Kalam program is a free online guidance programme for Mains 2018.
Providing perspective on different subjects and guiding students on answer writing are the main goals of this program.
Election commission of India
- As per the survey conducted by center for the study of developing societies, ECI is the most respected public institution of India.
- Susanne and Lloyd Rudolph praised commission for serving as an effective bulwark of free and fair elections.
- The three cardinal principles that were guiding the framers of the constitution are – equality, independence and representation.
- Constitutional forefathers explicitly rejected the idea of decentralized state wise election commissions in favor of a centralized authority to keep institution away from parochial influences.
- Representation of people act, 1950 and 1951 are the bed rock of Indian election law to the present day. 1950 act provides guidance on preparation and revision of electoral rolls, drawing of electoral boundaries (it is done by delimitation commission). RPA 1951 act in turn looks in to the actual conduct of polls.
Organizational structure – already discussed in hand out 2
- The administrative expenditure for the ECI, unlike other constitutional authorities are, is voted expenditure rather than a charge on consolidated fund of India.
- Election commission do not have machinery of its own. Central and state Government machinery are deputed to commission during time of election. Election commission can take disciplinary action on these officers if necessary.
- Field machinery consists of chief electoral officers, district electoral officer, booth level officer and observers (General and expenditure observers.)
EC’s independence is fiercely protected by courts and constitutional status. In the initial years commission’s major focus is on institutional building. But change in political scenario in the country made commission assertive to cleanse political system.
Factors that led to Regulatory expansionism
- Splits in political parties : Election commission role has become crucial in allocation of party symbol among fighting factions.
- Increase in Money and Muscle power in elections
- Personality of CEC – Strong Willed people like TN Seshan have imposed commission will on political parties. His insistence led to voter identity cards.
- Support of supreme court : supreme court has supported commission stand on cleansing elections. It is either declaration of criminal antecedents of contesting candidates, educational background or prohibiting criminals from contesting elections.
- Growth of coalition politics, competitive politics in India – It has increased number of political parties and candidates contesting elections.
- Mobilization of backward classes: this silent revolution (as called by Christopher Jefferlot) posed serious challenge to the conduct of elections because has to protect the democratic rights of newly mobilized communities. It had to guard against the tensions that naturally arise when competing social identities clashed.
- Regulatory response :
- A) Voter registration: ECI took the burden of registration on itself, rather than on the voter. It has fought with many challenges because of unsettled citizenship issues. Added to this, rise of urban mobile citizenry posed serious challenges to voter registration.
- B) Nomination of candidates: To do away with non serious candidates, Commission raised security deposit, which can be forfeited if they obtain less than 1/6th of votes.
- C) Regulation of parties: Election commission pushed reforms in management of political parties – democratic norms and procedures. Former CEC declared that commission can deregister a political party if it do not adhere to its internal constitution. As anti defection law raised the control of high command on political party, these steps of commission are able to increase voice of party cadre. Later, in 1988 section 29A was added to the RPA by which parties submitted their constitutions to election commission.
- D) Model code of conduct: Initially, these are voluntary set of principles to guide the conduct of candidates. EC’s power to enforce it relies primarily on oral suasion. In 1982, all political parties agreed to adhere to MCC. By 1990’s EC transitioned from championing the code to actually implementing it. This power for EC was derived from its constitutional status as apolitical arbiter.
- E) Transfer of civil servants: during the term of gill, a new tradition has come in to existence – a practice of transferring all district level police officers and civil servants down to tehsildar who are in their post for more than 4 years at the time of announcement of elections.
- F) Timing of elections: it has become a bone of contention between executive and election commission. ECI has significant latitude in determining the precise timing and sequence of elections. In Gujarat, after communal riots, ECI decision to delay polls was upheld by Supreme Court.
Over the past decade, what were once seen as assertion or regulatory expansionism – timing of elections, conduct and reporting of elections, control over administration at election time, regulation of parties and candidates have all become normal practices.
Election commission of India – Innovations and rising organizational capacities
- Organizational culture : ECI has strong Espirit de corps. It can be attributed to its constitutional independence, judicial support and exceptional leadership.
- Technological innovation :
- A) Use of EVM’s – India is the only country that has successfully introduced EVM’s in a short span of time.
- B) Vulnerability mapping: first, beginning in 2007, ECI conducts vulnerability mapping to determine violence prone polling booths.
- C) Communication for election monitoring: it is to ensure direct connectivity between booth level officer.
- D) Computerization of voter identity cards
All the above reduced electoral malpractices.
- Organizational innovation
- A) creation of Booth level officer : He/she has the responsibility to assist commission in updating electoral rolls and monitoring conduct of elections.
- B) SVEEP program : Systematic voter education and electoral participation program – it has significantly raised voter turnout.
- C) India international institute of democracy and election management : it is an advanced resource centre of learning, research, training and extension of participatory democracy.
The challenge of Money – elections in India are most expensive in the world.
- Third party expenditure and party expenditure is not counted in election expenditure of a candidate. Supreme court later held that third party expenditure counts to candidates expenditure but party expenditure on a Candidate is still out of consideration.
- Banning of corporate donations to political parties in 1969. Ban was enacted wth out substituting corporate funding with state funding of elections as like in west. has increased role of back money entry in to elections. It increased nexus between business groups and political parties.
- Political contributions made by companies are anonymous. (Rajiv Gandhi Government has reintroduced corporate funding to political parties).
- There is no independent Audit of political parties.
- At present, existing law do not provide the commission unambiguous authority to sanction candidates or parties who provide false or misleading information.
Developments on decreasing money power in elections
- Election and other related laws (Amendment) act – it has made company and individual contributions to a political party 100% tax deductible. It do not apply for contributions to individual contesting candidates. This has witnessed rise of 100% tax exempt electoral trusts that companies have set up to make political contributions in a transparent and regulated manner.
- CIC declared that political parties are public authorities and shall disclose their electoral contributions.
- Electoral bonds are introduced to decrease the role of cash.
- Law makes it mandatory for parties to disclose any political contribution in excess of 2000rs.
Prisoners voting rights:
Section 62(5) of RPA prohibits prisoners and people in lawful custody from voting. Supreme Court of india in ankul Chandra Pradhan case held that, voting rights are subjected to laws of parliament and ban is legally valid and is not unconstitutional.
Why criminalization of politics is happening in India?
- Weak governance – it is making people to depend on criminal elements for their due services.
- Slow judicial process – It is making local strong man an arbitrator.
- Unregulated political finance
- Decay of old vertical patronage networks in political parties.
- Lower caste mobilization has created a social conflict with existing interests.
Vulnerabilities of election commission of India as an independent agency
- CEC and other Election commissioners are appointed by president of India on recommendation of council of ministers.
- Number of election commissioners in commission can be determined by executive. It can enlarge the size of commission at its will. Previously in 1989 Rajiv Gandhi Government exploited the provision by appointing two additional commissioners – V S Saigal and SS Dhanoa. It was largely viewed as an attempt to limit authority of CEC RVS Peri Sastri.
- Tenure of the other election commissioners is less secure compared to CEC. They can be removed by president of India.
- As on today, one of the election commissioner is promoted as CEC on the basis of seniority. It is a convention and not a constitutional provision. Government can appoint any outsider as CEC. Lack of clear rules potentially renders EC’s vulnerable for Government pressure.
- Expenditure of election commission is not charged to consolidate fund of india but it is a voted expenditure.
Vulnerabilities of election commission as a regulatory agency
- Election commission of India can register a party but cannot deregister one.
- Election commission cannot take an action for submission of wrong or misleading information by the candidate or a political party.
- Commission failed to regulate money power in elections.
- In India, there is no law regulating political parties. So, regulatory powers of Election commission of India are not effective or minimal.