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Sunday, January 10, 2010

India at a Glance part 3

The Polity

The Union and its Territory

India comprises 28 States and 7 Union Territories. They are: Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. Union Territories are: Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, National Capital Territory of Delhi, Lakshadweep and Puducherry.

Citizenship

The Constitution of India provides for a single citizenship for the whole of India. Every person who was at the commencement of the Constitution (26 January 1950) domiciled in the territory of India, and (a) who was born in India, or (b) either of whose parents was born in India, or (c) who has been ordinarily resident in India for not less than five years, became a citizen of India. The Citizenship Act, 1955 deals with matters relating to acquisition, determination and termination of Indian citizenship after the commencement of the Constitution.

Fundamental Rights

The Constitution offers all citizens, individually and collectively, some basic freedoms. These are guaranteed in the Constitution in the form of six broad categories of Fundamental Rights, which are justiciable. Article 12 to 35 contained in Part III of the Constitution deal with Fundamental Rights. These are:
  1. right to equality, including equality before law, prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, and equality of opportunity in matters of employment;
  2. right to freedom of speech and expression, assembly, association or union, movement, residence, and right to practice any profession or occupation (some of these rights are subject to security of the State, friendly relations with foreign countries, public order, decency or morality);
  3. right against exploitation, prohibiting all forms of forced labour, child labour and traffic in human beings;
  4. right to freedom of conscience and free profession, practice, and propagation of religion;
  5. right of any section of citizens to conserve their culture, language or script, and right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice; and
  6. right to constitutional remedies for enforcement of Fundamental Rights.

Fundamental Duties

By the 42nd Amendment of the Constitution, adopted in 1976, Fundamental Duties of the citizens have also been enumerated. Article 51 'A', contained in Part IV A of the Constitution deals with Fundamental Duties. These enjoin upon a citizen among other things, to abide by the Constitution, to cherish and follow noble ideals, which inspired India's struggle for freedom, to defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so, and to promote harmony and spirit of common brotherhood transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities.


Directive Principle of State Policy

The Constitution lays down certain Directive Principles of State Policy, which though not justiciable, are 'fundamental in governance of the country', and it is the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws. These lay down that the State shall strive to promote the welfare of people by securing and protecting as effectively as it may, a social order, in which justice-social, economic and political-shall form in all institutions of national life. The State shall direct its policy in such a manner as to secure the right of all men and women to an adequate means of livelihood, equal pay for equal work and within limits of its economic capacity and development, to make effective provision for securing the right to work, education and to public assistance in the event of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement or other cases of undeserved want. The State shall also endeavour to secure to workers a living wage, humane conditions of work, a decent standard of life, and full involvement of workers in management of industries.
In the economic sphere, the State is to direct its policy in such a manner as to secure distribution of ownership and control of material resources of community to subserve the common good, and to ensure that operation of economic system does not result in concentration of wealth and means of production to common detriment.
Some of the other important directives relate to provision of opportunities and facilities for children to develop in a healthy manner; free and compulsory education for all children up to the age of 14; promotion of education and economic interests of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other weaker sections; organisation of village panchayats; separation of judiciary from executive; promulgation of a uniform civil code for whole country; protection of national monuments; promotion of justice on a basis of equal opportunity; provision of free legal aid; protection and improvement of environment and safeguarding of forests and wildlife of the country; promotion of international peace and security; just and honourable relations between nations; respect for international law; treaty obligations; and settlement of international disputes by arbitration.

The Union

  • Executive
    • President
    • Vice President
    • Council of Ministers
  • Legislature
    • Rajya Sabha
    • Lok Sabha
    • Qualification of Membership of Parliament
    • Functions & Powers of Parliament
  • Parliamentary Committees
  • Leaders of Opposition in Parliament
  • Government Business in Parliament
  • Consultative Committees
  • Nomination of Members of Parliament on Government Committees/Bodies
  • Youth Parliament Competition
  • Other Parliamentary Matters
    • All India Whips Conference
    • Matters Under Rule 377 and Special Mentions
    • Implementation of Assurances
  • Administrative Set-up
    • Cabinet Secretariat
    • National Authority, Chemical Weapons Convention
    • Ministries/Departments of the Government
  • Public Services
    • All India Services
    • Central Secretariat
  • Official Language
    • Policy
    • Committees/Samitis
    • Award Schemes
    • Training
    • Technical
    • Publications
  • Comptroller & Auditor General
  • Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances
  • Administrative Tribunals

The States

The system of government in states closely resembles that of the Union.

Executive

GOVERNOR

State executive consists of Governor and Council of Ministers with Chief Minister as its head. The Governor of a State is appointed by the President for a term of five years and holds office during his pleasure. Only Indian citizens above 35 years of age are eligible for appointment to this office. Executive power of the State is vested in Governor.
Council of Ministers with Chief Minister as head aids and advises Governor in exercise of his functions except in so far as he is by or under the Constitution required to exercise his functions or any of them in his discretion. In respect of Nagaland, Governor has special responsibility under Article 371 A of the Constitution with respect to law and order and even though it is necessary for him to consult Council of Ministers in matters relating to law and order, he can exercise his individual judgement as to the action to be taken.
Similarly, in respect of Arunachal Pradesh, Governor has special responsibility under Article 371H of the Constitution with respect to law and order and in discharge of his functions in relation thereto. Governor shall, after consulting Council of Ministers, exercise his individual judgement as to the action to be taken. These are, however, temporary provisions if President, on receipt of a report from Governor or otherwise is satisfied that it is no longer necessary for Governor to have special responsibility with respect to law and order, he may so direct by an order.
Likewise, in the Sixth Schedule which applies to tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram as specified in para 20 of that Schedule, discretionary powers are given to Governor in matters relating to sharing of royalties between district council and state government. Sixth Schedule vests additional discretionary powers in Governors of Mizoram and Tripura in almost all their functions (except approving regulations for levy of taxes and money lending by non-tribal by district councils) since December 1998. In Sikkim, Governor has been given special responsibility for peace and social and economic advancement of different sections of population.
All Governors while discharging such constitutional functions as appointment of Chief Minister of a State or sending a report to President about failure of constitutional machinery in a State or in respect of matters relating to assent to a Bill passed by legislature, exercise their own judgement.

Council Of Ministers

The Chief Minister is appointed by the Governor who also appoints other ministers on the advice of the Chief Minister. The Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to legislative assembly of the State.

Legislature

For every state, there is a legislature, which consists of Governor and one House or, two Houses as the case may be. In Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, there are two Houses known as legislative council and legislative assembly. In the remaining states, there is only one House known as legislative assembly. Parliament may, by law, provide for abolition of an existing legislative council or for creation of one where it does not exist, if proposal is supported by a resolution of the legislative assembly concerned.

Legislative Council

Legislative Council (Vidhan Parishad) of a state comprises not more than one-third of total number of members in legislative assembly of the state and in no case less than 40 members (Legislative Council of Jammu and Kashmir has 36 members vide Section 50 of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir). About one-third of members of the council are elected by members of legislative assembly from amongst persons who are not its members, one-third by electorates consisting of members of municipalities, district boards and other local authorities in the state, one-twelfth by electorate consisting of persons who have been, for at least three years, engaged in teaching in educational institutions within the state not lower in standard than secondary school and a further one-twelfth by registered graduates of more than three years standing. Remaining members are nominated by Governor from among those who have distinguished themselves in literature, science, art, cooperative movement and social service. Legislative councils are not subject to dissolution but one-third of their members retire every second year.

Legislative Assembly

Legislative Assembly (Vidhan Sabha) of a state consists of not more than 500 and not less than 60 members (Legislative Assembly of Sikkim has 32 members vide Article 371F of the Constitution) chosen by direct election from territorial constituencies in the state. Demarcation of territorial constituencies is to be done in such a manner that the ratio between population of each constituency and number of seats allotted to it, as far as practicable, is the same throughout the state. Term of an assembly is five years unless it is dissolved earlier.

Powers and Functions

State legislature has exclusive powers over subjects enumerated in List II of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution and concurrent powers over those enumerated in List III. Financial powers of legislature include authorisation of all expenditure, taxation and borrowing by the state government. Legislative assembly alone has power to originate money bills. Legislative council can make only recommendations in respect of changes it considers necessary within a period of fourteen days of the receipt of money bills from Assembly. Assembly can accept or reject these recommendations.

Reservation of Bills

The Governor of a state may reserve any Bill for the consideration of the President. Bills relating to subjects like compulsory acquisition of property, measures affecting powers and position of High Courts and imposition of taxes on storage, distribution and sale of water or electricity in Inter-state River or river valley development projects should necessarily be so reserved. No Bills seeking to impose restrictions on inter-state trade can be introduced in a state legislature without previous sanction of the President.

Control Over Executive

State legislatures, apart from exercising the usual power of financial control, use all normal parliamentary devices like questions, discussions, debates, adjournments and no-confidence motions and resolutions to keep a watch over day-to-day work of the executive. They also have their committees on estimates and public accounts to ensure that grants sanctioned by legislature are properly utilised.


Union Territories

Union Territories are administrated by the President acting to such extent, as he thinks fit, through an Administrator appointed by him. Administrators of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Delhi and Puducherry are designated as Lieutenant Governors. The Governor of Punjab is concurrently the Administrator of Chandigarh. The Administrator of Dadra and Nagar Haveli is concurrently the Administrator of Daman and Diu. Lakshadweep has a separate Administrator.
The National Capital Territory of Delhi and Union Territory of Puducherry each has a legislative assembly and council of ministers. Legislative assembly of Union Territory of Puducherry may make laws with respect to matters enumerated in List II or List III in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution in so far as these matters are applicable in relation to the Union Territory. The legislative assembly of National Capital Territory of Delhi has also these powers with the exceptions that Entries 1, 2 and 18 of the List II are not within the legislative competence of the legislative assembly. Certain categories of Bills, however, require the prior approval of the Central Government for introduction in the legislative assembly. Some Bills, passed by the legislative assembly of the Union Territory of Puducherry and National Capital Territory of Delhi are required to be reserved for consideration and assent of the President.


Local Government

Municipalities

Municipal bodies have a long history in India. The first such Municipal Corporation was set-up in the former Presidency Town of Madras in 1688; and was followed by similar corporations in the then Bombay and Calcutta in 1726. The Constitution of India has made detailed provisions for ensuring protection of democracy in Parliament and in the state legislatures. However, Constitution did not make the local self-government in urban areas a clear-cut constitutional obligation. While the Directive Principles of State Policy refer to village Panchayats, there is no specific reference to Municipalities except the implicitly in Entry 5 of the State List, which places the subject of local self-governments as a responsibility of the states.
In order to provide for a common framework for urban local bodies and help to strengthen the functioning of the bodies as effective democratic units of self-government, Parliament enacted the Constitution (74th Amendment) Act, 1992 relating to municipalities in 1992. The Act received the assent of the President on 20 April 1993. The Government of India notified 1 June 1993 as the date from which the said Act came into force. A new part IX-A relating to the Municipalities has been incorporated in the Constitution to provide for among other things, constitution of three types of Municipalities, i.e., Nagar Panchayats for areas in transition from a rural area to urban area, Municipal Councils for smaller urban areas and Municipal Corporation for large urban areas, fixed duration of municipalities, appointment of state election commission, appointment of state finance commission and constitution of metropolitan and district planning committees. State/UTs have set-up their election Commissions. Elections to municipal bodies have been completed in all States/UTs except Jharkhand and Puducherry.

Panchayats

Article 40 of the Constitution, which enshrines one of the Directive Principles of State Policy, lays down that the State shall take steps to organize village panchayats and endow them with such powers and, authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self-government.
In the light of the above, a new Part IX relating to the Panchayats has been inserted in the Constitution to provide for among other things, Gram Sabha in a village or group of villages; constitution of Panchayats at village and other level or levels; direct elections to all seats in Panchayats at the village and intermediate level, if any, and to the offices of Chairpersons of Panchayats at such levels; reservation of seats for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in proportion to their population for membership of Panchayats and office of Chairpersons in Panchayats at each level; reservation of not less than one-third of the seats for women; fixing tenure of five years for Panchayats and holding elections within a period of six months in the event of super session of any Panchayat.

Election Commission

The superintendence, direction and control of preparation of electoral rolls for, and the conduct of, elections to Parliament and State Legislatures and elections to the offices of the President and the Vice-President of India are vested in the Election Commission of India. It is an independent constitutional authority. Since its inception in 1950 and till October 1989, the Commission functioned as a single member body consisting of the Chief Election Commissioner. On 16 October 1989, the President appointed two more Election Commissioners on the eve of the General Election to the House of the People held in November- December 1989. However, the said two Commissioners ceased to hold office on 1 January 1990 when those two posts of Election Commissioners were abolished. Again on 1 October 1993, the President appointed two more Election Commissioners. Simultaneously, the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Conditions of Service) Act, 1991 was amended to provide that the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners will enjoy equal powers and will receive equal salary, allowances and other perquisites as payable to a judge of the Supreme Court of India. The Act further provided that in case of difference of opinion amongst the Chief Election Commissioner and/or two other Election Commissioners, the matter will be decided by the Commission by majority. The validity of that Act (renamed in 1993 as the Election Commission) (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991 was challenged before the Supreme Court. The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court consisting of five judges, however, dismissed the petitions and upheld the provisions of the above law by a unanimous judgment on 14 July 1995.
Independence of the Election Commission and its insulation from executive interference is ensured by a specific provision under Article 324(5) of the Constitution that the Chief Election Commissioner shall not be removed from his office except in like manner and on like grounds as a Judge of the Supreme Court and conditions of his service shall not be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment. The other Election Commissioners cannot be removed from office except on recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner. The term of office of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners is six years from the date he/she assumes office or till the day he/she attains the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.

Amendments

The Parliament on 22 March 2003 enacted the Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 2003 and Conduct of Elections (Amendment) Rules, 2003 which came into force with effect from 22 September 2003. By these amendments in the Act and Rules, those service voters belonging to the Armed Forces and members belonging to a Force to which provisions of the Army Act applies, have been provided the facility to opt to vote through proxy. Such service voter who opt to vote through proxy have to appoint a proxy in a prescribed format and intimate the Returning Officer of the constituency.
The Election and Other Related Laws (Amendment) Act, 2003 (46 of 2003) was enacted in 11 September 2003. By this amendment, new Section 29B and 29C were inserted in the Principal Act providing for contribution by any person or company other than a Government company to political parties, subject to the condition that any contribution in excess of Rs. 20,000 shall be reported to the Election Commission for any claim for Tax relief under the Income Tax Act, 1961. The Act also inserted Part A (Section 78A and 78B) regarding supply of copies of electoral rolls and certain other items to candidates of recognized political parties. This Act also amended Section 77(1) regarding maintenance of election expenses by candidates whereby expenditure incurred by specified number of 'leaders' of a political party on account of travel by air or by any other means of transport for propagating programme of the political party alone shall be exempted from being included in the account of election expenses incurred by the candidate in connection with the election.
The Parliament on 1 January 2004 enacted the Delimitation (Amendment) Act, 2003 whereby Section 4 of the Principal Act was amended to provide that the Delimitation will be held on the basis of the 2001 Census figures.
The Parliament on 28 August 2003 enacted the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 2003 whereby open ballot system was introduced at elections to the Council of States. In this system an elector who belongs to a political party is required to show the ballot paper after marking his vote to an authorized agent of that political party. The requirement that a candidate contesting an election to the Council of States from a particular State should be an elector in that particular State was also dispensed with.

Electoral Reforms

In S.W. No. 4912 of 1998 (Usher Bharat Vs. Union of India and Others), the Delhi High Court directed that information relating to government dues owed by candidates to the departments dealing with Government accommodation, electricity, water, telephone and transport (including aircrafts and helicopters) and any other dues should be furnished by the candidates and this information should be published by the election authorities under the Commission in at least two newspapers having local circulation, for information of electors. Accordingly, the Commission modified items 3(a)(iii) of the format of the affidavit prescribed vide its order dated 27 March 2003 relating to right to information of electors regarding the background of candidates and also issued necessary directions to the District Election Officers regarding publication of the information furnished by the candidates in the newspapers as directed by the Delhi High Court.

Local Government

General Elections 2004

Elections in India are events involving political mobilization and organizational complexity on an amazing scale. The General Elections to the 14th Lok Sabha, the House of People were due in October 2004 but consequent to early dissolution of the House, the Election Commission of India decided to hold the elections to the Lok Sabha, State Legislative Assemblies of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Orissa and Sikkim, as well as fifteen bye-elections in various states during April-May 2004.
General Elections 2004
Particulars Description
Total Seats (Lok Sabha) 543
Electorate 67,14,87,930
Number of election personnel engaged Approximately 4 million excluding para military and police personnel
Number of EVM's used 1.075 million
Direct expenditure incurred Approximately Rs. 13,000 million

Number and Types of Lok Sabha Constituencies
Particulars Description
For General Candidates 423
Reserved for Scheduled Caste Candidates 79
Reserved for Scheduled Tribe Candidates 41
Total Constituencies 543
On 29 February 2004, the Election Commission of India announced the schedule of elections, with polling to be held in four phases on 20 and 26 April and 5 and 10 May 2004. The phasing of the elections has become a necessity over the years due to large requirement of paramilitary forces and time needed for their movement across various states. The phasing of polls pays rich dividends was brought out by the fact that poll related violence came down substantially. Later, the Commission decided to hold elections for two seats in Tripura on 22 April instead of 20 April 2004 and for one seat in Andaman and Nicobar Islands on 20 April instead of 10 May 2004.

Electronic Voting Machine

The Representation of People Act, 1951 was amended by the Indian Parliament in 1989 to facilitate the use of EVM's. However, they were really put to use only after a decade, when the Commission took a bold initiative for introducing EVM's in 16 Assembly Constituencies during State Legislative Assembly Elections in November 1998. In General Elections 2004, EVM's were used for the first time throughout the country making the elections go fully electronic. The user-friendly EVM's could be used even by the illiterates with ease. Since the EVM's work on battery, electricity was not a problem. The polling personnel carried EVM's in convenient boxes. The use of EVM's was preceded by an elaborate training programme and widespread campaign to educate the voters, candidates, political parties, media and the election staff. The failure rate of the machines was negligible. The use of EVM's saved around 1,50,000 trees which would have otherwise been cut for production of about 8,000 tonnes of paper required for printing the ballot papers, if traditional system of ballot boxes was adopted. The use of EVM's made possible reduction in the number of polling stations from 0.77 million to about 0.7 million, as the maximum number of voters per polling station could be increased to 1,500 from earlier prescribed limit of 1,200. EVM's were transported to polling stations by all imaginable means.

Political Parties

For these elections, there were six National Parties, forty five State Parties and 702 Registered Unrecognised Parties. Since about a decade, regional and smaller parties gained importance in Indian polity. They have played a major role in Government formation through pre-poll and post poll alliances. There are no permanent friends or foes in politics becomes clear when Indian context is analyzed.

Candidates

There were 5,435 candidates for 543 Lok Sabha seats and 4,504 candidates for 697 seats in four State Legislative Assemblies. The number of women candidates was 354 and 324 respectively. Though the ceilings for expenses to be incurred by the candidates were raised, due to strict observance of Model Code of Conduct and monitoring of election expenses, the overt publicity remained subdued. To ensure a level playing field, the Supreme Court of India ordered regulation of advertisements on electronic media to be put by the candidates and political parties. The candidates were required to file affidavits declaring their assets and liabilities, educational qualifications, Government dues and criminal cases pending against them, if any. These affidavits were displayed on the notice boards of the offices of the Returning Officers, and placed on the website of the Commission to enable the electors make their informed choice. Some NGOs compiled this information and circulated the same for the benefit of the voters.

Results

There were more than 1,200 counting centres spread over about 850 towns in the country. The counting of votes for Andhra Pradesh State Legislative Assembly was undertaken on 11 May 2004 and for Lok Sabha, other State Legislative Assemblies and bye-elections on 13 May. The use of EVMs made the process of counting easier and faster. The Commission made elaborate arrangements to receive directly results from the Returning Officers using GENESYS software. The Commission's website received more than 10 million hits on the day of counting.
Elections to Legislative Assemblies: The General Election to the Legislative Assemblies of Gujarat and Jammu and Kashmir were held on 12 December and in September-October 2002 respectively. Similarly poll to the Legislative Assemblies of Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura were held on 26 February 2003. The General Elections to the Legislative Assemblies of Mizoram was held on 20 November 2003 and that of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and NCT of Delhi were held on 1 December 2003.



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