GS Mains Model Question & Answer: The Law Commission of India in its report considered the issue of ‘electoral reforms’ in its entirety and suggest comprehensive measures for changes in the law


GS Mains Model Question & Answer: The Law Commission of India in its report considered the issue of ‘electoral reforms’ in its entirety and suggest comprehensive measures for changes in the law. Discuss


Q. The Law Commission of India in its report considered the issue of ‘electoral reforms’ in its entirety and suggest comprehensive measures for changes in the law. Discuss (12.5 Marks)

(General Studies Mains Paper II- Polity: Salient features of the Representation of People's Act)

Model Answer :

The Law Commission of India in its 255th report titled Electoral Reforms to the ministry of law prepared in response to a request by the government of the day in January 2013 “to consider the issue of ‘electoral reforms’ in its entirety and suggest comprehensive measures for changes in the law”, makes some very significant, and laudable, recommendations. This report needs to be read with the 244th report of the Law Commission titled Electoral Disqualifications, dealt with two specific issues: de-criminalization of politics and disqualification for filing false affidavits.

  • The commission has been realistic in describing the current situation in a sub-section titled Understanding the reality of election financing today, which says, “There is clearly under reporting of election expenditure and opacity of political contribution. Part of the explanation lies in the lacunae in the law, and part in black money and poor enforcement.”

  • It makes extensive and detailed recommendations, maintaining that “Disclosure is at the heart of public supervision of political finance and requires strict implementation of the provisions of the RPA, the IT Act, the Company Act, and the ECI transparency guidelines.”

  • The chapter Paid News and Political Advertising details several “instances (which) highlight the ways in which paid news and disguised political advertisements are growing deep into the process of democratic elections in India. The amount of money being spent on these practices has risen at exponential levels… The unethical practices of paid news and disguised political advertising have reached the alarming level not just in a few cases of national media, but also in the regional media”.

  • Recommendations concerning paid news are in three parts: defining the two phenomena, paid news and political advertising; consequences for those who indulge in these; and the institutional framework for dealing with these two evils.

  • Another major issue that the report highlights and details is in the second substantive chapter titled Regulation of political parties and inner party democracy. The opening sentence of the recommendations in this regard reads, “Introducing internal democracy and transparency within political parties is important to promote financial and electoral accountability, reduce corruption, and improve democratic functioning of the country as a whole.”

On the issue of regulation of political parties and inner party democracy, the 170th report had said: “With a view to introduce and ensure internal democracy in the functioning of political parties, to make their working transparent and open and to ensure that the political parties become effective instruments of achieving the constitutional goals set out in the Preamble and Parts III and IV of the Constitution of India, it is necessary to regulate by law their formation and functioning”.

Without going into other recommendations, it is worth exploring if any of the significant recommendations of the report will be implemented. The experience with the earlier, 170th, report does not give reason for enthusiasm.

If this can be taken as an indicator of the interest of political parties in electoral reforms, the situation does not look very optimistic. But the political scenario in the country has undergone significant change in recent years. There is a clear majority government at the Centre for the first time in decades. A new political party seems to be in the process of emerging which professes to change the way politics has been practised in the country over the last 35-40 years. This has the potential of making it a propitious time to make significant changes to the electoral system.The Law Commission has done its job and done it well. It is now for the political establishment to act on its election rhetoric.

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