COMMITTEES RELATED TO ELECTORAL REFORMS
The various committees and commissions which have examined our electoral system, election machinery as well as election process and suggested reforms are mentioned here.
a. Joint Parliamentary Committee on Amendments to Election Laws (197172)
b. Law Commission of India 255th Report on Electoral Reforms (2015).
ELECTORAL REFORMS BEFORE 1996
- Lowering of Voting Age The 61st Constitutional Amendment Act of 19884 reduced the voting age from 21 years to 18 years for the Lok Sabha as well as the assembly elections.
- Increase in Number of Proposers Rajya Sabha and state legislative council has been increased to 10 per cent of the electors of the constituency or ten such electors.
- Electronic Voting Machines The EVMs were used for the first time in 1998 on experimental basis in selected constituencies in the elections to the Assemblies of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi. The EVMs were used for the first time in the general elections (entire state) to the Assembly of Goa in 1999.
- Booth Capturing (i) seizure of a polling station and making polling authorities surrender ballot papers or voting machines (ii) taking possession of polling station and allowing only one's own supporters to exercise their franchise
- Elector's Photo Identity Card (EPIC) The use of electors' photo identity cards by the Election Commission is surely making the electoral process simple, smoother and quicker.
ELECTORAL REFORMS OF 1996
In 1990, the National Front Government headed by V P Singh appointed a committee on electoral reforms under the chairmanship of Dinesh Goswami, the then Law Minister. The Committee, in its report submitted in 1990 itself, made a number of proposals on electoral reforms. Some of these recommendations were
- Listing of Names of Candidates
- Disqualification for Insulting the National Honour Act A person who is convicted for the following offences under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act of 1971 is disqualified to contest in the elections to the Parliament and state legislature for 6 years, (i) Offence of insulting the National Flag (ii) Offence of insulting the Constitution of India (iii) Offence of preventing the singing of National Anthem
- Prohibition on the Sale of Liquor No liquor or other intoxicants are to be sold or given or distributed at any shop, eating place, hotel or any other place whether public or private within a polling area during the period of 48 hours ending with the hour fixed for the conclusion of poll. Any person who violates this rule is to be punished with imprisonment up to 6 months or with fine up to 2,000 or with both.
- Number of Proposers The nomination of a candidate in a Parliamentary or assembly constituency should be subscribed by 10 registered electors of the constituency as proposers,
- Death of a Candidate Earlier, in case of death of a contesting candidate before the actual polling, the election used to be countermanded, if the deceased candidate belonged to a recognised political party, the party concerned would be given an option to propose another candidate within seven days.
- Time Limit for By-Elections Now, by-elections are to be held within six months of occurrence of the vacancy in any House of Parliament or a state legislature.
- Holiday to Employees on the Polling Day
- The Prohibition of Arms Entering into the neighbourhood of a polling station with any kind of arms 10 is to be considered a cognizable offence. Such an act is punishable with imprisonment of up to two years or with fine or with both.
ELECTORAL REFORMS AFTER 1996
- Requisitioning of Staff for Election Duty
- Voting through Postal Ballot
- Facility to Opt to Vote Through Proxy
- Declaration of Criminal Antecedents, Assets, etc., by Candidates In 2003, the election Commission issued an order directing every candidate seeking election to the Parliament or a State Legislature to furnish on his nomination paper the information
- Allocation of Time on Electronic Media
- Introduction of Braille Signage Features in EVMs
ELECTORAL REFORMS SINCE 2010
- Restrictions Imposed on Exit Polls no person shall conduct any exit poll and publish or publicise by means of the print or electronic media
- Time-Limit for Submitting a Case for Disqualification It provided for a three-month time-limit within which the specified authority will have to submit the case of a person found guilty of corrupt practice to the President for determination of the question of disqualification.
- All Officials Included in Corrupt Practice whether in the government service or not, appointed or deputed by the Election Commission in connection with the conduct of elections.
- Increase in Security Deposit In 2009 Lok Sabha was increased from 10,000 to 25,000 for the general candidates and from 5,000 to 12,500 for SC and ST candidates. Similarly, the security deposit in the case of elections to the state legislative assembly was increased from 5,000 to 10,000 for the general candidates and from 2,500 to 5,000 for the SC and ST candidates.
- Appellate Authority within the District In 2009, a provision was made for appointment of an appellate authority within the district against the orders of the Electoral Registration Officers, instead of the Chief Electoral Officer of the state.
- Voting Rights to Citizens of India Living Abroad Accordingly, every citizen of India - (a) whose name is not included in the electoral roll (b) who has not acquired the citizenship of any other country (c) who is absent from his place of ordinary residence outside India (whether temporarily or not) - shall be entitled to have his name registered in the electoral roll in the Parliamentary / Assembly constituency in which his place of residence in India as mentioned in his passport is located.
- Online Enrolment in the Electoral Roll
- Introduction of NOT A Option According to the directions of Supreme Court, the Election Commission made provision in the ballot papers / EVMs for None of the Above (NOTA) option so that the voters who come to the polling booth and decide not to vote for any of the candidates in the fray,
- Introduction of VVPAT The Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail is an independent system attached with the EVMs that allows the voters to verify that their votes are cast as intended.
- Persons in Jail or Police Custody Can Contest Elections In 2013, the Supreme Court upheld an order of the Patna High Court declaring that a person who has no right to vote by reason of being in jail or in police custody, is not an elector and is, therefore, not qualified to contest the elections to the Parliament or the State Legislature. In order to negate this order of the Supreme Court,
- Immediate Disqualification of Convicted MPs and MLAs In 2013, 35 the Supreme Court held that charge sheeted Members of Parliament and MLAs, on conviction for offences, will be immediately disqualified from holding membership of the House without being given three months' time for appeal, as was the case before.
- Ceiling on Election Expenditure Increased In 2014, the Central Government raised the maximum ceiling on election expenditure by candidates for a Lok Sabha seat in bigger states to 70 lakhs (from earlier 40 lakhs). In other states and union territories, it is 54 lakhs (from earlier 16-40 lakhs).