Election Commission of India Notes for UPSC IAS Exam

Articles related to Election Commission

  • 324- setup of EC, number of commissioners, decision of law for qualification and tenure, removal of ECs
  • 325- No one should be barred from inclusion in electoral rolls solely on caste, religion ground
  • 326- Universal adult suffrage
  • 327- parliament from time to time can make laws for elections including electoral rolls and delimitation
  • 328- State Legislature power to make laws
  • 329- delimitation not to be questioned in court, election disputes only in form of election petitions to authority decided by legislature
  • 330- reserved seats for SC, ST and tribes from autonomous district council of Assam
  • 331- 2 Anglo Indians in Lok Sabha
  • 332- reservation in state assembly
  • 333- 1 member of Anglo Indian in state assembly
  • 334- reservation to cease after 40 years

Representation of People’s Acts

Representation of Peoples Act 1950 (RPA Act 1950) provides for the following:

  • Qualification of voters.
  • Preparation of electoral rolls.
  • Delimitation of constituencies.
  • Allocation of seats in the Parliament and state legislatures.

RPA Act 1951 provides for

  • Actual conduct of elections.
  • Administrative machinery for conducting elections.
  • Poll
  • Election offences.
  • Election disputes.
  • By-elections.
  • Registration of political parties as national and state parties

Thus, both these acts lay the foundation of elective process in India on which the Indian democracy rests.

Important cases of RPA

  • In 2013, SC struck down section 8(4). The convicted lawmakers can now be disqualified from office
  • In 2016, section 123 was interpreted in such a way that anyone demanding votes on basis of caste, religion is an election offence
  • Demands- MCC under RPA, stricter penalties, cancelling of elections, permanent banning of criminals

Delimitation Commission – Established under Delimitation Commission Act 1952. It changes the area of constituencies. Its actions cannot be challenged in the court. The issue of delimitation comes under RPA 1950. Currently, base of population is taken to be 2001 census till 2026.

ELECTIONS

There are two types – First Past the Post system and Proportional Representation.

Comparison of FPTP & PR System of election

First Past the Post Advantages

  • In a large country like India, it will be complex to adopt PR system.
  • FPTP system is lucid and can be understood by common people with least effort.
  • Ppl vote for candidates and not for parties.
  • There is only one candidate per constituency in FTPT thus making that person accountable for the daily administration of that constituency.
  • PR system makes it difficult to form majority in legislature.
  • Plus, it will result in communities forming parties of their own to decide the results.

First Past the Post Disadvantages

  • Skewed representation of parties eg- BSP, DMK.
  • Disadvantage to smaller parties and those whose voter base is scattered across constituencies
  • Voter turnout for PR is more

Simultaneous elections

Positive points for simultaneous elections

  • Politicians can’t make new scheme announcements, transfers and postings without EC permission.
  • If simultaneous, less time under MCC.
  • From Ministers to district admin, all will get time to focus on admin than elections
  • Money spent will be less as most chances of swindling monry during elections
  • Evils that prop up during election like violence, communalism, casteism will be reduced.

Negative points for simultaneous elections

  • Confuse of local with national issues as election is one
  • It is against federalism
  • Politicians won’t be on their foot as they know elections are 5 years away
  • What if government falls midway- foster govt till next elecyions is a bad idea since opposition can buy MP/MLA and form govt which will go against people’s mandate
  • According to Article 85 and Article 174, elections to Lok Sabha and Legislative assemblies have to be held within six months (respectively) of dissolving either of them.
  • Continuous elections also make sure discipline is maintained at ground level with help of security personnel.
  • EC told it will need to buy EVM costing 10000 cr which becomes costly.
  • Opposition from state assemblies as some assemblies will need to be dissolved prematurely.

Model Code of Conduct

  • It is intended to provide a level playing field for all political parties, to keep the campaign fair and healthy, avoid clashes and conflicts between parties, and ensure peace and order.
  • Model code derives legitimacy from article 324 of conducing free and fair elections.
  • However, Model Code of Conduct has no statutory backing and hence EC has its power limited.
  • Off lately, many notices have been issued to many parties but no action has been taken.
  • Politicians have to reply in written, either apologising or facing a written censure of ECI which is only a scolding.
  • Of the crime is big like usage of money and liquor or dividing people, EC can only order filing FIR under relevant sections of CrPC or IPC.
  • The logic is that even if ditect action is not taken, voters will punish the politicians. Even the biggest politicians hsve replied to such notices.
  • A parliamentary standing committee had recommended making a law for MCC.
  • However, the other side is that if a law is made, it will be binding on ECI to see through cases as they gi through the legal system. Given the delays in courts, it can create a bad situation. Petitions filed decades ago are still pending in some courts.

State Funding of Elections

Advantages of state funding of elections

  • Accountability, transparency in expenditure,
  • Less black money
  • Strength to small parties and independents
  • Demand for internal democracy can be made
  • Less electoral offences like paid news, bribes, etc.
  • Indrajit Gupta committee recommended state funding but only to national parties and in kind, 2nd ARC and Tarkunde committee also supported state funding partially

Disadvantages of state funding of election

  • Tax payer’s money is wasted when money needs to be spent to reduce poverty
  • Hundreds of parties exist
  • It won’t stop over-the-top spending.
  • NCRWC said until better regulatory mechanism, it should not be state funded, political parties should not become organs of the state, it will kill smaller parties

In india, company donations banned in 1969 but reinstated after amendment to companies act in 1985.

SC judgment in 1996 clubbed expenditure of third party and political party under expenditure ceiling of RPA 1951

Electoral Trusts

  • Electoral Trust is a company or a non-profit company created in India under Section 8 of the Companies Act for orderly receipt of the voluntary contributions from any person and for distributing the same to the respective political parties, registered under Section 29A of the Representation of People Act, 1951.
  • They are approved by CBDT and listed under ministry of corporate affairs.
  • Examples are Bajaj Electoral Trust, Jankalyan Electoral Trust
  • Corporates are entitled for tax benefits with regard to electoral trusts subject to certain conditions.
  • The benefits can be availed only if the trusts distribute 95% of the total contributions received in a particular fiscal to registered political parties in that same year itself.
  • These entities are barred from receiving donations in cash. Foreign citizens are not allowed to contribute money to the trusts.
  • The sole objective is to distribute the contributions received by it to the political party concerned. This is a mechanism for bringing transparency and sanity in the political party funding.
  • It also helps corporate by not baring their political leanings.

Electoral Reforms

EC demands more independence

  • EC always has to evoke article 324 for taking action in cases that don’t fall under RPA.
  • It has demanded for constitutional protection for all three of its members as opposed to just one at present.
  • It has also sought absolute financial freedom from the Law Ministry. Like the CAG and UPSC, the ECI wants its budget to be ‘charged’ to the Consolidated Fund as opposed to the current practice of being voted and approved by Parliament
  • It has also proposed an independent secretariat for itself with which it will not have to depend on DoPT to appoint its officers
  • RPA asked to be amended to disqualify legislators merely chargesheeted for bribery to voters. Violates principle of innocent till proven guilty. Issue of R.K nagar poll cancellation due to bribery
  • It has also asked to extend contempt of proceedings to prosecute parties leveling allegations against EC

Govt clears amendment for enabling NRI to vote through proxies in Lok Sabha and assembly elections. Each NRI can nominate one proxy, new for every election, to vote on his behalf. It will result in ease in voting for NRI who had to fly down to India just to vote in elections. This will also increase voting percentage. Challenges- genuineness of proxy, violation of secrecy, fear of illegal practices.

Proxy voting for- armed personnel, state armed police posted outside, govt servants posted abroad

Electoral bonds

  • They are interest free financial instruments for anonymous donations to political parties.
  • Introduced in budget of 2017-18
  • Any Indian citizen can buy them at designated banks and it can be encashed at the account of the political party
  • Parties receiving at least 1% vote are eligible to encash bonds
  • Tax deduction for donors and tax exemption for parties
  • Need-Association for Democratic Rights ADR says 70% funds from unknown sources. 90% are from corporates. 255th Law Commission report says opacity in funding has led to corporate lobbying in political parties via funding.
  • Impact- transparency due to money trail and KYC procedure, accountability, control on black money, anonymity and prevents victimization of funders, less time frame, weeds out fraudulent political parties
  • Concern- no cap on how much corporates can donate to political party. Earlier it was 7.5% of 3 year average profit. Secondly, section 29C amended so that no need to disclose donations by bonds by political parties. Both affect transparency, can lead to crony capitalism. Ruling party gets max funds, names not disclosed to people but known to government which can be misused
  • Connect to broad issue of RTI for political parties and total digital payments.

Banning of convicted criminals

  • Santhanam Committee in 1963 had remarked that political criminalization is the most dangerous thing for Indian democracy and needs to rooted out.
  • Election commission (EC) has supported a Public Interest Litigation in Supreme Court demanding a life time ban on convicted politicians from contesting elections and entering legislature.
  • SC in Lily Thomas judgment 2013 clearly stated that any candidate who has been convicted will have to immediately resign from his post.
  • Current provisions under RPA can ban a politician for only 6 years and disqualify from legislature.
  • Reasons for criminalization- vote bank, institutionalization of corruption, denial of justice due to judicial delay, non-vigilant citizenry
  • Arguments in favour include ADR report of 35% criminals in 16th Lok Sabha, transparency, clean governance, restoring of public faith in electoral system
  • Arguments against include ban should be for heinous crimes only and the issue of fake cases and convictions

SC in 2018 issued the following directions

  • Candidate must declare his criminal record to political party
  • Party must publish it on its website
  • Candidate must give wide publicity to his criminal antecedant

SC had asked to setup 12 special courts to try MPs and MLAs cases expeditiously by 1st March 2018. Reason is that honest politicians get stuck while criminals evade prison.

Issue of appointing CEC– article 324 provides for a law by parliament. In absence of such a law, the PM and President decide. It can fall prey to politics. SC heard case and said there should exist a law. Currently, no law to appoint EC, no qualifications prescribes, no bar on taking government employment after term ,etc.

2nd ARC has recommended a collegiam headed by PM

Issue of NOTA

  • Started since 2001 law ministry. PUCL case in 2009 made negative vote as a constitutional right.
  • Give advantages like participation, good candidates, betterment of democracy, etc.
  • Currently, nota exists but bo re-election or disqualification under Rule 64 of Conduct of Elections.
  • NCRWC says it is unnecessary.
  • view that if NOTA for disqualification, then make voting compulsory
  • Disadvantages- financial pressure, pressure on admin, disrupts democracy, MCC would be employed every time disrupting administration.

Role of SC judgments in electoral reforms

  • 1978- Election commission had unbridled powers under article 324 to conduct free and fair elections
  • 1996- Common Cause case where SC asked parties to file expenditure details, including third party expenditure
  • 2002- SC asked candidates to file affidavits about criminal background, assets and liabilities
  • Public Union for Civil Liberties case led to introduction of NOTA on EVMs
  • Recently, 123(3) about appeal on religion
  • SC also directed center to help introduce VVPAT
  • Currently, SC is hearing cases for lifelong ban on convicted criminals.

Issues faced by Election Commission

  • Allegations of partisan role- ASAT test and declaration during election
  • Lack of legal backup under RPA
  • Limited powers to take action against politicians
  • Cannot control money power
  • Administrative issues- selection of CEC, funding and staff

Changing nature of elections

  • Political campaigning- More acerbic and acrimonious
  • Narrative capturing
  • Voter choices are changing
  • Focus on populism
  • Prevalence of turncoat candidates

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