These days, during elections, you usually get to know information such as the financial assets of a candidate and his/her criminal record, if any. However, this information was not always easily available earlier. It is thanks to an interesting body called the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) that we are now able to get such information about our political candidates.
Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) was established in 1999 by a group of professors from IIM-Ahmedabad to build a fair and transparent electoral and political process. ADR filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in August 1999 in the Delhi High Court asking for mandatory disclosure of criminal, financial and educational background of candidates contesting elections to the Parliament and State Legislatures, prior to the polls.
The Government of India and other political parties were quick to oppose such a bill, citing concerns (perhaps some of which are legitimate including false criminal implications).
However, the Supreme Court of India rejected the Government of India’s appeal and asked the Election Commission of India (ECI) to issue orders making it necessary for candidates nominating themselves to submit their nomination form along with the affidavits containing:
- Criminal cases pending against them, if any
- Financial assests of the candidate, his/her spouse and dependents
- Educational qualifications & financial liabilities of the candidate
ADR, in its quest for improving governance and strengthening democracy, is broadly working on two programs:
- Electoral Process Reform: The National Election Watch (NEW) is a nationwide campaign comprising of more than 1200 NGOs and other citizen led organizations. Election watch activities comprise of collecting data from the affidavits filed by contesting candidates in the elections and collating this information in a manner that is lucid and then dissemination the information via media. Check out www.nationalelectionwatch.org to know more.Then, they have started the site myneta.info which aims to provide information to citizens of the country regarding contestants during elections ( both Lok Sabha and State Assembly) in a timely and user-friendly way to enable the citizens to make an informed choice. Users can search for information based on name of candidate, constituency and state.
SMS campaign: A week before the elections, if you want to know more about the candidates contesting in your constituency, just sms MYNETA <PINCODE> to 56070. The message will provide information about the candidate ( criminal and other background information) from the constituency containing that pincode .
There is also a toll free help line: 1-800-110-440
- Political Process Reform: Political parties function as the key link between people and their representatives, thus in their structure and working political parties must adhere to democratic norms and transparency. ADR sought disclosure of financial information by the political parties. The Chief Information officer vide his order dated April 29, 2008 has held that copies of the Income Tax returns of the political parties filed with the public authorities and the assessment orders passed on them will be available to the citizens.
Taking it forward, ADR has been working on creating an environment for bringing political parties under the ambit of law.
To know more about ADR and to read about their latest activities, please visit www.adrindia.org.
Want to volunteer for their programs? You can easily do so by filling up this form.
Images courtesy www.adrindia.org
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More From: Activism
Electoral Reforms in India UPSC/Electoral reforms in India essay/recent electoral reforms in India/Election reforms in India
Why in News-
- Bringing Political parties under the ambit of RTI act.
- Conducting elections for Union and state legislatures at the same time.
- Law Commission of India’s Report on Electoral Reforms headed by-A.P. Shah.
- Time and again debated over the print and electronic media
India is the largest Democracy in the World. Elections are the most important and integral part of politics in a democratic system of governance .Democracy can function only upon this faith that elections are free and fair and not manipulated and rigged. But for certain reasons, system of Democracy is not working properly and common man feels that there is something wrong in the Electoral process.
While the first three general elections (1952-62) in our country were accepted by and large free and fair, a decline in standards began with the fourth general election in 1967. Over the years, Indian electoral system suffered from serious maladies’. Thus, the election process in our country is considered as the basis of political corruption.
The ideal conditions require that an honest, and upright person who is public spirited and wants to serve the people, should be able to contest and get elected as people’s representatives. But in actual fact, such a person has no chance of either contesting or in any case winning the election
MAIN ISSUES INELECTORAL POLITICS OF INDIA –
The elections at present are not being held in ideal conditions because of the enormous amount of money power and muscle power needed for winning the elections. In addition there are many other factors on the basis of which election is fought like poverty, casteism, communalism, criminalization of politics, poll violence, booth capturing, non-serious independent candidates, unemployment, etc
Money power– In each constituency, a prospective candidate has to spend millions of rupees towards campaigning, transport, publicity etc .The gap between the expenses incurred and legally permitted is increasing over the years.
Muscle Power– use of Violence, pre-election intimidation, booth capturing are mainly the products of muscle power and are prevalent in many parts of the country like Bihar, Western UP etc. and is slowly spreading to south India.
Criminalisation of politics and politicization of criminals– are like two sides of the same coin and are mainly responsible for the manifestation of muscle power at elections.
Politicization of criminals: criminals enter into politics to gain influence and ensure that cases against them are dropped or not proceeded with. Also, The political parties field criminals in elections for fund and in return provide them with political patronage and protection
Misuse of Government Machinery: It is generally complained that the government in power at the time of election misuse official machinery to improve their candidates election prospects . The misuse of official machinery takes different forms, such as use of government vehicles for canvassing ,advertisements at the cost of government and public exchequer highlighting their achievements, disbursements out of the discretionary funds at the disposal of the ministers, etc. which gives an unfair advantage to the ruling party at the time of elections.
Non serious Independent candidates -.Non-serious candidates are largely floated by serious candidates either to cut sizeable portion of votes of rival candidates or to split the votes on caste lines or to have additional physical force at polling station and counting centers
Casteism: there are cases of certain castes lending strong support to particular political parties. Thus political parties make offers to win different caste groups in their favor and caste groups also try to pressurize parties to give tickets for its members elections, . Caste based politics are eroding the „unity‟ principle in the name of regional autonomy. Thus caste as become a prime factor in winning elections and Candidates are selected not in terms of accomplishments, ability and merit but on the appendages of caste, creed and community
Communalism: the politics of communalism and religious fundamentalism during post independence has led to a number of separate movements in various states and regions of the country. Communal polarization has posed a serious threat to the Indian political ethos of pluralism, parliamentarianism, secularism and federalism.
Lack of Moral Values in Politics: Gandhian values of selflessness service to the people and self sacrifice have been destroyed systematically over the years and both the politicians and political parties have lost their credibility,.
According to Seetharam Yechury(MP) the 4 C’s in Indian politics, -Corruption, Crime, Communalism and casteism
It is crime which manifests itself in all the other factors)
a. Corruption is a crime,
b. dividing people along communal lines and spreading hatred in society is a crime,
c. Suppressing members of the lower caste is also a crime.
Therefore crime is the common factor among all these C’s.
Some major reforms taken –broadly classified as pre-2000 and post- 2000
The reports of various election reform commissions and a number of formal and informal group discussions at various forums and by individuals, have categorically pointed out the defects in the electoral system and came out with some useful suggestions. Yet the problems remaining to be as critical and challenging as ever.
However, government has accepted recommendations of many commission reports only partially. some of the important committees are-the Dinesh Goswami Committee on electoral reforms1990, committee on criminalization of politics by vohra ,committee on state funding of elections by Indrajith gupta , subsequent reports by the law commission, election commission, national commission to review the constitution headed by the M N Venkatachaliaha, second ARC on ethics in governance headed by Veerapa Moily, law commission report headed by A P Shaw 2015.
Reforms pre 2000
- Lowering of Voting Age: The Constitution (Sixty-first Amendment) Act, 1988 reduced the voting age from 21 years to 18 years for the Loksabha (house of the people) and state assembly elections. This has given the youth of the country an opportunity to participate and express their feeling in political processes.
- Deputation to Election Commission: officers or staff engaged in preparation, revision and correction of electoral rolls for elections shall be deemed to be on deputation of Election Commission for the period of such employment .and these personnel during that period, would be under the control, superintendence and discipline of the Election Commission.
- Increase in Number of proposers: Number of electors required to sign as proposers in nomination papers for elections to Council of States (Rajyasabha) and State Legislative Council has been increased to 10% of the electors of the constituency or ten such electors, whichever is less mainly to prevent frivolous candidates.
- Electronic Voting Machine: Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) were first used in 1998 during the State elections of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi. EVMs have been widely used in the sixteen Loksabha Elections in 2015.as they are-fool proof, efficient and eco-friendly (limited use of papers)
- Booth Capturing: EC May either declare the poll of the particular polling station as void and may appoint a date for fresh poll or countermand election in that constituency because of booth capturing. Booth capturing has been defined in Section 135 A of the RPA 1951.as seizure of a polling station and making polling authorities surrender ballot papers or voting machines, seizure of the polling place, threatening and preventing voters, taking possession of polling stations etc Election Commission on such report may
- Disqualification on Conviction for Insulting the National Honors Act, 1971: shall lead to disqualification for contesting elections to Parliament and State Legislatures for a period of six years from the date of such conviction
- Increase in Security Deposits and Number of Proposers: The amount of security deposit which a candidate needs to deposit at an election to the Loksabha or a State Legislative Assembly has been enhanced to check the multiplicity of non-serious candidates. In the case of an election to the Loksabha, the security deposit has been increased to Rs. 10,000 for the general candidate and to Rs. 5,000 for a candidate who is a member of a Scheduled cast/tribe.
In the case of elections to a State Legislative Assembly, the candidates will have to make a deposit of Rs. 5,000 if they are general candidates and Rs. 2,500 if they belong to a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe respectively.
Proposers-The amended law further provides that the nomination of a candidate in a Parliamentary or Assembly constituency should be subscribed by 10 electors of the constituency as prospers and if the candidate has not been set up by a recognised National or State Party.
The number of proposers and seconders for contesting election to the office of the President of India has been increased to 50 each from 10 and; number of electors as proposers and seconders for contesting Vice-Presidential election has increased to 20 from 5. The security deposit has been increased to Rs. 15,000 from Rs. 2,500 for contesting election to the offices of President and Vice- President to discourage frivolous candidates.
- Restriction on Contesting Election from More than Two Constituencies: A candidate is eligible to contest election from not more than two Assembly or parliamentary constituencies at a general election or at the bye-elections which are held simultaneously. Similar restrictions will apply for biennial-elections and bye-elections to the Council of States (Rajyasabha) and State legislative councils.
- Death of a contesting Candidate: Previously, the election was countermanded on the death of a contesting candidate. In future, no election will be countermanded on the death of a contesting candidate and If the deceased candidate, however, was set up by a recognized national or State party, then the party concerned will be given an option to nominate another candidate within seven days of the issue of a notice to that effect to the party concerned by the Election Commission.
- Prohibition with respect to Going Armed to or Near a Polling Station: is a cognizable offence punishable with imprisonment up to two years or with fine or with both.
- Paid Holiday to Employees on the Poll day: violation of this amounts to a fine up to 500rs
- Prohibition on Sale of Liquor-: No liquor or other intoxicants shall be sold or given or distributed at any shop, eating place, or any other place, whether private or public, within a polling area during the period of 48 hours ending with the hour fixed for the conclusion of poll. The violation of this rule is punished with imprisonment up to 6 months or fine up to Rs 2000 or both
- Time Limit for Bye-elections: Bye-elections to any House of Parliament or a State Legislature will now be held within six months of occurrence of the vacancy in that House. but, this stipulation will not apply in two cases- where the remainder of the term of the member whose vacancy is to be filled is less than one year or where the Election Commission, in consultation with the Central Government, certifies that it is difficult to hold the bye-election within the said period.
- The effective campaigning period –has been reduced. The gap between the last date for with drawl of nomination and the polling date has been reduced from 20days to 14 days
Reforms since 2000
Restriction on exit polls-exit poll is an opinion survey regarding how electors have voted etc Thus conducting exist polls and publishing results of exit polls during the election to the Loksabha and state legislative assemblies during the period notified by the election commission shall be punishable with imprisonment up to 2 years and with fine or both.
Ceiling on election expenditure– ceiling on election expenditure for a Loksabha seat has been increased to 40 lakhs in bigger states and it varies between16 to40lakhs in other states and union territories. Similarly, ceiling on election expenditure has been increased in assembly elections to 16 lakhs in bigger states and it varies between 8 to16 lakhs in other states and union territories.