POLITY FUNDS – 02
Elections are the most important part of democratic politics. Electoral reforms are aimed at making the elections fair and free, strengthening the democracy and preventing muscle power and money power from influencing the election results. The following are the reforms introduced in the electoral system since independence.
- To enable the voters to make informed decisions, the background of the candidates are made publicly available.
- Upholding the secrecy of voters
- Preventing partisan media in influencing the voters.
- Introduction of ‘None Of The Above(NOTA)’ in the elections.
- To ensure the integrity of Electronic Voting Machines(EVMs), Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) has been introduced.
- To break the nexus between politics and criminals, automatic disqualification of persons convicted for two or more years for an offence and further restriction that bars such persons from contesting elections for next six years has been introduced.
- Strict enforcement of Model Code of Conduct by the ECI.
- Introduction of Elector’s Photo Identity Cards(EPIC).
- Declaration of holiday on the polling day.
- Enabling voting through postal ballot and proxy.
- Declaration of criminal history, assets, etc by the candidates.
- Restrictions imposed on exit polls.
- The number of proposers and security deposits have been increased.
- Online enrolment in the electoral roles.
Articles 102(2) and 191(2) of the Constitution deals with the disqualification of MPs and MLAs on the grounds of defection from one political party to another.
Grounds of disqualification under the anti-defection law:
What does not count to defection?
- If an elected representative voluntarily gives up his/her membership in the political party
- If an elected representative votes or abstains from voting against the guidelines given by the party without prior permission.
- When a political party splits and mergers completely with another political party.
- When elected representatives from a party form a new political party.
- When an elected representative does not accept the merger of two political parties and remains to function as a separate entity.
1) The Speaker or the Chairman decides upon the question of disqualification in the event of defection.
2) The decision of the Speaker or the Chairman is not final and further appeal can be made in a High Court or the Supreme Court.
The institution of Panchayati Raj was accorded the constitutional status by the 73rd constitutional amendment act, 1992
. Panchayati Raj simply means rural local self-government. Articles 243 to 243O in Part IX of the constitution deal with the organisation, powers and duties of Panchayats.
Salient Features of the Act:
- Gram Sabha: It is the basic unit of democratic governance in India. It has changed the nature of governance from representative to participatory with the direct involvement of people in the process of decision making. It consists of all the adult members of a village or a group of villages whose names are registered in the electoral rolls.
- Three-Tier System: The Panchayats are organised at three levels. They are
- Gram Panchayat / Village Panchayat
- MandalParishad / PanchayatSamiti / Intermediate level Panchayat
- ZilaParishad / District Panchayat
- Election of Members and Chairpersons:
The members at all three levels are directly elected by the people. The Chairpersons at the intermediate and the district levels are indirectly elected by the elected members of people from among themselves. The Chairperson at the village level can be elected as per the decision of the state governments.
- Reservation of Seats:
- The seats of members are reserved at all the three levels for the SCs and STs in proportion to their population. The state legislature can even provide for reservation to SCs and STs in the office of chairperson at all the three levels.
- Not less than 1/3rd of the seats of both the members and the chairpersons at all the three levels are reserved for women, including the women from SC and ST categories.
- The state governments may even provide for reservation of seats to the other backward communities in the states.
- Duration of Panchayats:
All three levels of Panchayat are elected for a term of five years. If it is dissolved before the expiry of the term of five years, election has to be conducted within a period of six months from the date of dissolution.
- State Election Commission:
The State Election Commission is endowed with the duty of conducting free and fair elections to the Panchayats. The State Election Commissioner is appointed by the governor but removed by the President in the same manner for the removal of the judges of the State High Courts.
- Distribution of Powers and Functions:
The state governments are needed to devolve powers and responsibilities to the Panchayats to enable them to function as institutions of self-government. The 11th Schedule containing 29 subjects was added to the constitution for the distribution of powers between the state legislature and the Panchayats.
- State Finance Commission:
The Governor appoints the state finance commission after every 5 years to study the financial status of panchayats. The commission submits its reports to the governor, who then places them before the state legislature.
- Accommodation of Diversity:
The 73rd constitutional amendment act consists of two types of provisions. They are
- Compulsory Provisions:
The state governments are required to include the compulsory provisions in the state laws that deal with the organisation of the Panchayati Raj system in the states.
- Voluntary Provisions:
The state governments can include the voluntary provisions in the state laws on their discretion. This allows the state governments to take local or regional factors into consideration while framing laws that deal with the organisation of Panchayati Raj institution in the states