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  2. 2. "...for the people, even if they are deceived for a time, in the end generally come to detest those who have beguiled them into any unworthy action." -- Aristotle, The Constitution of Athens “The ballot is stronger than the bullet.” ―Abraham Lincoln “In a democracy, someone who fails to get elected to office can always console himself with the thought that there was something not quite fair about it.” ― Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War
  3. 3. WHAT IS AN ELECTORAL REFORM? Electoral reform is change in electoral systems to improve how public desires are expressed in election results. The electoral system in any country should support and strengthen the empowerment of the people of the country to exercise the system to guarantee an equitable framework of economic and social justice. That can include reforms of: - Voting systems - Vote counting procedures - Rules about political parties - Electoral constituencies - Financing of candidates, etc., etc.
  4. 4. INTRODUCTION In India, the electoral reform proposals have been divided into two parts: I - In the first part are set out certain urgent proposals for electoral reforms in areas that have not been taken up in the past by the Commission and which have arisen due to implementation of certain laws enacted or based on certain directions given by the Supreme Court and the High Courts. II - In the second part, the Commission has reiterated some of the pending proposals that remain unresolved and which, in no way, are less important than the proposals in the first part.
  5. 5. Why an Electoral Reform? Largest Management Exercise Dealing with Criminalization India's democracy is facing serious challenges. Rampant vote-buying by parties, especially in southern India. Nearly a third of MPs - 158 of 543, to be precise - in the parliament face criminal charges. Seventy-four of them face serious charges such as murder and abduction. There are more than 500 criminal cases against these lawmakers.
  6. 6. India's democracy is facing serious challenges Twelve of the 205 MPs or 5% of the lawmakers in the ruling Congress Party face criminal charges. The main opposition BJP fares worse with 19 of 116 - or more than 16% - of its MPs facing charges. More than 60% of the MPs belonging to two key regional parties, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party - who profess to serve the poor and the untouchables - face criminal charges. The Election Commission seized more than 600 million rupees ($13.3m; £8.3m) in cash in Tamil Nadu in the run-up to the state elections in April. It believes that the money was kept to buy votes. In an US embassy cable leaked by WikiLeaks in March, an American official was quoted as saying that one Tamil Nadu party inserted cash and a voting slip instructing which party to vote for in the morning newspapers - more innovative than handing out money directly to voters. The party concerned denies the charge. Independent election watchdogs believe that candidates routinely under- report or hide campaign expenses. During the 2009 general elections, nearly all of the 6753 candidates officially declared that they had spent between 45 to 55% of their expenses limit. After the recent state elections - in three states and one union territory - elected legislators declared that that the average amount of money spent in their campaigns to be only between 39% and 59% of their limits in their official declarations. A total of 76 legislators declared that they did not spend any money on public meetings and processions.
  7. 7. India's most respected election watchdog Association For Democratic Reforms (ADR) has rolled out a pointed wish-list to clean up India's politics and target corruption. A law against use of excessive money in elections by candidates. Voters should have the option of not voting for any of the candidates To stop candidates and parties seeking votes on the basis of caste, religion and to stop divisive campaigns, a candidate should be declared a winner only if he or she gets more than 50% plus one vote. When no candidate gets the required number of votes, there should be a run-off between the top two candidates. Any person against whom charges have been framed by a court of law or offences punishable for two years or more should not be allowed to contest elections. Candidates charged with serious crimes like murder, rape, kidnapping and extortion should be banned from contesting elections. India's politicians have resisted this saying that opponents regularly file false cases against them. Despite the clamor for the state funding of elections, it is still not clear how much elections cost in India. Political parties do not come clean on their revenues and expenses, and until there is a clearer picture of how much they spend, it will be difficult to fix an amount. So political parties should give out verifiable accounts, which should be also available for public scrutiny.
  8. 8. TOP THREE MAJOR ELECTORAL REFORMS REQUIRED Ban on Paid News – The election committee and the parties should together responsibly agree to ban on paid news which could influence the voter. This is one of the best examples of false usage of money. Problem of Vote banks be addressed – Politics based on religion, caste, creed and gender should be avoided and a party should not lure the voters by making these aspects of an individual as their main tool. Parties should strictly be judged on the basis of its performance in the last term. ‘Right To reject’ be granted – At this hour when none of the parties are able to meet the public expectations, ‘Right to reject’ becomes a very effective tool for the masses to reject all the parties and dissolve their right to vote conveying their unhappiness with the government. However, this right has its own implications, as if all the parties are rejected with a majority, then the entire money invested within the elections will go for a toss. Though we still believe that this right is a need of the hour.
  9. 9. THE MANGO PEOPLE’S APPEAL  Section 8 (4) of the representation of the people act protected the ministers to serve the parliament even after charge sheets are filed against them or are worst convicted. After removal of section 8 (4) all the political parties should stop giving tickets to those with criminal charges filed against them. This will help to eliminate corrupt and scornful members of the parliament.  Setting up guidelines to propagate their election plans without influencing any caste, creed and sect to create vote banks.  Submitting a detailed plan of the campaign to the election committee well in advance before the elections to avoid any last minute changes which may lead to a rise in the pre decided budget for each party.  The election committee to periodically monitor the spending's of the parties to avoid huge debit’s from the government treasury.  It is expected from the parties to reveal their sources of funds for the election campaign to avoid unnecessary corruption opportunities.  Avoid corporate funding to limit the probability of corruption and favoring by the parties.  The election committee and the participating parties should plan awareness campaigns on the importance of each vote in the elections which may lead to a boost in the number of people voting within the country.
  10. 10. PENDING PROPOSALS 1) Anti-Defection Law 2) Use of Common Electoral Rolls at Elections conducted by the Election Commission and the State Election Commissions 3) Simplification of Procedure for Disqualification of a Person found Guilty of Corrupt Practice 4) Same Number of Proposers for all Contesting Candidates – Amendment of Section 33 of the Representation of People Act 5) Making of False Declaration in connection with Election to be made an Offence 6) Rule Making Authority to be Vested in Election Commission 7) Registration and De-Registration of Political Parties – Strengthening of Existing Provisions
  11. 11. RECENT SUPREME COURT’S DECISION The Bench found it unconstitutional that convicted persons could be disqualified from contesting elections but could continue to be Members of Parliament and State Legislatures once elected. Section 8 of the RP Act deals with disqualification on conviction for certain offences: A person convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for varying terms under Sections 8 (1) (2) and (3) shall be disqualified from the date of conviction and shall continue to be disqualified for a further period of six years since his release. But Section 8 (4) of the RP Act gives protection to MPs and MLAs as they can continue in office even after conviction if an appeal is filed within three months. Justice Patnaik said: “ The language of Articles 102(1) (e) and 191(1) (e) of the Constitution is such that the disqualification for both a person to be chosen as a member of a House of Parliament or the State Legislature and for a person to continue as a member of Parliament or the State Legislature has to be the same.” The Bench said: “Section 8 (4) of the Act which carves out a saving in the case of sitting members of Parliament or State Legislature from the disqualifications under sub-sections (1), (2) and (3) of Section 8 of the Act or which defers the date on which the disqualification will take effect in the case of a sitting member of Parliament or a State Legislature is beyond the powers conferred on Parliament by the Constitution.” “If any sitting member of Parliament or a State Legislature is convicted of any of the offences mentioned in sub-sections (1), (2) and (3) of Section 8 of the Act and by virtue of such conviction and/or sentence suffers the disqualifications mentioned in sub-sections (1), (2) and (3) of Section 8 of the Act after the pronouncement of this judgment, his membership of Parliament or the State Legislature, as the case may be, will not be saved by subsection (4) of Section 8 of the Act which we have by this judgment declared as ultra vires the Constitution notwithstanding that he files the appeal or revision against the conviction and /or
  12. 12. EXCLUSION OF POLITICAL PARTIES FROM RTI’S PURVIEW IS UNACCEPTABLE By restricting the scope of RTI to official organs and excluding the political parties is to limit the much needed power vested in the hands of the public as per democratic standards. • The governments in this country are formed after elections contested on party basis. The political parties impact the lives of the masses directly and indirectly in many ways. Even as political parties, other than those in power, are not part of the government, they do come to wield directly or indirectly influence on the exercise of governmental power. It would be ludicrous to expect that transparency in all state organs can be ensured with the exclusion of the political parties, which, in reality, control all the vital organs of the State. The political parties also need to be well within the ambit of the RTI also because of the phenomenal funding, donations and perks that they enjoy, often also at the state expense like allotment of land, bungalows for its top ranking leaders, cars and security paraphernalia. They cannot be expected to enjoy benefits of what belongs to the people and not be accountable to them. Their funding from business houses and other sources also needs to be brought into the public discourse because this offers the public the information and knowledge about the likely tilt and inclination of these parties vis-à-vis governance. Political parties are important public institutions that can play a major role in bringing transparency in public life. By seeking to be excluded, they are both setting a bad precedent and stonewalling transparency in public life. "Before amending RTI Act to keep political parties out of its purview, government should ensure that people may get required information concerning political parties from ECI Commission and other concerned public-authorities under provisions of section 2(f) of RTI Act
  14. 14. THE LAST APPEAL It is pivotal for the current scenario of electoral reforms to change, however, we should not only concentrate on structural changes but also work to gain support from the political parties.  Target the rural crowd to spread awareness on the importance of a fundamental right to vote.  Democracy must be preached and should not be limited to a mere word. Citizens should be granted their ‘Right to reject’ with the required education, for people’s rule to prevail in the county.  ‘Vote Bank’ Politics should strictly be banned.  Election campaign should closely be monitored by the election committee members and the parties should strictly adhere to the campaign guidelines.  Press council should formulate guidelines to cover the election campaign responsibly and not give out vague comments or opinions which can indeed stir up a controversy. Elections 2013 - 14