Saturday, 11 October 2014

Electoral Reforms : A Brief

In the recent times, there has been a lot of debate and discussions on electoral reforms. When the executive itself is shying away from its responsibility for decriminalization of politics and politicisation of criminals, Supreme Court and Election Commission has taken that stand for providing some reforms. However, most of the judgements of Supreme Court are prescriptive which make it difficult to enforce. Further, legislature has always power to nullify the pronouncements of judiciary through various amendments. Further, election commission has come out with various recommendations and provisions under its Model code of Conduct, but due to paucity of legality of these recommendations, it became merely a futile exercise open to political manipulation.

Supreme Court has interpreted many provisions of RPA 1951 and stuck down others in some of its recent judgments which are:

1. Section 8(4) of RPA allows a Member of Parliament or legislative assembly to file an appeal before higher court within 3 months of conviction to get a stay on sentence and continue with their membership of the house. SC stuck down the section as ultra vires the constitution and held it as unconstitutional. It held that charge sheeted and convicted MPs and MLAs will stand to be disqualified prospectively (though for charge sheeted one’s , it has sought opinion of centre and state).

2. Section 62(5) states that no person has the right to vote, who is convicted under any law and thus cannot contest election to parliament and state legislature. It held that from now onwards any person standing in elections must have a clean criminal record unless he/she will not be allowed to contest elections. Though it is a novel idea, but most of the politicians are using loopholes of trial exemption or extension in lower courts itself. There are a lot of delays in giving justice and high corruption in lower rungs of justice delivery mechanism as well as high vacancy.

3. Section 123 talks about the provision of corrupt practices in elections. Supreme Court held that freebies in the form of grinders, laptops, fans will not be considered as election malpractices and are obligation on the part of government under DPSP. However it directed Election Commission to frame guidelines in consultation with all parties. It is right to distribute these freebies, but one must think whether these are necessary for sustenance of an individual. When a large portion of population does not have food to eat despite introduction of NFSA, they do not have the electricity to run their laptops and grinders, it is not prudent to distribute and show magnanimity but use that money for self-dependency. Further, I have seen people having access to these things have a conspicuous presence of the party affiliation stickers and other things. Will that not be amounted to advertisements of the political ideologues?

4. Recently Supreme Court asked the state and central government’s not to use political figures except constitutional posts for advertisement of government scheme which is mostly at public cost. This undermines the political neutrality in publication of news as well. There is a recommendation by EC to ban all political advertisements by incumbent government six months ahead of elections.

5. Informed credentials about candidates: The SC in Association of democratic rights v/s UOI 2002 case held that the contesting candidates shall disclose their assets and liabilities, criminal convictions etc on their forms. But the measure did not enjoy legal sanction and thus misrepresentation and under-representation by concealing information is quite visible and thus more needs to be done so as to bring or barring these candidates from contesting


 WITH REGARD TO ELECTION COMMISSION 

1.EC Introduced NOTA :

None of the above option was introduced by Election Commission by much fanfare on the advice of Supreme Court. But looking at the modalities of this reform brings out a new form of paradox. While the provision provides for a new form of option under Rule 49(O) that provides for rejecting all the candidates in the election fray as well as maintaining the privacy of the individual, it will hardly create a sea change. This is because even if most of the people choose NOTA and reject all candidates, the candidate scoring the highest votes (even 1%) will be elected from the constituency {the first past the post system of election}. Thus NOTA option is nothing but a farce.

2. EC introduces VVPAT :

The decision to introduce VVPAT is a good move. It will definitely create a more trust towards the use of EVM (Electronic Voting Machine). Now, any individual can check and verify whether his vote went to the desired candidate. Further, in case of allegations of rigging and suspicion of results, these can be used to come out with fair result. However, EC has not come out with modalities of the move. There shall be a particular difference among the top candidates on the basis of which protest can be made, unless it may amount to frequent resort to this provision. For ex, a candidate must not lag behind the other for, say 10% of difference of valid votes.

3. Measures to curb use of black money

The excess use of money power in elections has led ECI to use various pre-emptive methods for free and fair elections. The commission has increased the expenditure limit to discourage black money spending in the elections though money has been flowing unabated in the market. There has been provision for opening separate bank account for incurring election expenses which shall be done in form of DD/ Cheques. However, various other men and material are used like party workers to disguise commission.

Flying squads, static surveillance teams have been established to track illegal cash transactions. Various confiscation of money has taken place in this regard. Election commission has also come out with its flagship SVEEP program to education voters and give them a sense of politicization which is not based on money and inducements. Media certification and media expenditure monitoring committee (MCMC) were constituted to track down the problem of paid news. However due to lack of availability of legal mechanisms, most of the candidates go scot free and use money to influence media and news. There shall be a legal provision to deal with cases of surrogate advertisements in print media by amending section 127A of RPA


Others Reforms Recommended by EC
1
  .     As a precaution against motivated cases by ruling party, only those cases which were filed prior to six months before an election alone would lead  to disqualification

2.      A person cannot contest from more than one constituency at a time. If parliament or state legislatures do not endorse this, there should be an express provision in law requiring a person who contests and wins elections from two seats, resulting in by election from one of two seats, to deposit suitable money for holding the by-election (Rs 10 lakh for LS seat and Rs 5 lakh for assembly).

3.      Raise the security deposit to discourage non-serious candidates from contesting






3 comments:

  1. Hi Sahil

    You have mentioned that you took guidance from Mohapatra sir. Brother, did you appear by continuing your stay in Delhi or now preparing from sirsa?

    can u plz share your email id. plz text to dwarriorwidin@gmail.com

    wishing you success!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. EC has been debating on state funding of elections.
    [pros- curb use of money power]
    [cons- cannot fund everyone, many candidates would sprout + if it funds recognized parties then it would be against democratic practises[
    I say fund recognized party's candidates & top 4 candidates of the constituency in last election,if they are willing to run again.
    this would be sort of affirmative action for poor candidates, as big party candidates usually spend more than limit. so if there is a party worker who is better candidate than to whom party has given ticket, then he can easily collect 70 lakh [ with his influence in worker cadre] and fight against the person who bought ticket with his money power. This would be realistic and could dent democratic norms, besides if the poor candidate was really worthy of party ticket, then he is highly probable to come in top 4 candidates => state funding next time.

    What your stand on state funding?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did not understand your second part.
      State funding of election is neither prudent nor warranted. Previous cases have been pointed out that it did not decrease the use of money in elections. Rather, it will a new burden on public exchequer. The tax payer's money cannot and shall not be used. Secondly, even if there is a funding, that shall be from the party or candidates that are contesting. Like setting up a corpus fund (Inderjeet Gupta commiitte) in which the centre and state govt each shall contribute Rs 10 per voter per annum.
      Party canidates and internal party matters shall not be brought at the fore.

      Delete