(IGP) GS Paper 1 - Indian Polity & Governance - "Electoral System in India"

Integrated Guidance Programme of General Studies for IAS (Pre)

Subject - Indian Polity & Governance
Chapter : Electoral System in India

Provisions Related to Elections:

Part XV of the Constitution (Art.324-329) contains provisions related to elections 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 powers under them.

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, 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.

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

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Art: 325:

  • Art: 325 says that there shall be one general electoral roll for every territorial constituency for election to either House of Parliament and State Legislature.

Art. 326:

  • Art. 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.

Art. 327:

  • Art. 327 confers on Parliament the power to make provision with respect 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 o electoral rolls, the delimitation of constituencies etc.

Article 324(2):

  • 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 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 Election Commission

Administrative Functions

Under Article 324(1) of the Constitution of India, the Election Commission of India, 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.

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.

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, State 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.
  • 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

Advisory Jurisdiction

  • Under the Constitution, the Commission also has advisory jurisdiction in the matter of
  • Most election Disqualification of sitting members of Parliament and State 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 disqualification and, if so, for what period.

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.

Independence of Election Commission

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.

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

  • Non-serious candidates to be discouraged.
  • Forfeiture of security deposit for failure to secure less than l/4th of the votes polled.
  • 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

  • Bye-elections should be held within a period of six months of the — occurrence of the vacancy.

Ethics in Governance (2007)

The 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.

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.
  • 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.
  • The code prescribes broad guidelines about the conduct of the parties, particularly for the ruling parties at the Centre and the States
  • 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.

State Funding of Elections

State funding of elections has been under consideration in India for more than three decades.

The following committees recommended state funding of elections

  • Joint Parliamentary Committee (1971 - 1972)
  • Tarakunde 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.

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 Jaw breakers become law makers the adverse consequences are in the form of corruption; demoralization of bureaucracy; loss of faith in the democratic system by the common man; weakening of rule of law and so on.

Model of Representation System

FPTP system

  • FPTP system is one where there are two or more candidates contesting in a single seat territorial constituency. The winner is one who gets 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.

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

Proxy Voting

  • The word proxy means ‘to act on behalf of another’. It is allowed in India for defence personnel since 2001.
  • 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.

Exit Polls

  • 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 multi-phase elections.
  • The government had in 2008 October 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.

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