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Indian Polity #9

ELECTIONS IN INDIA

Overview

  • India is the largest democracy in the world (in terms of electorate)
  • The 2009 General Elections had an electorate of 714 million. This is larger than the electorates of the EU and the US combined
  • The first General Elections were held in 1951
  • The control and conduct of all elections to the Parliament, to the state legislatures and to the offices of the President and Vice-President fall under the purview of the Election Commission of India
  • Panchayat elections are conducted by respective State Election Commissions
Keywords: IAS, IAS Exam, IAS Study Material, UPSC, UPSC Question Papers, India, Civil Service, General Studies, Free

Constitutional provisions for elections

  • Article 324 stipulates that the superintendence, direction and control of elections shall be vested in the Election Commission
  • Article 325 provides a single electoral roll for every constituency. Also stipulates that no person shall be eligible or ineligible for inclusion in electoral rolls on the basis of race, religion, caste or sex
  • Article 326 stipulates that elections shall be held on the basis of adult suffrage. Every person who is a citizen of India and is not less than 18 years of age shall be eligible for inclusion
Keywords: IAS, IAS Exam, IAS Study Material, UPSC, UPSC Question Papers, India, Civil Service, General Studies, Free

Election process

  • The Election Commission announces the schedule of elections, but the election process only starts with the notification by the President (or Governors)
  • Model Code of Conduct comes into force the day election dates are announced.
  • No party is allowed to use government resources for campaigning. Campaigning to be stopped 48 hours prior to polling day
  • The Collector of each district is in charge of polling
  • The indelible ink used to mark fingers is produced by the Mysore Paints and Varnish Ltd.
  • Currently, India does not have an absentee ballot system. To enrol as a voter, a person needs to be an ‘ordinary resident’ i.e. reside in a particular constituency for at least 6 months
  • A period of eight days is allowed for filing nominations. Two days are allowed for withdrawal of candidature
  • Candidates to a particular constituency can be from anywhere in the country. However, voters in the constituency must be residents of that constituency
  • A candidate may contest from two constituencies at most
Keywords: IAS, IAS Exam, IAS Study Material, UPSC, UPSC Question Papers, India, Civil Service, General Studies, Free

Political parties

  • Registration of the People Act 1951 provides for registration of political parties with the Election Commission
  • To be recognised as a National Party, a party must satisfy all the following criteria
    • secure 6% of votes polled in four or more states (in General Elections of Assembly Elections)
    • win at least 4 seats to the Lok Sabha
    • win at least 2% of Lok Sabha seats from at least three different states (i.e. min of 11 MPs in the Lok Sabha)
  • There are currently six national parties: INC, BJP, BSP, CPI (M), NCP, CPI
  • To be recognised as a State Party, a party must satisfy all the following
    • Secure at least 6% of votes polled in that particular state
    • Wins at least 3 seats to the Legislative Assembly or at least 3% of Assembly seats, whichever is higher
Keywords: IAS, IAS Exam, IAS Study Material, UPSC, UPSC Question Papers, India, Civil Service, General Studies, Free

Judicial Review of election disputes

  • Technically, the decisions of the Election Commission can be challenged in High Courts of the Supreme Courts
  • However, by tradition, the Judiciary does not intervene in the conduct of elections once the process of elections has begun
  • After declaration of election results, the Election Commission cannot reverse the results on its own
  • The results of the elections to Parliament and state legislatures can only be reviewed by filing election petitions at the High Courts
  • For elections of President and Vice-President, election petitions can only be filed with the Supreme Court
Keywords: IAS, IAS Exam, IAS Study Material, UPSC, UPSC Question Papers, India, Civil Service, General Studies, Free

ELECTION COMMISSION OF INDIA
About the Election Commission

  • The Election Commission is autonomous, quasi-judiciary constitutional body
  • Its mission is to conduct free and fair elections in India
  • The Election Commission was established on 25 Jan 1950 under Article 324 of the Constitution
Keywords: IAS, IAS Exam, IAS Study Material, UPSC, UPSC Question Papers, India, Civil Service, General Studies, Free

Powers of the Election Commission

  • The EC enjoys complete autonomy and is insulated from any interference from the Executive
  • It also functions as a quasi-judiciary body regarding matters related to elections and electoral disputes
  • Its recommendations are binding on the President of India
  • However, its decisions are subject to judicial review by High Courts and the Supreme Court acting on electoral petitions
  • During the election process, the entire Central and state government machinery (including paramilitary and police forces) is deemed to be on deputation to the Commission
  • The Commission takes effective control of government personnel, movable and immovable property for successful conduct of elections
Keywords: IAS, IAS Exam, IAS Study Material, UPSC, UPSC Question Papers, India, Civil Service, General Studies, Free

Functions of the Election Commission

  • Demarcation of constituencies
  • Preparation of electoral rolls
  • Supervision, direction and control of elections to Parliament, Legislatures, President/Vice-President
  • Scrutiny of nomination papers
  • Scrutiny of election expenses of candidates
  • Establish rules for elections
  • Issue notification of election dates and schedules
  • Determine code of conduct
  • Allot symbols and accord recognition to political parties
  • Render advice to the President and Governors regarding disqualification of MPs and MLAs
  • Postpone or countermand elections for specific reasons
  • Resolve election disputes
  • Allot schedules for broadcast and telecast of party campaigns
  • Grant exemptions to persons from disqualifications imposed by judicial decisions
Keywords: IAS, IAS Exam, IAS Study Material, UPSC, UPSC Question Papers, India, Civil Service, General Studies, Free

Composition of the Election Commission

  • The Election Commission is a multimember Commission, the Chief Election Commissioner acts as the Chairperson
  • All members of the Election Commission enjoy equal vote, while the CEC additionally also enjoys casting vote. Decisions of the EC are to be based on unanimity or majority
  • The CEC is appointed by the President
  • Other members of the Commission are appointed by the President in consultation with the CEC
  • The CEC can be removed from office only in the manner of a Judge of the Supreme Court. Other members can be removed by the President in consultation with the CEC
  • The President may appoint Regional Election Commissioners in consultation with the CEC before elections to the Parliament or Assemblies. Upon conclusion of elections, the REC steps down
Keywords: IAS, IAS Exam, IAS Study Material, UPSC, UPSC Question Papers, India, Civil Service, General Studies, Free

Terms of service

  • The tenure of Election Commissioners is six years or up to age of 65 years, whichever is earlier
  • The CEC cannot hold any office of profit after retirement. Other ECs cannot hold any office of profit after retirement, except as CEC
  • The CEC cannot be reappointed to the post
  • The allowances and salaries of the CEC are drawn from the Consolidated Fund of India
Keywords: IAS, IAS Exam, IAS Study Material, UPSC, UPSC Question Papers, India, Civil Service, General Studies, Free

Chief Election Commissioners of India

S. No. CEC Tenure Notes
1 Sukumar Sen 1950-1958 First CEC
Served as CEC for Nepal and Sudan
2 K V K Sundaram 1958-1967
3 S P Sen Verma 1967-1972
4 Nagendra Singh 1972-1973 Born into Royal family of Dungarpur, Rajasthan
Padma Vibhushan 1973

President of the International Court of Justice (1985-1988)
5 T Swaminathan 1973-1977
6 S L Shakdhar 1977-1982
7 R K Trivedi 1982-1985
8 R V S Peri Shastri 1986-1990
9 V S Ramadevi Nov 1990 – Dec 1990 Only female CEC
10 T N Seshan 1990-1996 Introduced innovative electoral reforms
Envisioned voter ID card

Ramon Magsaysay Award 1996

After retirement, founded Deshbkat Trust for social reforms
11 M S Gill 1996-2001 Padma Vibhushan 2000
Currently, Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports
12 J M Lyngdoh 2001-2004 Ramon Magsaysay Award 2003
13 T S Krishnamurthy 2004-2005 Served as IMF advisor in Ethiopia and Georgia
As CEC, served as observer to elections in Zimbabwe and USA
14 B B Tandon 2005-2006
15 N Gopalaswami 2006-2009 Observer to US elections
16 Navin Chawla 2009-present
Keywords: IAS, IAS Exam, IAS Study Material, UPSC, UPSC Question Papers, India, Civil Service, General Studies, Free

DELIMITATION COMMISSION
  • Established under the Delimitation Commission Act to redraw the boundaries of assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies based on recent census
  • The representation of each state to the Lok Sabha is not changed. However, the number of SC and ST states may change
  • The orders of the Commission are laid down before the Lok Sabha and respective state Legislatures
  • The Commission is a powerful body – its orders cannot be changed by Parliament or Legislature, nor can they be challenged in a court of law
  • The Delimitation Commission is expected to be constituted every ten years (following every census), however in practise it has only been constituted four times since Independence: 1952, 1963, 1973, 2002
  • The Delimitation Commission 2002 was headed by Justice Kuldip Singh as chairperson. The Karnataka Assembly elections 2008 were the first elections to be conducted under newly delimited constituencies. The General Elections 2009 also used these new constituencies.
  • Breakdown of constituencies
    • Largest (population): Outer Delhi (3 million)
    • Smallest (population): Lakshadweep (37,000)
    • Largest (area): Ladakh (173,000 sq km)
    • Smallest (area): Chandni Chowk, Delhi (10 sq km)

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