Electoral Reforms in India – Issues, Need, Election Reforms | UPSC Notes

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Electoral Reforms in India – Issues, Need, Election Reforms | UPSC Notes

Election issues

EVM

Significance of EVMs

Decline in election fraud such as booth capturing

Resulted in increased voter turnout

Quick Counting + No issue of invalid votes + eco-friendly

With addition of VVPAT—“Auditability” added to process

Madras HC upheld its Legitimacy

Safety Features of EVMs Acc. to ECI

Robust Security protocol— Non-Reprogrammable

Standalone machines & not networked by any wired

Critical Perspective

EVMs had failed to prove itself on fronts like—T/P, verifiability & secrecy— 3 pillars of free & fair election. Although first 2 gaps are plugged by VVPATs but, secrecy still remained unaddressed

VVPATs has its inherent faultlines like sensitivity to extreme weather & light.

Opaqueness in EVMs forced nations such as Netherlands, Ireland to scrap them & return to ballot.

Way Ahead:

VVPAT auditing can serve its purpose only when detection of even one faulty EVM entail VVPAT hand-counting of all EVMs in that constituency.

Totaliser Machine— recom by LCI to further the secracy of voting.

Blockchain tech can be explored as a future alternative to EVM Conclusion

Challange for ECI to regain trust & confidence of all stakeholders.

In Democracy legitimacy of Govt is derived from people’s will which is expressed through the vote, Thus,Not only must this vote be recorded & counted correctly, but it must also be seen to be recorded & counted correctly.

Retreating back to ballot paper will not make sense rather efficiency, credibility & transparency of EVM-VVPAT process needs to be improved.

Voter turnout

67.4% (61 cr) in 2019—highest ever + highest ever participation by women voters.

Steps taken

National Voters’ Day— To make voters realise imp of voting

NOTA

SVEEP—To educate voters

Increased access to polling station to Divyangs, people in far-off places Model Polling Booths dev to facilitate women, children & old people.

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To enhance trust— EVM with VVPAT, declare their criminal record

Importance of Voting

To realise Lincoln’s idea of Democracy

Sense of Empowerment: ‘ownership of Govt’. To make Govt more responsible & A/c.

Way Forward

Proxy voting

Facilitate voting for migrants—Aadhaar-linked voter-ID to aid portability of voting rights

One Nation One Voter ID— for ballot portability & empower the forgotten migrant voter

Challenges for ECI to ensure Free & Fair Elections:

Money power— No spending limit for parties.

Paid news—Manipulation of the media

Misuse of social media

Criminalization of politics

Caste & Religion Politics—NOTA is welcome

Issue of electoral bonds & Black money

Hate speech by politicians

EVM tampering issue

Financial transparency in political parties:

Maintaining its Credibility

Way

Amend Sec 126(1) to impose “campaign silence period” on print, electronic media & intermediaries.

CRIMINALIZATION OF POLITICS

Rising participation of criminals in electoral process & their selection as elected rep of people.

SC called it an “extremely disastrous & lamentable situation” + raised concerns about “unsettlingly increasing trend”

PIF case 2018—Criminal antecedent be widely publicized through diff media + websites of party Supreme Court directives (2020)—

  1. Mandatory for parties to publish detailed information regarding candidates with pending criminal cases + reasons for selecting them over others
  2. Publish Such details on websites, 1 local vernacular newspaper & 1 national newspaper + on official social media platforms
  3. Reasons for their selection shall be w.r.t qualifications, achievements & merit and not mere “winnability” at the polls.
  4. Publish these details within 48 hr of selection of candidate + then submit a report of compliance with these directions to ECI within 72 hr of the selection of said candidate.
  5. If a party fails to submit such compliance report with ECI—EC shall bring such non-compliance by party concerned to the notice of SC as contempt of Court’s orders/directions.

Reasons for CoP—

Denial of Justice & RoL— Only 6% of the criminal cases against MPs & MLAs ended in a conviction,in contrast to overall conviction rate of 46% at national level under IPC

FPTP

Money and muscle power

Lack of value based politics

Lack on inner party democracy

Acceptance—ADR— Winnability of criminal candidates is 2x Impacts

  1. Loss of public faith in Judicial machinery—As those with political influence take advantage of their power by delaying hearings, obtaining repeated adjournments & filing innumerable interlocutory petitions to stall any meaningful progress.
  2. Tainted Democracy— Where RoL is weakly enforced & social divisions are rampant
  3. Padmanabhaiah Committee—Corruption is the root cause of both politicization & criminalization of police + Criminalization of police cannot be de-linked from CoP.
  4. Law-breakers get elected as law-makers—DOP—Leg lose legitimacy
  5. Dwindling probity in public life—increased corruption,
  6. Introduces a culture of violence in society
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Way Forward

Law Commission— Disqualification of tainted politicians at the stage of framing of charges, with adequate safeguards

Filing of a false affidavit should qualify as a ‘corrupt practice’ under RPA

Electoral Bonds

Introduced in Budget 2017- 18 to “cleanse system of political funding”

An interest free financial instrument to make anonymous donation to any political party

Rationale—

To limit use of cash in political funding + curb illicit means of funding

Curb black money—As Payments for EBs are accepted only by DD, cheque etc

Eliminate fraudulent parties—that were formed on for tax evasion—as there is a stringent clause of eligibility for parties in scheme.

Protects donor from political victimization—Due to non-disclosure of his identity

Issues—

Opacity still persists—As—

Prior to EBs, parties had to maintain records of donations above Rs 20K—But EBs are kept out of this requirement.

Parties are legally bound to submit annual IT returns under Sec 13A of IT Act, 1961. But EBs have been exempted from IT Act.

Allowed unbridled corporate influence—Earlier, no company could donate more than 7.5% of its profits to a party—But this limit was removed in this scheme.

Lack of level playing field in terms of pol fundin—

Sec 29B of RPA was amended—restricting benefits of EBs only to a few parties. Rruling party received 94.6% of all EBs sold in 2017-18.

Issues with electoral funding

Opacity in donations— Anonymous cash donations + As parties are exempted from income tax—so provides a channel for black money hoarders.

Lack of action against bribes—ECI suggest insertion of Sec 58B to RPA to enable it to take action if parties bribe voters

Allowing foreign funding— FCRA Amendment opened floodgates of foreign funding to parties

Ways to bring more transparency in political funding— Bring Parties under RTI (Bhutan, Germany)

Est a National electoral fund where donors contribute + funds distributed acc to performances of parties in last elections.

2nd ARC, NCRWC—State funding of elections Cap max exp of political parties

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WOMEN PARTICIPATION IN POLITICS

Trends in women’s participation in politics LS (1st—4.4%, 17th—14.4%), RS(6.9%, 11.4%)

Lower than Global Avg—22.9%—153/190 in % of women in lower house

13.45 lakh EWRs

Lokniti-CSDS survey

S-E class determine pol participation of women— Upper castes & upper class— More active in politics

Increased participation of women as voters

Ltd autonomy in taking decisions about politics

More preference to male candidates

Patriarchy is biggest obstacle

Increasing interest in politics but unwillingness for politics as a career:

Need for more women participation in politics

Addressing women related & other social issues—Malnutrition, anemia, repro health etc For truely gender-inclusive policies Political empowerment.

Steps that need to be taken to improve women participation

Examples

Reservation in parties—Sweden, Norway, Canada

DRAFT RECOMMENDATIONS OF ECI ON ELECTORAL REFORMS

Voter Education & awareness—

Voter awareness forums & Chunav Pathshala in polling stations.

Set up Electoral Literacy Clubs in all schools (inclusion of voter education in school curriculum) & colleges.

Media as an outreach tool— 1. Use Social media

  1. Set up Web TV & Web radio for edu of voters
  2. Setup Community Radio stations.
  3. Periodic SVEEP Voter Facilitation
  4. Door-step electoral services to PwDs, Senior citizens
  5. Digital Election Calendar for information & schedule of Elections
  6. Explore new voting methods to increase voter participation
  7. Integration of voter registration process with Citizen-facing services such as Digi-Locker & UMANG

Cap max expenditure of political parties

Prohibit Print media & social media during ‘period of silence’ + Include them within ambit of sec

126

Way forward for Party reforms–

Intra party democracy–Transparency in ticket allocation & candidate selection

NCRWC Report–There should be comprehensive legislation regulating the registration and functioning of political parties or alliances of parties in India.

Law Commission’s 170th report– Need of laws relating to internal democracy within parties. Bring parties under RTI

Check Criminalization of ranks

Politics of India need to get back to representing the will of the people, instead of the will of the party leaders or corporate heads.