State, shall, when so requested by the Election Commission, make available to the Election Commission or to a Regional Commissioner such staff that is necessary for the conduct of the elections

An. 325 says that there shall be one general electoral rojl for every territorial constituency for election to either House of Parliament and State Legislature. It establishes equality among citizens for being enrolled as voters by affirming that no person shall be ineligible for inclusion in the electoral roll on grounds of religion, race, caste or sex.

326 lays down adult suffrage as the basis for elections to the House of the People and to the Legislative Assemblies of States .The following are the qualifications to vote

  • Should be a citizen of India
  • Should be not less than eighteen years of age.
  • is not disqualified under this Constitution or any law made by the appropriate Legislature on the grounds of
  1. non-residence
  2. unsoundness of mind
  3. crime or
  4. corrupt or illegal practice.

However, right to vote is not implied in Art.326. It is a statutory right under the RPA 1950.

Art. 327 confers on Parliament the power to make provision with respeet to elections to federal and state Legislatures, subject to the provisions of the

Constitution, on all matters relating to elections to Parliament or Legislature of a State including the preparation of electoral rolls, the delimitation of constituencies etc.   -

Art. 328 confers on the State Legislature power to make laws with respect to elections to such Legislature, subject to the provisions of the Constitution and any law made in that respect by Parliament. Such powers include the preparation of electoral rolls and all other matters necessary for securing the due constitution of such House or Houses.

Art.329 bars interference by courts in electoral matters.—Notwithstanding anything in the Constitution—

  1. the validity of any law relating to the delimitation of constituencies or the allotment of seats to such constituencies, made or purporting to be made under article 327 or article 328, shall not be called in question in any court;
  2. no election to either House of Parliament or to the House or either House of the Legislature of a State shall be called in question except by an election petition presented to such authority and in such manner as may be provided for by or under any law made by the appropriate Legislature.

Any elector or candidate can file an election petition on grounds of malpractice during the election An election petition can only be filed before the High Court, in respect of elections to the Parliament and State Legislatures. In respect of elections for the offices of the President and Vice President, such petitions can only be filed before the Supreme Court.

Election Commission

Since 1993, the Election Commission of India is a three-member body, with one Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners. It was not a multi member body from the beginning. It was a single - member body when it was first set up in 1950 till 1993 except for a brief period between 1989 October and 1990 January. In 1993 it became a three-member Commission and has remained so since then. Article 324(2) empowers the President of India to fix from time to time the number of Election Commissioners other than the Chief Election Commissioner.

The Chief Election Commissioner and the two Election Commissioners draw salaries and allowances at par with those of the Judges ofthe Supreme Court of India .

The Chief Election Commissioner or an Election Commissioner holds office for a term of six years from the date on which he assumes his office or till he attains the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.

The Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Conditions of Service)' Act, 1991, as amended, provides that if the CEC and his colleagues differ in opinion on any matter, such matter shall be decided by the opinion of the majority. CEC has no special role in decision making.

Are the commissioners and the CEC equal?

Former CEC N. Gopalaswami’s suo motu recommendation to the President to remove MrNavin Chawl'a from the post of Election Commissioner in 2009 raised legal questions as to whether he is Constitutionally competent to do so.

In S.S. Dhanoa vs Union of India (1991), the Supreme Court held: “The Chief Election Commissioner does not... appear to be primus inter pares, i.e. first among the equals, but is intended to be placed in a distinctly higher position .”

The position of the apex court evolved in the case of T.N. Seshan vs Union of India(1995). It held that the CEC and the ECs are equal. CEC is given the power of recommending the removal of ECs and it is intended to shield them and not use it against them. He can not use it suo moto as he is an equal of them.

While functioning as the CEC, he acts as the Chairman which means he presides over the meetings, conduct the business of the day, ensure that precise decisions are taken and correctly recorded and do all that is necessary for smooth transaction of business.

Functions of Election Commission

It has administrative, advisory and quasi-judicial functions.

Administrative functions

Under Article 324(1) of the Constitution of India, the Election Commission of India, interalia, is vested with the power of superintendence, direction and control of conducting the elections to the offices of the President and Vice-President of India. Detailed provisions are made under the Presidential and Vice Presidential Elections Act, 1952 and the rules made thereunder.

The same Article 324 also vests in the Commission the powers of uperintendence, direction and control of the elections to both Houses of Parliament. Detailed provisions are made under the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and the rules made thereunder.

Article 324 (1) also vests in the Commission the powers of superintendence, direction and control of the elections to both Houses of the State Legislature. Detailed provisions are made under the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and the rules made thereunder.

EC appoints the following :

The Election Commission of India nominates or designates an Officer of the Government of the State/Union Territory as the Chief Electoral Officer in consultation with that State Government/Union Territory Administration, the Chief Electoral Officer of a State/ Union Territory is authorised to supervise the election work in the State/Union Territory subject to the overall superintendence, direction and control of the Election Commission.

The Election Commission of India designates an Officer of the State Government as the District Election Officer in consultation with the State Government. The District Election Officer supervises the election work of a district.

The Election Commission of India nominates or designates an officer of the Government or a local authority as the Returning Officer for each of the assembly and parliamentary constituencies in consultation with the State Government/Union Territory Administration. In addition, the Election Commission of India also appoints one or more Assistant Returning

Officers for each of the assembly and parliamentary constituencies to assist the Returning Officer in the performance of his functions in connection with the conduct of elections.

The Returning Officer of a parliamentary or assembly constituency is responsible for the conduct of elections in the parliamentary or assembly constituency concerned EC appoints the officer of State or local government as Electoral Registration Officer (ERO).The Electoral Registration officer is responsible for the preparation of electoral rolls for a parliamentary / assembly constituency.

Under the Representation of the People Act 1951, the Election Commission of India nominates officers of Government as Observers (General Observers and Election Expenditure Observers) for parliamentary and assembly constituencies. They perform such functions as are entrusted to them by the Commission. The amendments made to the Representation of the People Act, 1951 in 1996 make the observers statutory appointments. They report directly to the Commission. EC's other administrative functions are

  • Under Art.324, EC is made responsible for the free and fair elections in the Country for elections to Parliament, Stare Legislature, President and Vice President of India
  • Under Art.324, EC has the duty to prepare and revise the electoral rolls
  • Political parties have to be registered with the Election Commission.
  • Election Commission decides the election schedules for the conduct ,bf elections, general elections or bye-elections; location of polling stations, assignment of voters to the polling stations, location of counting centres, arrangementsrto be made in and around polling stations and counting centres and all allied matters.
  • EC enforces the Model Code of Electoral Conduct that is mutually agreed upon by the political parties
  • Defines the national political party and State political party and accords recognition .EC declares other parties as registered-unrecognised parties.
  • in case of a dispute as to which party is to be given a particular symbol, it is the Election Commission that decides
  • it enforces limits on expenditure on elections
  • it postpones( for any reason like floods, cyclone etc) or orders repoll or countermands elections
  • if President’s rule is to be extended beyond one year, EC should certify that elections can not be held in the State( 44th Amendment Act)
  • During the elections, vast powers are assigned to the election commission enabling it to work as a civil court. According to Art.329b, courts do not intervene in election matters after the electoral process has begun
  • either the CEC or an EC nominated by the CEC is an ex officio member of the Delimitation Commission

BLO

Enrolling of all eligible voters and removing the names of the dead and shifted voters from electoral rolls are two important tasks in the updating of the electoral rolls.. As we do not have compulsory voting in our country, the enrolment of eligible voters did not always receive the attention it deserves. Besides, there was no focused attention paid to the process of removal of the names of bogus, dead and shifted voters from electoral rolls. As the result, the inaccuracy of rolls used to.be as high as 10 per cent in some cases. The presence of names of non-existent voters in the rolls therefore offered scope for poll-day malpractices such as impersonation and bogus-voting. Often, names were repeated. With up-to-date software, EC is able to easily eliminate such duplication all over the courrtcy.The ECl deliberated and introduced a new system called the booth level officer (BLO) system to deal with these problems. It created a clear line of accountability for preparation of an error-free electoral roll, making the BLO its custodian at the polling booth level. So he or she became accountable for the 1,000 to 1,500 eligible voters in his or her area. During 2009 and the subsequent elections to State Assemblies, the BLOs also ensured door-to-door distribution of voter-identification slips to voters. The preparation of accurate electoral rolls and direct distribution of voter identification slips by the BLOs also boosted voter confidence in the credibility of the election process. BLO system led to increase in voter turnout.

Within a few of years of the introduction of the BLO system in 2007 it has now become an integral part of election management. In subsequent elections in Gujarat and in other States, the BLOs now began to also collect photos for photo electoral rolls. Finally, we adopted the concept of the BLO system as a national exercise in the 2009 election, with very beneficial results.

Advisory Jurisdiction

Linder the Constitution, the Commission also has advisory jurisdiction in the matter of

  • post election disqualification of sitting members of Parliament and Sfate Legislatures. For example, for holding office of profit.
  • cases of persons found guilty of corrupt practices at elections which are dealt with by Supreme Court and High Courts are also referred to the Commission for its opinion on the question as to whether such person shall be disqualified and, if so, for what period.

The opinion of the Commission is given to the President or the Governor as the case may be and is binding.

Quasi-Judicial jurisdiction

The Commission has the power to disqualify a candidate who has not lodged an account of his election expenses within the time and in the manner prescribed by law. The Commission has also the power for removing or reducing the period of such disqualification as also other disqualification under the law.

Political Parties & the Election Commission

The Election Commission of India is the authority to register political parties under Sec.29A of; the Registration of People Act. All political parties are registered with the Election Commission under the law. Some parties are merely registered and some are recognized as national and state parties if they comply with the criteria that the EC lays down. The EC may enforce inner party democracy in their functioning by making it compulsory to hold organizational elections at stated intervals.

It has quasi-judicial jurisdiction :settlement of disputes between the splinter groups of a recognised party based on which symbol may be attached or frozen.

The Model Code of Conduct is voluntarily agreed to by the parties who have given power to the EC to enforce the same so that there is level playing field among them- among the big and small parties and also the ruling and opposition parties. EC’s power to enforce the MCC is recognized by the courts and also acquires force by precedent.

 Election Machinery

The Commission has a separate Secretariat at New Delhi. Two Deputy Election Commissioners who are the senior most officers in the Secretariat assist the Commission. They are generally appointed from the national civil service of the country and are selected and appointed by the Commission with tenure.

At the state level, the election work is supervised, subject to overall superintendence, direction and control of the Commission, by the Chief Electoral Officer of the State, who is appointed by the Commission from amongst senior civil servants proposed by the concerned state government. He is, in most of the States, a full time officer and has a team of supporting staff.

At the district and constituency levels, the District Election Officers, Electoral Registration Officers and Returning Officers perform election work. They all perform their functions relating to elections in addition to their other responsibilities.

The workforce for conducting a countrywide general election to Lok Sabha consists of nearly five million polling personnel and civil police forces so that about 70 crore electorate can vote in about 8 lakh polling booths. This huge election machinery is deemed to be on deputation to the Election Commission and is subject to its control, superintendence and discipline during the election period, extending over a period of one and half to two months.

The Secretariat of the Commission has an independent budget, which is finalised directly in consultation between the Commission and the Finance Ministry of the Union Government.

For parliament elections, Central Government bears the expenditure . State Government pays for the elections to State Legislature. In case of simultaneous elections to the Parliament and State Legislature, the expenditure is shared equally between the Union and the State Governments. For Capital Equipment, expenditure related to preparation for electoral rolls and for Electors' Identity Cards too, the expenditure is shared equally.

Election Process

The Commission announces the schedule of elections before the formal process begins. With the announcement of schedule, the Model Code of Conduct for guidance of candidates and Political Parties comes into effect. The formal process for the elections starts with the notification calling upon the electorate to elect Members of a House. As soon as notification is issued, candidates can start filing their nominations in the constituencies from where they decide to contest. These are scrutinised by the Returning Officer of the constituency concerned after.the last date for nomination is over. The validly nominated candidates can withdraw from the contest within two days from the date of scrutiny.

At least two weeks are given for political campaign before the actual date of poll. A separate date for counting is fixed and the results are declared for each constituency by the Returning Officer. The Commission announces list of Members elected and issues Notification for the due Constitution of the House. With such notification, the process of elections is complete and the President, in case of the Lok Sabha, and the Governors of the concerned States, in case of Vidhan Sabhas, can then convene the respective Houses to hold their sessions. The process takes 5-to 8 weeks for the national elections, 4 - 5 weeks for separate elections only for Legislative Assemblies.

Independence of the EC

Independence of Election Commission and its insulation from executive interference is guaranteed by the following provisions

  • The term of office of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners is six years from the date he assumes office or till the day he attains the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
  • Art. 324(5) says that Chief Election Commissioner shall not be removed from his office except in like manner and on like grounds as a judge of the Supreme Court and conditions of his service shall not be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment.The other Election Commissioners cannot be removed from office except on recommendation by the Chief Election Commissioner.
  • The Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioner's are entitled to the samesalary and other facilities, like rent free accommodation, as are provided to a judge of the Supreme Court
  • Conditions of service of the CEC and ECs can not be altered to their disadvantage-after their appointment.

It must be stated that unlike the judges of SC and HCs; CAG and the members of the UPSC, the administrative expenditure of the EC or the salaries , allowances and pensions of the CEC and ECs are not charged on the Consolidated Fund of India.

Recommendations to make the EC more independent and effective

  • Moily Commission (SAR)( 2007) recommends that there should be a collegium fpr appointment of Chief Election Commissioner and other Commissioners. It should be headed by Prime Minister consisting of Lok Sabha Speaker, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, Law Minister and Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson.Same was earlier recommended by the NCRWC
  • The same constitutional protection to all Election Commissioners as is available to the Chief Election Commissioner
  • all such functions concerning the Secretariat of the Election Commission, consisting of officers and staff at various levels, such as their appointments, promotions, etc., be exclusively vested in the Election Corrimission on the lines of the Secretariats of the Lok Sabha, and Rajya Sabha, Registries of the Supreme Court and High Courts etc., and
  • EC budget be Charged on the Consolidated Fund of India.

Recognition and Reservation of Symbols

The Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order 1968

EC is responsible for allotment of symbols to the political parties based On whether a political party is recognized -as national or state party — or unrecognized and is merely a registered party. EC lays down the definition of national and state party.

Following is the,definition of a national political party.

  • it secures at least six percent(6%) of the valid votes polled in any four or more states, at a general election to the House of the People or, to the State Legislative Assembly; and
  • in addition, it wins at least four seats in the House of the People from any State or States.

OR 

  • it wins at least two percent (2%) seats in the House of the People (i.e., 11 seatsin the existing House having 543 members), and these members are elected from at least three.different States.                                                                                  -

 OR

  • A party recognised as a State party in a minimum of four States (added in 2005)

State party is one that

  • secures at least six percent (6%) of the valid votes polled in the State in a ■ general election to the Legislative Assembly of the State concerned; andin addition, it wins at least two seats in the Legislative Assembly of the State concerned.

OR

  •  it wins at least three percent (3%) of the total number of seats in the Legislative Assembly of the State, or at least three seats in the Assembly, whichever is more.

OR

  •  In a general election to the LS in the State, it should win at least one seat for every 25 Lok Sabha seats, or any fraction thereof, allotted to that State

OR

  •  In a Lok Sabha general election from the State concerned, the candidates set up by the party should secure at least 6 per cent of the total val id votes polled in the State, and in addition, the party should win at least one seat in the Lok Sabha from that State in the said general election, (added in 2005).

OR                                              .      

 At the last general election to the House of the People or the Legislative Assembly of the State, the candidates set up by the Party have secured not less than eight percent of the' total valid votes polled in the State( In 2011, the last one was a new definition added for the State Party as some parties complained that even after winning 8% or more of vote, they are still denied the status of State party.This is the only definition where votes matter irrespective of seats).

National political parties are six: INC, BJP, Nationalist Congress Party, BSP, CPI and CPI(M). There are about 50 state parties. RJD lost its status recently.A party, that loses its recognition, shall not lose its symbol immediately, but shall be given the facility to use that symbol for some time to try and retrieve its status. However, the grant of such facility to the party to use its symbol will not mean the extension of other facilities to*it, as are available to recognised parties, like, free time on Doordarshan/AIR, free supply of copies of electoral rolls, etc.

Elephant Symbol

AGP, BSP,“PMK and SSP to share 'elephant' as election symbol

The Asom Gana Parishad, Bahujan Samaj Party, Pattali Makkal Katchi and Sikkim Sangram Parishad have elephant as their symbol. BSP is a national party while others are state parties. Inevitably, it led to disputes.They resolved the dispute over the use of the elephant as their election symbol as follows:

The elephant will serve as the BSP's symbol in all states and Union territories except Assam, Puducherry and Sikkim — while the AGP, PMK and SSP will have its use in their respective states. If BSP contests in these states, it will have the elephant symbol.

YSR Congress and Fan symbol

The party chose ceiling fan symbol. It contested bypolls in 18 assembly constituencies and I Lok Sabha constituency in June 2012- they fell vacant as the MLAs from these constituencies revolted against their parties and were either disqualified under anti -- defection law or resigned. However, YSRC was not a state party according to the definition of EC and so there was an apprehension that all candidates of the party would not get the same symbol. But all YSR Congress contestants could get the same symbol as EC made the rule that sitting members could choose the symbol of their choice.

Common symbol

National parties and state parties could have the symbol of their choice in all the constituencies where they are contesting. However, the registered but unrecognised parties can not have such a common symbol till 2011 when the EC changed the rule

Hitherto those parties were given symbols by draw of lots in individual constituencies if more than one candidate asked for a particular symbol. Consequently, these parties were unable to get uniform symbols in all the constituencies they contested.

To avail themselves of the concession, under the revised provisions of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968, such parties will have to contest the general elections from at least 10 per cent of the constituencies in a State, subject to a minimum of 5 Assembly constituencies in a State having less than 50 Assembly Constituencies, and two Parliamentary Constituencies in a State having less than 20 Parliamentary constituencies.

They should intimate the choice of 10 symbpls from the list of free symbols.

This concession will be only a one:time facility for the Lok Sabha or the Assembly elections.

Models of Representation System

FPTP system

FPTP system is one where there are single member territorial constituencies contested usually by two or more candidates.. The winner is one who gets the largest number of votes- more votes than the nearest rival- called plurality of votes . It is in contrast to the term 'majority ‘ of votes which is one vote more than 50% of the total valid votes polled.

The plurality voting system which is in vogue in India, UK, Canada and the USA, is is also called winner-takes-all system . An extended type of the FPTP is one prevailing in France where there are two rounds. The second round of elections is held when the first round does not produce a winner who collects simple majority of votes polled- 50% plus . In the next round, the two highest vote getting contestants fight for 50% plus vote. Whoever polls the majority is declared the winner.lt is also called the "two-ballot" or "runoff election" system-the second round being called the run off round.Francois Hollande won such run off in 2012 to become the President of France. In the run ff election, evils like caste based and religion based voting can not succeed. However, minorities have less chance of getting.50% plus 1 of the vote.

FPTP system is adopted for the following reasons:

  • simple to administer
  • country being huge and the electorate being largely not very literate, it is the most convenient and suitable system
  • relatively inexpensive

However, the 'first-past-the-post'system prevailing in our country is found to be distorted for the following reasons

  • There are certain States in India where there are three or four recognized political parties, more or less evenly balanced. In such a situation , the winning candidate in many constituencies secures no more than 30% or less of the valid votes polled. Those who cast the remaining 70% of the vote are unrepresented. 145 MPs were elected to the 15th LS in 2009 with less than 20% votes
  • The first-past-the-post (FPP) system creates a distortion between the votes polled by a party and the eats it secures in the legislature. The votes polled by the ruling party may be marginally more than the nearest rival but the seats secured by the ruling party may be substantially more.
  • another situation is also evidenced where a political party polling a substantial portion of votes in a general election is not able to get a single seat in the Parliament/state legislature in the State .

The remedies are the form of PR and semi PR systems

Proportional system of representation

Proportional system of representation has been discussed in the chapters on RS and President and VP elections: a quota is set for a candidate to win the election. Quota depends on the number of candidates to be elected- the more the number the less the quota. It means that

  • in a single member constituency, quota is 50% plus one which is fair as the candidate with majority of votes is elected
  • in a constituency with more than one candidate to be elected, quota is proportionally less. Thus, it facilitates the election of those candidates who may never be able to obtain a majority of votes as they are in a minority . But they are in sufficiently adequate numbers to have their candidates elected as the quota is far less than 50% of the vote polled.

In the PR system, as indicated above, there are advantages like minorities, women, regional and caste groups can have their representatives which can be progressive and at the same time be divisive also.The disadvantages can be that there will be greater social divisions and polarization. Criminalization of politics can become worse as the threshold is lower and can be achieved with money and muscle power.

A variant of PR system is list proportional representation system. Every party puts up a list and contests elections. It is allotted seats according to the votes it polls. If it gets 25% of votes, it is allotted 25% of seats. Thus, an important lacuna of the FPTP is filled- the vote-seat mismatch. Voters may vote directly for the party, as in Israel, or they may vote for candidates and that vote will add up to the party, as in Turkey and Finland.

List systemis of two types

  1. closed list where the list is decided by party leadership. It may encourage sycophancy and representative-voter link may suffer
  2. open list order of candidates in the list is determined by the voters at large

 PR system may be based on single transferable vote (STV) as seen in the Presidential elections in India which is designed to minimize wastage of votes and provide results without further rounds of elections.

Semi proportional system

There may be a semi-proportional system as recommended by the Law Commission in the 170th report in 1999. It may also be called the AMS.The Additional Member System (AMS) is a branch of voting systems in which some representatives are electedTrom territorial constituencies and others are elected under list system. Voters haye two votes, one for the party and the second for the candidate in a constituency. The constituency representatives are elected under the first-past-the-post voting system. The party representatives are' elected by. a party vote. As explained above, where the party gets 20% of the vote, it gets 20% of the seats from the seats specially meant to be filled under the list system in addition to the normal seats filled by the FPTP. For example, in the case of India, LS has a total membership of elected members at 543.
In addition, 250 members may be filled by the List system.
Law Commission recommended that 25% of the number of members in Lok Sabha or Legislative Assemblies of the States should be filled on the basis of list system, Accordingly, in the Lok Sabha as well as in the State Legislative Assemblies, the present strength should be increased by 25% of the existing strength . The increased strength should be filled on the basis  of list system.  The list should be confirmed only  to recognised poltical Parties (RPP)

In support of semi-proportional system in India

Not a single party, since the first general elections in 1952, formed government by commanding over 50 per cent of the polled votes. All the governments at the Centre had more people voting against them than supporting them. The closest to reach the majority mark was the Rajiv Gandhi government in 1984 that polled 48.1 per cent with 415 seats. The lowest was the 1998, the NDA government whose alliance polled 36.2 per cent. In 2004, both the Congress and (he BJP together polled only 40 per cent. If democracy is the rule of the majority, then that has not yet been established.
This merits a serious consideration of the proportional representation system where people vote for parties, which, in turn, send to Parliament the number of MPs on the basis of the vote they get- 10% vote means 10% of the total membership in terms of seats.
When a party or alliance rules on the basis of majority vote and not just seat, its moral authority is more. This issue was debated in the Constituent Assembly, but in its wisdom, it adopted the British ‘first past the post’ system. The 1928 Motilal Nehru Committee report had recommended the system of proportional representation as the best answer to reflect India’s diversity.
On the debit side, however, critics show the example of Italy’s governmental instability, as a result of proportional representation. But it can be amended to suit India conditions and render- stability.

In the Indian content, therefore, a combination of proportional representation with the present form may be idea! as recommended by the Law Commission in 1999.

Electoral/political reforms for Stable Government

  1. Bonus seats as in the case of Greece where the largest single party gets 50 bonus seats .For example, the New Democracy Party that was marginally ahead of the Syriza party got 50 more seats as bonus and was able to form the government with other parties like Pasok in the 300 member Greek Parliament. Otherwise, there would be another round of election
  2. Constructive vote of no confidence in the LS where the ruling party loses only if there is an alternative. Otherwise, it continues even after losing the vote.However, even as it guarantees stability, it is against Art.75.3.. It can create strange and quarelling coalitions without any policy convergences.
  3. Presidential system with a security of tenure is a systemic change that may not be warranted because parliamentary system has been.functioning well.

Electoral reforms

The success of Indian democracy has been globally applauded but loopholes, in the foundation- the electoral system , remain. Since good governance begins with elections in a parliamentary democracy like ours,-the need for a completely free and fair election process needs emphasis. The need for electoral reforms arises from the following reason

  1. Make all constituencies have more or less the same number of electorate for representative justice
  2. Help electorate vote fearlessly
  3. De-criminalise the polity
  4. Use new technologies like ICE for more genuine participation by voters
  5. Establish level playing field among political parties

The Government reformed the electoral  system in many ways in the few decades as given below 

  1. Lowering the voting age to 18 years by amending Art.326
  2. Introduction of voter identity cards
  3. Introduction of electronic voting machines
  4. Making the EC a multi member body as provided by Art.324
  5. Limited introduction of state finding of elections by making suitable laws like the Election and Other Related Laws (Amendment) Act 2003
  6. No candidate can contest to Lok Sabha from more than two constituencies
  7. Delimitation of constituencies for Lok Sabha and Assemblies on the basis of 2001 census
  8. Section 8 of the RPA 1951 has been interpreted by the EC in such a way as to debar a convicted person from contesting even while an appeal is pending in the apex court

Many committees .have studied and reported on electoral reforms with important recommendations. The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Amendments to Election Law headed by Shri Jagannath Rao (1971), the TarkUnde committee set up by LokNayak Jai Prakash Narayan(l974), Dinesh Goswami committee (1990), V R Krishna Iyer committee (1994),- Indrajit Gupta committee (1998) are some such committees. The 15th Law Commission recommended amendments to Constitution and the Representation of People Act, 1951 in its 170th report ( 1999).

Some more electoral reforms that are recommended and are under consideration are

  1. None of the above option
  2. Recall
  3. Inner party democracy
  4. Paid news
  5. Strengthening the EC
  6. Non-serious candidates to be discouraged.
  7. Forfeiture of security deposit for failure to secure Jess than l/4th of the votes polled.
  8. Statutory backing for important provisions of model code of conduct.The recommendation is not acted upon as statutory backing will open it for judicial review which is time consuming and so is not advisable during elections.
  9. Bye-elections should be held within a period of six months of the occurrence of the vacancy.
  10. Lowering the age of candidates contesting elections to the Legislative Assembly and L.ok Sabha from 25 years to 21 years and in case of elections to the Legislative Councils and Councils of States from 30 years to 25 years.
  11. Change of present electoral system to Mixed system( semi-proportional system like the additional member constituencies) Making voting compulsory.
  12. Amendment of Anti-Defection Law to make the President and the Governor in consultation with the EC the authority to disqualify for defection.
  13. proliferation of parties needs to be stopped with the EC given the power to deregister a party which it does not have now. For example, a communal party . Although canvassing of votes in the name of religion had been barred, political parties, including the recognised ones, continue to play the communal card.
  14. If a person contests election from two constituencies and wins from both. In such a situation he vacates the seat intone of the two constituencies. The consequence is that a bye-election would be required from one constituency involving avoidable labour and expenditure on the conduct of that bye-election. Law should be amended to provide that a person cannot contest from more than one constituency at a time or he should bear the expenditure of the bye election.
  15. restrictions on exit polls and opinion polls
  16. prohibition of surrogate advertisements in print media. Many bodies emerge before elections and give huge advertisements in newspapers with false identities to influence electoral behavuiour in the name of secularism, socialism and so on, They are not genuine bodies and it constitutes surrogate advertisement.
  17. negative / neutral voting in the form of a provision enabling a voter to reject all the candidates in the constituency if he does not find them suitable.
  18. government sponsored advertisements should be outlawed
  19. composition of election commission and constitutional protection of all members of the commission. Same protection sJTpuld be given to the ECs as the CEC.
  20. expenses of election commission to be treated as .charged on Consolidated Fund of India

CIC order on political parties:critical analys

In June 2013, Central Information Commission (CIC) held that the parties are public authorities and answerable to citizens under RTI Act.The CIC, a quasi-judicial body, has said that six national parties INC, BJP, NCP, CPJ-M, CPI and BSP have been substantially funded indirectly by the Central government and they have the character of public authority under the RTI Act as they perform public functions. After the order of the full bench of CIC, the parties will be answerable to the citizens regarding their source of funding, how they spend money and choice of candidates for elections, among other issues.

Section 2(h) o f the RTI Act defines ’public  authority’ as follows:-

"Public authority" means any authority or body or institution of Self-Government established or constituted, , (a) by or under the Constitution;

(b) by any other law made by Parliament;

(c) by any other law made by State Legislature;

(d) by notification issued or made by the appropriate Government, and includes any

  1. body owned, controlled or substantially financed
  2. non-Government Organisation substantially financed, directly or indirectly, by funds provided by the appropriate Government

The CIC admits that neither (a), (b), (c) and (d) applies to political parties. 'They have not been established or constituted by and under the Constitution; nor by any other law made by Parliament or the State Legislature; nor are these bodies owned or controlled by any appropriate government.'
But on grounds of sub-clauses (i) and (ii), which pertain to substantial funding- tax-free money raising; land fr party office; AIR/DD time etc.

 Dr.Abhishek Singhvi says that the substantial funding subsections (i) and (ii) should apply only if the body satisfies the stipulation of first being established by the government, and which the CIC has itself said is not the case.
Thus, there is a raging debate about whether they can be classified as public authorities under RTI Act 2005.
However, there are advantages to the electoral democracy and the values of transparency and good governance if political parties come under the RTI like financial transparericy; why they are not giving tickets to women can be asked;their opaqueness about their internal workings gets corrected -for instance on inner party elections or selection of candidates.

Moily Commission on electoral reforms

 

 

Tbe six-member-Commission headed by the former Chief Minister of Karnataka, Veerappa Moily made the following suggestions in its report titled “ Ethics in Governance’ ( 2007)

  • partial state funding of elections should be available
  • tightening of anti-defection law. Power of disqualification of MPs and MLAs on grounds of defection should be taken away from the Presiding Officers and be vested with President and Governors on the advice of the Election Commission. Such an amendment to the law is said to be necessary in the light of the long delays seen in some recent cases
  • a collegium should be given the power of appointment of Chief Election Commissioner and other Commissioners. Collegium should be headed by Prime Minister and should consist of Lok Sabha Speaker, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, Law Minister and Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson
  • Special Election Tribunals should be constituted at the regional level to ensure speedydisposal of election petitions and disputes within a stipulated peritid of six months. Each Tribunal should comprise a High Court judge and a senior civil servant with at least five years of experience in the conduct of elections. Its mandate should be to ensure that all election petitions are decided within a period of six months as provided by the law. The Tribunals should normally be set up for a term of one year only, extendable for a period of six months in exceptional circumstances
  • Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 needs to be amended to disqualify all persons facing charges related to grave and heinous offences and corruption, with the modification suggested by the. EC.

 

Some electoral reforms conducted in the last decade

The introduction of electoral Identity Cards and preparation of photo voter rolls, stricter enforcement of the Model Code of Conduct, large-scale deployment of central paramilitary forces, the appointment of general and expenditure observers, clear and strict directions of the Election Commission regarding the conduct of party meetings, gradual introduction of Electronic Voting Machines and use of technology in various administrative matters such as videography of elections and secret cameras in sensitive polling stations are some of the salient features introduced by the Election Commission since the ’90s.Enhancing voter awareness by declaring January 25, the day the EC came into force in 1950, as the voter awareness day.
These reforms have paid off as can be seen from the high voter turnout in the 2011 and 2012 assembly elections- 75-80%. The reasons for the same are- increasing awareness; fearless voters due to better security that the EC ensured by videography etc; simple voting through EVMs; gravity of issues like corruption; good performance like in Kerala by Achutanandan govt; dynasty issues as in Tamil Nadu with DMK party.
• BLO
• Vulnerability mappin

The document Electoral System in India ( Part -1) - Indian Polity and Governance Notes | Study Polity and Constitution (Prelims) by IAS Masters - UPSC is a part of the UPSC Course Polity and Constitution (Prelims) by IAS Masters.
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