Electoral Reforms in India: Meaning, Needs, Challenges and Steps taken
The need for electoral reforms
- The Goswami Committee on Electoral reform in 1990, observed the crippling effect of money and muscle power in elections.
- The N. Vohra committee, which submitted its report in October 1993, studied the problem of criminalization of politics and the nexus among politicians, bureaucrats, and criminals in India. According to the committee CBI, IB had unanimously expressed their opinion that the criminal network is virtually running a parallel government.
- The Law Commission has said that in the last ten years since 2004, 18% of the candidates contesting national and state assembly elections had one or more criminal cases against them.
- In the 18th report presented by a parliamentary committee to the Rajya Sabha in March 2007 said that there should not be a person from criminal background
- The report said, "criminalization of politics is the bane of society and negation of democracy."
Major Challenges in the Indian electoral system:
- Money Power: Election is an expensive affair in every democratic polity. Money power plays a destructive role in our electoral system affecting the working of periodic elections seriously
- Muscle Power: Criminalisation of politics and politicization of criminals are like two sides of the same coin and mainly responsible for the muscle power in the election
- Misuse of Government Machinery: It generally complains that the government in power often misuse official machinery to further the election prospects of its part candidates.
- Criminalisation of Politics and Politicisation of Criminal: Nexus between the two groups of Politician and Criminals ensure each others survival in Indian Democracy. Criminals using money and muscle powers to enter politics and further ensures that the cases against them are not proceeded with. Political parties also field such candidates with a criminal background as they ensure a seat for the Party.
- Freebies in the election: Free liquor or some goods to voters are acts of enticing voters
- Paid News and Fake news: Paid news is published as a news item in the form of advertisement. Social media also transmit fake news
Steps Taken by the government
- Electoral bonds:
- Electoral bonds are like a promissory note that can be bought by an Indian citizen or company incorporated in India from select branches of State bank of India.
- It was introduced with the Finance Bill (2017).
- On January 29, 2018, the government of India introduced the Electoral Bond Scheme 2018.
- Introduction of VVPATs:
- It is a method of providing feedback to voters using a ballot less voting system.
- It is an independent printer system attached with Electronic voting machine that allows the voters to verify that their votes are cast to the person they want to give
- VVPAT generates a paper slip every time when a voter casts his vote, recording the party to whom the vote was made
- The voters verified paper audit slip is kept in a sealed cover
- Guidelines for social media during the election: Voluntary Codes for ethics is given by election commission for the fair and free election
- Lowering of voting Age: The 61st constitutional amendment act reduced the minimum age for voting from 21 years to 18 years
- Introduction of Electronic Voting Machines:
- EVMs were introduced in the year 1998 during the state elections of Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan.
- EVMs are used widely now because they are fool-proof, efficient, and a better option in terms of the environment.
- Restriction on candidates from contesting in more than two constituencies
- It shall lead to disqualification of the person for six years from contesting to the Parliament and State legislatures when a person violates the National Honors Act, 1971
- Increasing the number of proposers and the security deposit: The no of electors required to sign as proposers in the nomination papers for election to the Rajya Sabha and the State Legislative Councils has been increased to 10% of the electors of the constituency or ten such electors
- It helped in reducing the non-serious candidates in the election.
- It is restricted by law to go to the polling booth bearing arms. Taking arms to the poling both is punishable by imprisonment for up to 2 years
- Prohibition on the sale of liquor: Liquor or other intoxicants shall not be sold at any shop, eating place, or any other place within the polling area during forty-eight hours. Forty eight hours ending with the hour fixed for the conclusion of poll
- The ceiling on election expenditure: For the Lok Sabha election, a candidate can spend nearly 50-70 lakh, and Rs 20-28 lakh for an assembly election.
- The government decided to observe January 25 as 'National Voters Day' to mark the EC's founding day.
- Voting through the postal ballot is another reform taken up by the Government.
- Political parties need to report any contribution above Rs 20000 to the Election Commission for claiming income tax benefit.
- Declaration of criminal record, assets, etc. by the candidates is required, and declaring false information in the affidavit is now an electoral offence punishable with imprisonment up to 6 months or fine or both.
- Audit of the party expenditure: It should be conducted regularly.
- Awareness campaign to educate the voters in villages or colleges for the first time voters.
- Self-regulation by the political parties: Political parties voluntarily took money in the electronic form and bring transparency in their approach.
- Neutrality by Mass media: Mass media should play a non-partisan role in the election. It acts as a safeguard of democracy.
- Regulation by the social media companies on the fake news especially during the election time.