[Solved] To enhance the quality of democracy in India the Election Commission of India has proposed electoral reforms in 2016. What are the suggested reforms and how far are they significant to make democracy successful? ( UPSC GS-2 Mains 2017)

[Solved] To enhance the quality of democracy in India the Election Commission of India has proposed electoral reforms in 2016. What are the suggested reforms and how far are they significant to make democracy successful?  ( UPSC GS-2 Mains 2017)

The Election Commission of India is set up under Article 324 of the Indian Constitution. It is responsible for the election of President, Vice- President, Parliament and state legislative assemblies.

 Suggested reforms by Election Commission are-

 • Giving equal status i.e. equal constitutional protection to all the members of ECI as given to its head.

 • Making the budget to be charged rather than voted by Parliament.

 • A permanent secretariat for ECI.

 Electoral rolls

 • Use of common electoral rolls for Parliament, State legislature and local bodies.

 • Option of proxy voting for NRIs

 Election Management

 • Making of any false declaration before authorities punishable.

 • Uniformity in the procedure of voting system in the case of election of members of State Legislative Council and the Council of States by members of Legislative Assembly • Election officials

 • empower the District Election Officer also, apart from the Chief Election Officer, to requisition of staff for election duties

 • Permanent staff to ECI instead of deputing officials from outside.

 • Use of totalizer for counting of votes

 Nomination of candidates

 • Restriction on the number of seats from which a candidate is fighting • Disqualification of a candidate if he is a defaulter on public money De-criminalization of politics

 • Persons charged with cognizable offences shall be de-barred from contesting in the elections • Making bribery and using religious sentiments a cognizable offence with punishment of at least 2 years Political Parties

 • Provisions for exemption of Income Tax should be made applicable only to political parties that contest elections and win seat(s) in the Parliament or Legislative Assemblies.

 • compulsory maintenance of accounts by political parties

 • Provisions for exemption of Income Tax should be made applicable only to political parties that contest elections and win seat(s) in the Parliament or Legislative Assemblies.

 • Use of electoral bonds

 • Cap on expenditure by political party in election

 • Limit the number of star campaigners

 Election campaign

 • Ban on exit polls and opinion polls

 • Restriction on paid news

 Election petition

 • appointment of additional Judges in High Courts for trying election petitions • Fast track the election cases

 Significance of the Reforms:

 • These lead to free and fair elections which are the backbone of democracy • These provide more teeth and power to ECI

 • These seek to decriminalize the political system

 • Increase in transparency and accountability

 • Decrease the use of money and muscle power during elections

 • Increase the intraparty and interparty democracy amongst political parties • In tune with various SC and HC directions.

  • Electoral reform basically aims at introducing an electoral system of conducting free and fair elections. Keeping in view the necessity to strengthen democracy the Election Commission suggested significant reforms: Constitutional protection for all members of the election commission of India:ECI suggested that other election commissioners should also be protected in the same manner as Chief Election Commissioner is protected under clause (5) of Article 324.
  • Budget of the commission to be ‘charged’:Presently, the administrative expenditure of the Commission is a voted expenditure. The Commission sent a proposal that the expenditure of the Commission should be charged/ non-votable expenditure on the Consolidated Fund of India similar to other constitutional bodies.
  • Independent Secretariat:The Commission proposes that it should have an independent Secretariat along the lines of the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and Registries of the Supreme Court and High Courts.
  • Proxy voting:Section 60 of The Representation of the People Act, 1951 should be amended to provide overseas electors the alternative option of proxy voting or postal ballot voting.
  • The Commission proposes that making of any false statement or declaration before the Election Commission should be an electoral offence.
  • The Commission has proposed amendments and suggested dividing the seats in the Council of States and State Legislative Councils into three categories and specifying the term for each category in such a way that biennial retirement of 1/3rd of the members would be ensured.
  • Use of totalizer for counting of votes:EVM totalizer can count votes of multiple Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) simultaneously. This way the results of votes in a group of EVMs can be taken without ascertaining the result in individual EVM corresponding to polling booth.
  • Persons charged with cognizable offences shall be de-barred from contesting in the elections, at the stage when the charges are framed by the competent court provided the offence is punishable by imprisonment of at least 5 years, and the case is filed at least 6 months prior to the election in question.

 Suggestions

  • Currently, the administrative expenditure of the Commission is considered as a voted expenditure. The Commission sent a recommendation that the expenditure of the Commission should be charged as non-votable expenditure on the Consolidated Fund of India like the other constitutional bodies i.e. Supreme Court, Comptroller & Auditor General, Union Public Service Commission.
  • The Commission recommended having an independent Secretariat along the lines of both houses of parliament and Registries of the Supreme Court and High Courts. The commission will have the power to choose and appoint officials without any executive interference.
  • The Commission proposes the amendment of section 20 of The Representation of the People Act, 1950 to extend the facility of the registration in the native constituency for the husband of the officeholder and service voter also, assuming that the husband is ordinarily residing with the female office at the duty place.
  • The Commission recommended the inclusion of the words “Air Force Act, 1950 and the Navy Act, 1957” by replacing the Army Act, 1950.
  • For the simplification of the preparation of electoral rolls and to reduce the expenditure, it proposed amendment of the State laws with respect to usage of electoral rolls of local bodies.
  • It proposed the amendment of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 to provide overseas electors, another option of proxy voting or postal ballot voting.
  • It recommended the EVM totalizer system to count the votes of multiple booths.
  • False statements or declaration before the Commission, Chief Electoral Officer, District Election Officer, Presiding Officer, or any other authority appointed under The Representation of the People Act, 1951, should be considered an electoral offence.
  • It recommended that the Persons charged with cognizable offences should be debarred from contesting in the elections for certain conditions.

 Further reading..

 Amendment to the Constitution of India

  • Constitutional protection for all members of the Commission 2. Budget of the Commission to be ‘charged’
  • Independent Secretariat for the Commission
  • Election Management Issues
  • Making of any false statement or declaration before Authorities punishable 2. Proposal regarding ling of false affidavit
  • Section 126 of The Representation of the People Act, 1951
  • Retirement of Members in Council of States and Legislative Council 5. Providing open ballot system in case of the election to ll seat/ seats in the State Legislative Councils
  • 6. Adjournment of poll or countermanding of election on the ground of bribery Empowering the District Election Officer to requisition staff

Use of totalizer for counting of votes

 Nomination of Candidates

  • Section 33(7) of The Representation of the People Act, 1951 – Restriction on the Number of Seats from which one may contest 2. Section 33 of The Representation of the People Act, 1951 – Same number of proposer 3. Disqualications under Chapter III of The Representation of the People Act, 1951 De- Criminalization of politics
  • De- Criminalisation of Politics
  • Misuse of religion for electoral gain
  • Making bribery in elections a cognizable offence
  • Reforms relating to Political Parties
  • De- registration of political parties
  • Tax Relief for Political Parties
  • Compulsory Maintenance of Accounts by Political Parties
  • Accounting and Auditing Report of Political Parties
  • Prohibition on Anonymous Donations
  • Maintenance of separate bank accounts by each contesting candidate for poll expenses.
  • Cap on Expenditure by Political Party on a Candidate for election campaign 8. Ceiling of campaign expenditure by political parties
  • Limit the Number of Star Campaigners
  • Election campaign and advertisements
  • Ban on exit polls and opinion polls
  • Ban on Government Sponsored Advertisement before elections
  • Paid news in connection with elections

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