Electoral System in India ( Part -2) - Indian Polity and Governance Notes | Study Polity and Constitution (Prelims) by IAS Masters - UPSC

UPSC: Electoral System in India ( Part -2) - Indian Polity and Governance Notes | Study Polity and Constitution (Prelims) by IAS Masters - UPSC

The document Electoral System in India ( Part -2) - 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.
All you need of UPSC at this link: UPSC

 Electoral System in India ( Part -2)

 

 Model Code of Conduct

The model code of conduct was brought into force in 1967 after the political parties, in discussion with.the EC , unanimously agreed to the contents. For example: ministers should not sanction from the discretionary fund once elections are announced. EC can take action against a party that violates the model code after the party is given reasonable time to defend itself. The Code was issued by the EC in 1991 and has since been amended many times.

The objective of the code is to ensure that political parties do not misuse official resources when they are in power. The code seeks to establish a level playing field among the parties. The code comes into effect immediately after the announcement of the elections by the EC and will cease with the declaration of the result.

EC is given the power to conduct free and fair elections under Art. 324 and thus has the implied authority to enforce the Code.

The code prescribes broad guidelines about the conduct of the parties, particularly for the ruling parties at the Centre and the States. Some points of the Code are:

  • No party or candidate shall cause tension between different castes and communities, religious or linguistic
  • criticism of other political parties, when made, shall be confined to their policies and programme, past record and work.
  • Parties and Candidates shall refrain from criticism of all aspects of private life, not connected with the public activities of the leaders or workers of other parties
  • the party in power whether at the Centre or in the State shall not use its official position for the purposes of its election campaign
  • issue of advertisement at the cost of public exchequer shall be scrupulously avoided
  • Ministers and other authorities shall not sanction grants/payments out of discretionary funds                                                                                                                    .

If a recognized political party violates the model code, EC has the power to suspend or withdraw recognition of the party

The Code is not given a statutory status as there is a voluntary desire on the part of the parties to obey the same.

Model Code of Conduct comes into force on the date of announcement of election schedule by the Election Commission.

Critics believe the code obstructs government initiatives for too long a period.

Elections and money power

Contesting elections requires enormous financial resources . Political communication and mobilization in a vast and populous country like ours is very expensive .National political parties contest upto 543 seats to the Lok Sabha. On average, a person contesting for the seat of a member of parliament spends five rupees on a voter and the average MP constituency has 15 lakh voters in it, bringing the total minimum necessary funds to Rs. 75 lakh. Such huge money cannot be raised from public at large and so the party depends on other sources like corporate funding which can be inimical to democracy and the integrity of the candidate.

Since smaller parties find it difficult to contest if the role of money in elections is excessive, there needs to be regulation of money power.

Following steps have been taken » fixing the expenditure limits

  • making bribery a corrupt practice for the giver and taker
  • making donations transparent
  • 5% of the profits of the companies( other than government companies) are permitted for the donation to parties. 

Steps that are suggested are .

  • Holding of simultaneous elections for LS and Legislative Assemblies, logistics permitting.
  • Reduction of campaign period
  • State funding of elections

A candidate is not free to spend as much as he likes on his election. The law prescribes that the total election expenditure shall not exceed the maximum limit prescribed under Conduct of Election Rules, 1961. Limit are set by the Union Government. EC is only an advisory body. If limits are exceeded, it would also amount to a corrupt practice under R. P. Act, 1951.

The limit for expenditure is fixed by the Government and is revised from time to time. At present the limit of expenditure for a parliamentary constituency in bigger states like U. P, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh is Rs. 40 lakhs.

The limit of election expenditure for an assembly constituency in the above bigger states is Rs.16 lakhs.

The maximum limits of election expenditure vary from State to State. The lowest limit at present for a parliamentary constituency is Rs. 10 lakhs for the constituency of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu and Lakshadweep.

Under section 77 of the R.P.Act, 1951, every 'candidate at an election to the House of the People or State Legislative Assembly is required to keep, either by himself or by his election agent, a separate and correct account of all expenditure in connection with the selection incurred or authorised by him or his election agent between the date on which he has been nominated and the date of declaration of result, both dates inclusive. Every contesting candidate has to lodge a true copy of the said account within 30 days of result of the election.

In every state the account of election expenses shall be lodged by a contesting candidate with the District Election Officer of the district in which the constituency from which he contested lies. In the case of Union Territories, such accounts are to be lodged with the Returning Officer Concerned.

If a candidate is contesting from more than one constituency, he has to lodge a separate return of election expenses for every election which he has contested. The election for each constituency is a separate election.

Under section l QA of the RP Act, 1951, if the Election Commission is satisfied that a person has failed to lodge an account of election expenses with the time and in the manner required by or under that Act and he has no good reason or justification forthe failure, it has the power to disqualify him for a period of 3 years for being chosen as, and for being, a member of either House of Parliament or the Legislative Assembly or Legislative Council of a State.

Acceptance of money to vote for a candidate is a corrupt practice of bribery under Section 123 (1) of R. P. Act, 1951. It is also an offence under section 171 -B of Indian Penal Code and is punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year or with fine or both.

Media and elections

The relationship between the media and elections is controversial. The media always claim they merely “inform the public”, while critics claim they actually shape public opinion,Thereby “controlling” democracy.EC tries to control such influence of the media. For example, The Election Commission of India had on April 11,2013 notified that conducting any exit poll and publishing or publicising by means of print or electronic media or disseminating in any other manner whatsoever the result of any exit poll in connection with the current general elections to Legislative Assembly of Karnataka between 7am and 5.30pm on May 5 would be prohibited.Further, the EC stated that under Section 126 (l)(b) of the Representation of People Act, 1951, displaying any election matter including results of any opinion poll or any other poll survey, in any electronic media would be prohibited during the period of 48 hours ending with the time fixed for conclusion of poll in connection with the elections in Karnataka.

Paid news

Candidates contesting an election have limits of permissible election expenditure within which publicity is difficult to pay for. Therefore, they resort to bribing the newspapers and other electronic media to print about them. These stories are paid for though it costs far less than an advertisement and carry more value. However, it is a violation of journalistic and representative ethics. It misleads the readers too and viewers too. But it is not an offence under RPA 1951. Therefore, the EC recommendation is made to classify it as a crime.

Unilesh Yadav                                               ’

The Election Commission of India's disqualification of Umlesh Yadav, sitting MLA from Bisauli in Uttar Pradesh, is a landmark order. Ms Yadav was disqualified under Section 10-A of the Representation of the People Act 1951 for a period of three years for failing to provide a “true and correct account” of her election expenses. She had failed to include in her official poll accounts the amount she spent on advertisements, shown as news, in two Hindi dailies, Dainik Jagran and Amar Ujala, during her 2007 election campaign. She should have shown it in her election expenditure under Section 78 of the Representation of the People Act. EC therefore disqualified her after auditing her election expenses statements.

It must be clarified that she did not lose her seat and face disqualification for paid news. It was a case of improper accounts.                                                                             .                    „

 

Political parties and their finances

Political parties have a-responsibility to maintain proper accounts erf their income and expenditure and get them audited annually. 2nd ARC advocated that this needs to be acted upon early. The audited accounts should be available for information of the public domain. Although *    in an amendment made -the Election and Other Related Laws (Amendment) Act, 2003, a provision has been made regarding preparation of a report of contributions received by political parties in excess of Rs.20,000/- and making it public as it should be received only by cheque, this is not sufficient for ensuring transparency and accountability in the financial management of political parties.

Election Commission has recently got the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) to draw up guidelines concerning the formats, frequency, scrutiny/ etc. pf the accounts to be maintained by political parties.

The Law Commission recommended the insertion of a new section 78A for maintenance, audit and publication of accounts by political parties in the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

Political parties do not pay income tax as they are not commercial entities and are 'public authorities' as declared by the EC in 2008. CIC also designated them as public authorities in 2013. Being public authorities, they submitted detailed balance sheets indicating the availability of funds, income and expenditure incurred by them.

Simultaneous Polls for State Assemblies and Parliament

None of the Above Option

(Discussed in the Class)

 

Election and Other Related Laws (Amendment) Act 2003

The Election and Other Related Laws (Amendment) Act 2003 was made to reform the law related poll funding and party finances.

It provides a strong incentive for open contributions to political parties.ln the absence of tax incentives, most companies preferred to fund parties clandestinely for a variety of reasons — on account of the ubiquitous black economy, for fear of retribution from rival parties etc. For the first, time, the law now provides for full tax exemption to individuals and corporates for all contributions to recognised political parties. All contributions of Rs 20,000 and above must be disclosed by the party to the Election Commission, and such information will be in the public domain.

State funding is now available to registered parties in the form of allocation of time on the electronic media.

State Funding of elections

State funding of elections has been under consideration in India for more than three decades. It is advocated on the following grounds

  • Money is required for the political parties to communicate to the people and educate them and mobilize them on'various public issues
  • If state funding i?absent, corruption can creep into the political system and the integrity of the candidates may be seriously compromised even before he is elected
  • the amourltof money needecf to run a successful election campaign is substantial and prevents smaller parties from exerting their small proportion of influence on the outcome. Smaller parties are a Vital part of a democracy, as they, ensure that a complete spectrum of opinions is represented. Thus, state funding is required to establish level playing field among the parties
  • it prevents the influence of foreign money from influencing the parties

It is , however, opposed on the ground that public money need not be used to fund political parties when there are urgent challenges like public health, education etc.

The following committees recommended state funding of elections

  • Joint Parliamentary Committee (1971-1972)
  • Tarakuode committee set up by Jaiprakash Narayan (1974)
  • Dinesh Goswami committee (1990 ).                                            ,
  • multi-party parliamentary committee under the chairmanship of Indrajit Gupta( 1998) was set up to look into the question of state funding of elections.

Indrajit Gupta Committee on State Funding of elections

The committee said that state funding of elections would bring in an element of equality to electoral contests, particularly because it would help remove the disadvantage faced by parties which represent the socially and economically weaker sections and which often have limited access to big donors.

Indrajit Gupta Committee Recommendations

  • State funding should be confined to recognized national and state parties.
  • State should meet some essential expenses of political parties during election campaigns and provide them administrative support during the period between elections
  • It should be in kind and take the following form of materials and other facilities for fighting elections like: a specified quantity of petrol or diesel to run vehicles during an election campaign; a specified quantity of paper to prepare election literature and voter identity slips; postal stamps for a specified sum of money; copies of the electoral roll in a constituency; electronic media time; tent-free accommodation for party headquarters in New Delhi and every recognised State party may be provided the same facility in the respective state capitals; one rent-free telephone with subscriber trunk dialling facility etc.
  • A separate Election Fund should be created with an annual contribution at the rate of Rs. 10 a voter, for the total electorate of about 60 crores, since grew to 75 crores by 2013) by the Centre and a matching amount contributed by all State governments together.
  • in order to be eligible for state funding, political parties and their candidates should have submitted their income tax returns up
  • political parties should accept all donations above Rs. 10,000 in the form of cheques or drafts and disclose the names of the donors.

How to reduce election expenditure

  • the State and Parliamentary level elections should be held at the same time
  • the campaign period should be reduced considerably
  • candidates should not be allowed to contest election simultaneously for the same office from more than one constituency

Inner party democracy

Political parties in India are influenced by dynastic politics. No regular periodical elections are held to elect the organizational office bearers. Polls are postponed. Information regarding crucial party stand is not disseminated among cadres. Decisions are taken by a handfu l of top leaders. This does not augur well for democracy .'Therefore, there needs to be amendments to RPA 1951 for regular elections.

Criminalization of Politics

Criminalization of politics refers to persons with criminal record entering legislature at national, state and local levels through the electoral process by money and muscle power. When law breakers become law makers the adverse consequences are in the form of corruption; demoralization cf bureaucracy; loss of faith in the democratic system by the common man; weakening of rule of law and so on..

The reasons for increasing criminalization of politics is the poverty and illiteracy of people; pressure on courts and the consequent delay in settlement of disputes; political parties prefer winnability to ethics and so criminals are given tickets as they can mobilize money and muscle power to intimidate the voters for Votes.

Politicisation of crime is related to it. It means justification of crime for political reasons. It has many shades. Crime justified for communal reasons- if it is used against rival group. Similarly, for ethnic reasons, crime is justified. For example, many caste groups set up militias. Political parties safeguard their criminals and pressurize and oppose those of the opponents. State machinery is used to protect some criminals and foist cases against others depending upon their loyalties.

Section 8 of RP Act

The section relates to disqualification of candidates from contesting in an election to Parliament or State Legislature for specified offences.

  1. Section 8 (1) relates to various offences like under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act. 1971 and if a person is convicted under these laws, six years of disqualification from contesting from dale of conviction will be in force. It is not considered as to what is the quantum of punishment.
  2. Section 8(2) deals with some economic crimes and also dowry and sati for which the same punishment as above is given if the person is sentenced for not less than six months.
  3. Section 8(3) covers all other offences ( for example^ offences under Prevention of Corruption Act) and says that if a sentence is for a period of atleast 2 years , the convicted person is disqualified to contest for a period of six years from the date of release
  4. Section 8(4) applies to sitting legislators. A sitting legislator who is convicted is not barred from contesting for a period of three months from the date of conviction during which time he can appeal; or if an appeal is madein three months, till such time that the appeal is disposed off.

 The EC interpreted the Section stringently in 1997. The effect is: earlier during the pendancy of appeal, the nomination of the convicted person was accepted while it is not so since 1997. After the High Court convicted and sentenced a person for at least 2 years, the person in question is disqualified from contesting even while an appeal is pending in the Supreme Court. He can only contest if the Supreme Court finds him innocent. The interpretation is found to be necessary to minimize criminals iri the political system.

 

Section 8 of the RP Act quoted above discriminates between a sitting legislator and'others in the sense that the former, even if convicted can contest while the appeal is pending, and others can not. According to the EC and other experts , the discrepancy needs to be removed.

ADR case

Reports of the Law Commission( 1999) and Voh’ra Committee( 1995) recommended that citizens should have information related to their representatives which is best made available while the candidate files his nomination papers in a election to Lok Sabha or Legislative Assembly..

A Public Interest Litigation (P1L) was filed by ADR( Association for Democratic Rights) in 1999 in the apex court for implementation of the said reports and for a direction to the Election Commission to make mandatory for every candidate to provide information regarding

  • criminal antecedents, if any
  • educational qualifications
  • asset-liability details of himself and his family.

It led to a landmark Supreme Court Judgement in 2002 endorsing the prayer of the ADR. Parliament made an Act in this regard in 2002 but diluted the verdict of the Supreme Court- requiring disclosure of criminal background, but not of financial and educational background. The Act was challenged .

The Supreme Court in a second landmark Judgement in 2003 declared the Act unconstitutional and restored its earlier order. Subsequently, the Election Commission issued orders implementing the judgement

Adjudication of Election Disputes

Section 80 and 80-A of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1951, provide that election petitions be filed only in the respective High Courts. Sections 86(6) and 86(7) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, provide that the High Court shall make an endeavour to dispose of an election petition within six months from its presentation and also as far as practicably possible conduct proceedings of an election petition on a day to day basis.

The concern Is that the High Courts, given their backlog of cases, take too long to deal with election petitions, final disposition often not happening till after the term of the elected representative is over. This phenomenon is so rampant that the Second Administrative Reforms Commission, in its report —Ethics in Governance|| (2007) observed, —such petitions remain pending for years and in the meanwhile, even the full term of the house expires thus rendering the election petitions infructuous.The NCRWC, the Election Commission, and the Second Administrative Reforms Commission, all have recommended setting up of Special Election Benches for fast disposal of election related cases.

Proxy Voting

The word proxy means "to act on behalf of another. It is allowed in India for defence personnel since 2003.The need for proxy voting arises from the fact that the campaigning period is reduced to 14 days. Ballot papers can be printed only after withdrawal of the nominations before being dispatched to the far off locations. For example, a soldier from Kerala posted to Tripura has to be sent the ballot postally and must mail it to the returning officer in Kerala within less than a fortnight which very often is found impossible.

Representation of the People Act 1951, says that the voting shall be secret ballot but section 60 of RPA permits special provisions for certain classes of people. Thus, on the strength of Section 60, proxy voting is permitted .Proxy voting is when a soldier in the Indian armed forces authorizes another person to vote on his behalf. He can nominate any eligible voter from his constituency . A soldier's proxy nomination is done only once in his service period. However, if he is unhappy with the proxy, or the proxy dies, the nomination can be revoked.One person can be the proxy for two soldiers.lf a soldier does not want to nominate someone as his proxy, he can opt for postal ballot. There are 2.5 m defence personnel who benefit from proxy voting. 1FS officers do not have this facility. They vote by postal ballot if they are posted abroad.

Exit polls banned

The Election Commission (EC) banned dissemination of results of opinion polls during 48 hours before the poll and put a blanket ban on exit polls till the last phase is over in the event of multi­phase elections.

The EC's move comes against the backdrop of the Supreme Court leaving it to the discretion of the EC to decide on laying down guidelines on opinion and exit polls till the government frames regulation on the issue. The government had in 2008 amended the Representation of the People Act (RPA), 1951 to curb publication of exit polls during elections till the conclusion of the final phase of voting so that it does not "influence" the voters. Government's move to amend the RPA is seen as an effort to ensure that polls, which are generally spread over several phases, are free and fair.

Shorter election process

There is still a case for a shorter election process. While the counting process is now quickened with the introduction of Electronic Voting Machines, the multi-phase polling process virtually brings the government to a standstill for close to three months. The election itself is held within the space of a month, but from the time the election is anrtbunced, which is when the Model Code of Conduct comes into effect, to the time the new Lok Sabha is constituted, it is about three months. No major policy decision can be taken, and welfare schemes and development works are suspended till after the new government takes office. The shorter the period of a lame- duck government, the better it is for governance. True, security considerations, geographical conditions and manpower requirements necessitate the staggering of the election. But the- Election Commission in recent years has been quick to make good use of technology and devise

Right to Vote

Part XV of Indian Constitution which deals-with elections ; Representation of People Acts 1950 and 1951 and various other provisions of the constitution stipulate the Qualifications and conditions and to vote in India. Constitution of India says that no one shall be ineligible for inclusion in the electoral roll on grounds of religion, race, caste or sex. Every citizen who is not less than eighteen years of age shall be entitled to be registered as a voter unless disqualified under the Constitution or any law made by the appropriate legislature on the ground of non­residence, unsoundness of mind, crime or corrupt or illegal practice.

Art. 326. The elections to the House of the People and to the Legislative Assembly of every State shall be on the basis of adult suffrage; that is to say, every person who is a citizen of India and who is not less than eighteen years of age ( reduced from 21 years by the Sixty-first Constitution Amendment Act, 1988 ) on such date as may be;fixed in that behalf by or under any law made by the appropriate Legislature and is not otherwise disqualified under this Constitution or any law made by the appropriate Legislature on the ground of non-residence, unsoundness of mind, crime or corrupt or illegal practice, shall be entitled to be registered as a voter at any such election.

Right to vote, however I not a Constitutional right nor a Fundamental Right. It is a statutory right. Read ahead.

The right to vote is given by Sections 16 & 19 of 1950 RP Act & Ss. 11A & 62 of the 1951 RP Act. Section 16 disqualifies a person from registration in an electoral roll who is not a citizen of India or is of unsound mind or is disqualified for election offences/corrupt practices. Also, after registration if any person becomes disqualified his/her name shall be struck off from the rolls. Section 19 lays down minimum 18 years of age & ordinary residence in the constituency as conditions for registration.

Section 62, 1951 Act deals with right to vote. Every person who is entered in the roll of a constituency is entitled to vote in that constituency. A person suffering from disqualification cannot vote. Every person entitled to vote, can vote only in one constituency and only once at one election. Section 62 (5) disallows a person to vote at an election if he/she is confined in a prison; the confinement may be under a sentence or in the lawful custody of the police. Undertrials have no right to vote. This disentitlement will not apply to those confined under any preventive detention law. A person under trial but who is on bail can vote.

The Constitution identifies disqualification only on grounds of non-residence, unsoundness of mind, crime or corrupt or illegal practice.

Communication for election tracking(COMET)

An efficient election management is about managing information and ensuring mid-course interventions and cotrections. Today India has one of the fastest growing mobile network markets. The mobile reach has improved tremendously in recent years. It is estimated that over 60% of the country is covered by mobile connectivity. The Election Commission as a constantly innovating institution took the initiative to try to reach out to every polling station in the country, using one or other multimode communication tool., A systematic mapping of communication assets and resources was done with reference to every polling station. Mobile connectivity, landline phones, high frequency (HF) and very high frequency (VHF) communication equipment, and satellite phones were used in the process. Where none of these worked (as in high mountain areas or deep forests), dedicated “runners” were identified to track remote polling stations. Through this system almost all polling stations could be contacted by supervising officials, and different layers of tracking hierarchy were predetermined for each location. To drive home the seriousness to be attached to this initiative, the Commission ordered the conduct of two “dry runs” to validate the numbers, connectivity and efficacy. COMET created a huge psychological presence of the Commission and ensured an extended vigil even in the remotest of locations.

 

None of the above

The option of not voting for any candidate is available even if the electronic voting machines (EVMs) do not have a button with the 'none of the above' option.A proposal made by the Commission for making provisions in the law for 'none of the above' button in the EVM is pending with the government. This issue is also pending before the Hon'ble Supreme Court." However, if a voter, after going through the formalities of identification, application of indelible ink on the finger etc, decides not to vote for any candidate, he or she will have to inform the polling officer about the decision, and the latter will then make entries in the "register of electors" to the effect that the particular voter has decide not to vote for any candidate.The polling officer will then put his/her signature under such entries. This provision is’under rule 49- O of the Conduct of Election Rules 1961. However, it does not go to determine the results. Rest is discussed in the class.

Online voting

In 2011, The Gujarat State Election Commission implemented e-Voting for Municipal Corporation elections . Many voters registered for e-Voting, and some opted forvoting from their homes or office computers, while Isome went to e-Booths set up by the commission, to cast their votes online.

e-Voting helps citizens who have access to the internet, cast their votes online, without standing in long queues; which are a deterrent. The online voting system is being run by Tata Consultancy Services.

The questions marks are about secrecy of voting; reliability of the e-systems; voter may be under the influence of others etc.

2009 Elections: Snapshot

714 million people — more than twice the population of the United States — are eligible to vote in the World's biggest democratic exercise.420 millions voted - about 60% of turnout.

More than 800,000 polling stations are set up for a five-phased vote over several weeks, watched over by 2.1 million security personnel.

Around l.l million electronic voting machines were used across the nation. These were first introduced for a general election in 2004, when millions of illiterate voters pressed a button next to a symbol of the party of their choice.

Ballot boxes were also used — some were transported by elephants and camels to remote voters. In 1996, before the introduction of electronic voting machines, 8,000 metric tonnes of paper were used to print ballots.

A quarter of the 543 lower house elected MPs have criminal cases pending against them. More than half the cases are for serious offences including murder, rape and corruption.

SYMBOLS

Symbols range from an elephant, a hand, or a hammer, sickle ,bicycle, a bow-and-arrow,a pair of spectacles or a telephone.

Free symbols made available by Election Commission to independents and unrecognized parties included bangles, a cricketer, a coat hanger and a ceiling fan.

Polling station No. 29 (Dharampur) in the remote Arunachal Pradesh state that borders China had just one voter in 2004.

Four thousand six hundred and seventeen candidates from over 300 political parties and Independents competed for 543 parliamentary seats.

Voter turnout was a little less than 60% in 2009.

Assembly elections in 2012 also saw huge turnout and it held the lesion that regionalist parties are on the rise. Same is the message with the AP by polls in 2012 June.

The document Electoral System in India ( Part -2) - 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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