Election related issues


Introduction to the Election-related issues

This section of polity will deal with the basic aspects of the Election-related issues to India, such as its evolution, features, preamble, sources, etc.

Election related issues updates/news

Settling claims of rival factions in a party symbol dispute

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Synopsis: How Election Commission decides on party symbol disputes?

Background
  • Recently, there has been a split within the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and both the factions are claiming for the same party symbol.
  • In the case of deciding the recognized party among rival factions, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has the final say.
  • ECI has been empowered with quasi-judicial powers under section 15 of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.
How Election Commission decides on party symbol disputes?
  • Approach EC: The EC can not take suo motu cognizance of such cases. It can act only when at least one party approaches it with its claim.
  • Evidence produced: Once a claim has been raised with EC, it starts the proceedings by giving notice to the other faction to give its version. Both parties are asked to produce evidence in support of their claim, accompanied by affidavits
  • Scrutiny by EC: The commission will scrutinize whether, there are rival sections or groups of a recognized political party as claimed based on the information it possesses. If the commission is satisfied that there exist rival factions within a political party then it decides which faction is a recognized party.
  • Test of majority: The EC employs ‘the test of majority’ principle to decide the recognized party. The EC looks at the strength of each group, in the party’s organization and in the legislatures.
    • In case EC is not able to determine the strength of rival groups based on support within the party organization, it resorts to testing the majority among elected MPs and MLAs.
  • Binding decision: The decision of the Commission is binding and on all such rivals’ sections or groups.
  • In 1997 the EC introduced a new rule under which while one faction got the party symbol, the other had to register itself as a separate party.
    • The national or state party status of the new formation would be determined only on the basis of its performance in state or central elections after registration.
Also read: Power of Election Commission of India
Judicial position on the issue
  • Many of the cases of split in political parties have landed in the Supreme Court. The most significant case was that of the Indian National Congress (INC) in 1969 where the Supreme Court upheld the order of the ECI applying the test of majority (Sadiq Ali vs ECI, 1972).
  • It was a milestone judgment for the Election Commission as the apex court upheld the constitutional validity of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968, giving an executive order the status of subordinate legislation.
  • SC stated that ‘The Commission, in resolving this dispute, does not decide as to which group represents the party, but which group is that party

The Supreme Court has, time and again, upheld the test of majority in the Symbols Order to be a “valuable and relevant test” to decide a dispute between rival groups within a “democratic organization” like a recognized political party.

Source: Indian Express

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, PUBLICTagged

What is an election petition? – All you need to know.

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What is the news?

An election petition has been filed by West Bengal Chief Minister in the Calcutta High Court. She has challenged the Assembly election result of Nandigram constituency where she had contested and lost.

What is an election petition?
  • An election petition is a procedure for inquiring into the validity of the election results of Parliamentary or local government elections. In other words, it is a means under law to challenge the election of a candidate in a Parliamentary, Assembly or local election.

Where one can file an election petition?

  • Election petition filed in the High Court of the particular state in which the election was conducted. Therefore, only the High Courts have the original jurisdiction on deciding on an election petition.
What is the limitation period of an election petition?
  • An election petition calling in question an election shall be filed within the time period of 45 days from the date of declaration of results.
  • Moreover, the Representative of the People Act of 1951 suggests that the High Court should try to conclude the trial within 6 months. But it usually drags on for much longer even for years.
Read more: [Yojana Summary] One Nation One Election

Grounds on which an election petition can be filed

Under Section 100 of the Representation of the People(RP) Act, an election petition can be filed on the following grounds:

  • That on the day of the election, the winning candidate was not qualified to contest
  • That the winning candidate, his poll agent or any other person with the consent of the winning candidate has indulged in a corrupt practice.
    • Section 123 of the RP Act has a list of what amounts to corrupt practice, including bribery, use of force or coercion, appeal to vote or refrain from voting on grounds of religion, race, community and language.
  • Improper acceptance of the nomination of the winning candidate or improper rejection of a nomination.
  • Malpractice in the counting process which includes improper reception, refusal or rejection of any vote, or the reception of any vote which is void.
  • Non-compliance with the provisions of the Constitution or the RP Act or any rules or orders made under the RP Act.
Also read: Annual review of state laws 2020

What happens if the court finds that a contention of malpractice is correct?

  • Under Section 84 of the RP Act, the petitioner may ask that the results of all or the winning candidates may be declared void.
  • In addition to that, the petitioner may also ask the court to declare her (in case the petition is filed by a candidate) or any other candidate as the winner or duly elected.

So the verdict on an election petition, if found in favor of the petitioner may result in a fresh election or the court announcing a new winner.

Previous cases where election results were declared void:

  • Indira Gandhi Election: In 1975, the Allahabad High Court verdict had set aside Indira Gandhi’s election from Rae Bareli constituency, four years earlier on grounds of corrupt practice.

Source: Indian Express

Posted in CURRENT AFFAIRS, Daily Factly articles, Factly: Polity and Nation, PUBLICTagged ,

Electoral Funding Lacks Transparency

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Synopsis: Electoral funding of political parties lacks transparency. Over the years, many steps are taken by the government to make it a more secret affair.

Introduction:

In 2014, the Delhi High Court held that both main national parties (Congress and BJP) were guilty of accepting donations illegally. They both accepted donations from companies registered in India but whose controlling shareholders was a foreign company. The court held that this is a violation of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), 1976.

  • In 2016 and 2018, the government amended the FCRA through the annual Finance Bills. These bills exempt political parties from the scrutiny of funds they have received from abroad since 1976. This enabled new and regressive pathways that afford full anonymity to corporate and foreign political donors.
  • In 2017, the amount of anonymous cash donations to political parties was reduced from ₹20,000 to ₹2,000 to ensure greater transparency in political funding. However, the introduction of electoral bonds introduced a new form of anonymity. It led to the funding of thousands of crores of anonymous donations.
Read more: Electoral Bond and its challenges – Explained, Pointwise
Challenges in electoral funding:
  • The electoral funding drastically reduced public and legislative oversight. Only the ruling party (via the State Bank of India (SBI)) has a full account of all donations received by electoral bonds. The ruling party can monitor donations to itself and to Opposition parties.
    • Even the Parliament, the Election Commission, and the Opposition parties do not have this information, nor do the public.
  • Earlier, only profit-making domestic companies were allowed to contribute to political parties; now loss-making companies can also contribute.
  • Earlier, foreign companies or companies where the controlling stake was held by a foreign company, couldn’t contribute. Now they can contribute by a foreign company operating in India or by a foreign entity through a shell company.

Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on Electoral funding:

  • For the above-mentioned reasons, the Association of Democratic Reforms filed a case in SC to declare electoral bonds unconstitutional.
  • However, SC refused to stay the sale of electoral bonds prior to the Assembly elections in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.
  • Instead, the court listed several documents to establish a paper trail on donations. But this is not practically feasible.
Challenges with cross-checking Electoral funding:
  1. The full scale of registered companies is unknown. Even if registered companies filed annual financial statements, many do not disclose political donations.
  2. Amount of political donors in the country: According to back-of-the-envelope calculations, there are close to 25 lakh potential donors, comprising just companies and firms. Annual reports of all these companies are not readily accessible on the website of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.
    • Even if these documents are indeed available in the public domain, they will not specify donations to parties. It is notable that the Finance Bill of 2017 amended Section 182 of the companies act. It removed the requirement for declaring political donations. 
    • Furthermore, even if a firm mentions the total political contributions through electoral bonds, it is not required to specifically name a political party.
  3. Political parties also not need to disclose their electoral bond donors. So the cross-checking of donations is not feasible. The only requirement is the submission of annual audit reports with only aggregate amounts by political parties. However, this report too does not provide details of the total amount.

Thus, the SC’s “match the following” suggestion is not practical.

Suggestions for transparent electoral funding:
  1. Companies and political parties should exercise moral leadership and voluntarily disclose the identity of recipients and donors. For example, recently, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha disclosed their donors voluntarily.
Conclusion:

The electoral funding gives political power to companies, wealthy individual donors, and foreign entities. They can influence government policies through hidden donations. This dilutes the universal franchise of one voter-one vote. So, electoral funding needs abrupt corrections to ensure universal franchise.

Source: The Hindu

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, CURRENT AFFAIRS, PUBLICTagged ,

India needs to replace frequent elections with One nation One election

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Synopsis –  India should hold simultaneous elections (One nation one electionto tackle various challenges associated with frequent elections.

About One nation one election:

  • It is the idea of synchronising the elections to the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies. In can be achieved by restructuring the current Indian election cycle.
Challenges in frequent Elections
  1. Huge incalculable expenditure to conduct elections. For example- the Bihar assembly election alone in 2015 cost about Rs 3000 crore.
  2. Frequent elections impact the delivery of essential services. Such as,
    • Teachers lost teaching weeks on election duty.
    • Officers and vehicles from practically every other department are “requisitioned” for election duty.
    • Frequent elections also disrupt essential public work such as road construction, welfare scheme supervision, etc.
  3. Imposition of the Model Code of Conduct: This will impact the governance and implementation of key policy initiatives.
  4. The efficiency of a politician doing public good is also reduced during the campaign. This is because most of them are putting in 16-18 hours of work each day doing only rallies and campaigning. As a result, important meetings and decisions get postponed.
  5. Further, there is also a huge cost involved in deploying security forces repeatedly during elections.
Challenges in holding One nation one election in India
  • India had concurrent elections for the first two decades. The first general elections held simultaneously to Lok Sabha and the Legislative Assemblies of the States in October 1951.
  • But in 1968 1969 and 1970, the cycle got disrupted due to the premature dissolution of some Legislative Assemblies.

This is the reason that some experts believe that if a government loses its majority in the House, it eventually leads to fresh elections and disrupt One nation one election in India.

Suggestions to conduct One nation one election

It is virtually impossible for a ruling party/coalition to lose numbers with the current anti-defection law. Even if they do, there are certain global legal provisions available to maintain the electoral cycle.

  • Coupling the ‘no-confidence motion’ along with the ‘vote of confidence’ in an alternative government. This vote of confidence will also mention a leader to head it. After passing both of them(no-confidence motion and vote of confidence), the alternate government will head the government for the remaining term. This helps to maintain the fixed term.
Benefits of having Simultaneous Elections
  • Reduced Financial cost of conduction Election
  • Reduced Cost of repeated administrative restrictions
  • Reduced visible and invisible costs of repeatedly deploying security forces
  • Reduced campaign and finance costs of political parties.
Way forward

There is a need to calibrate and club the elections in a mature and sensible way. So that it could come to a situation where all elections are held simultaneously.

Source- The Indian Express


 

Frequent transfer of public servants affect public administration

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, CURRENT AFFAIRS, PUBLICTagged

RTI reveals details of “Electoral bonds” sale during the recent elections

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What is the News?

State Bank of India(SBI) has provided information on the sale of electoral bonds during the recent assembly elections. This was provided after a Right to Information(RTI) application was filed.

Key Highlights from the Sale of Electoral Bonds:
  • During the Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, West Bengal, Assam and Kerala polls, electoral bonds worth ₹695 crore were sold from April 1 to 10, 2021
  • This is the highest ever amount sold for any Assembly elections since the scheme started in 2018.
  • The sale of electoral bonds was also more than 16 times the sale of electoral bonds during the previous sales in early January 2021.
  • The highest amounts were sold at the Kolkata branch. This is followed by the New Delhi and Chennai branch of SBI.
  • However, the SBI has declined to name the political parties that have withdrawn the bonds. It said that this was third party personal information. So, it is exempted under the RTI Act.
  • Moreover, the bank has also declined to share the details of how much commission it had earned from the sale of bonds since the scheme started in 2018. It said that this information was of commercial confidence in nature. The bank also stated that the disclosure would harm the competitive position of the bank.
What are Electoral Bonds?
  • Firstly, the Electoral Bonds are the non-interest-bearing financial instruments. These bonds allow eligible donors to pay eligible political parties using banks as an intermediary. The Electoral Bonds aim to ensure transparency in the funding of political parties.
  • Secondly, they were introduced by the Government of India by the Finance Bill, 2017.
  • Thirdly, the State Bank of India (SBI) issues electoral bonds in the months of January, April, July, and October.
  • Fourthly, the electoral bonds are available in denominations of ₹1,000, ₹10,000, ₹1 lakh, ₹10 lakh and ₹1 crore.
  • Fifthly, the donors can buy electoral bonds and transfer them into the accounts of the political parties as a donation. The name of the donor is kept confidential.
  • Sixthly, political parties will create a specific account. This account will be verified by the ECI. The political parties will encash the electoral bonds only in this verified account.
  • Seventhly, the bonds will remain valid for 15 days. Within that time, the political parties have to encash the electoral bond in the designated accounts.
  • Lastly, no payment shall be made to the Political Party if the Electoral Bond is deposited after the expiry of the validity period.
  • Eligibility: Only the registered Political Parties are eligible. Further, they also have to secure at least 1% of the votes polled in the last Lok Sabha elections or the State Legislative Assembly to receive the funds.

Click Here to Read more about Electoral Bonds and its challenges

 Source: The Hindu

Posted in Daily Factly articles, Factly: Polity and Nation, PUBLICTagged

[Yojana Summary] One Nation One Election

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During the Drafting Committee debates on Elections and Election Commission, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar pointed out two alternatives on the Election Commission. He suggested either it can be a permanent body or a temporary body that will set up before elections and wound upon completion of the elections. The major reason for this suggestion were;

  • Elections were expected only once in five years.
  • Bye-elections will take place only on rare occasions.

So Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was of the opinion that a permanent Election Commission will have no work between the intervening four years.

The path towards Permanent Election Commission

But other legal luminaries like Prof. Shibaan Lal Saksena cautioned Dr B.R. Ambedkar. They mentioned reasons such as

  • There is a high possibility of mid-term dissolution of Legislative Assemblies.
  • There is no fixed term for the Houses of Legislature.
  • Also, the Indian constitution does not prescribe a fixed election cycle.
  • There might be the case where elections were conducted regularly in some State or the other State.

So in such a scenario, a state of readiness of the Election Commission is necessary to conduct fresh elections promptly. As predicted by the Assembly India at present facing a constant election in one state or the other.

From One nation one election to One nation multiple elections
  1. India had concurrent elections for the first two decades. The first general elections held simultaneously to Lok Sabha and the Legislative Assemblies of the States in October 1951.
  2. The next three cycles of elections also witnessed concurrent Lok Sabha and Legislative Assembly elections. The exceptions to this were,
    • Kerala(mid-term election held in 1960 on the premature dissolution of the Assembly)
    • Formation of Nagaland and Pondicherry Legislative Assemblies after 1962 general elections.
  3. The last occasion India had near-simultaneous elections in the country was in 1967. (Except Nagaland and Pondichery).
  4. The fourth Lok Sabha dissolved prematurely in 1971. This resulted in a mid-term Lok Sabha election. This was the beginning of the end of simultaneous elections in India.
  5. Apart from this, there are two important reasons that disturbed the simultaneous election. One, Extension of the term of Lok Sabha during the National Emergency in 1975. The other, the dissolution of Assemblies of some States after the 1977 Lok Sabha election
  6. Recently, only four State Assemblies went to polls along with the Lok Sabha elections. The other States have Assembly elections at different times.
  7. Further, at least two rounds of Assembly general elections are getting conducted every year by the election commission.

In conclusion, to conduct a One Nation One Election, the terms of the Lok Sabha and the  Legislative Assemblies of all States and Union Territories have to end together.

Challenges to synchronize the terms of the Houses
Constitutional and legislative challenges:

To implement one nation one election the following Articles of Constitution and legislations have to be amended.

  1. Clause (2) of Article 83 provides for the terms of Lok Sabha (five years from the date appointed). Similarly, Article 172(1) regards the term of Legislative Assemblies.
  2. Articles 85(2)(b) and 174(2)(b) provides for the dissolution of Lok Sabha and Legislative Assemblies respectively.
  3. Further, the Indian constitution has no provision for extension of the term unless a proclamation of Emergency is in operation.
  4. Sections 14 and 15 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, empower the Election Commission to notify elections. These sections empower the Election Commission to notify elections during the last six months of the term of the House and not earlier than that.
Other Challenges
  1. India needs adequate safeguards in place to avoid mid-term dissolution and protect the simultaneous elections cycle
  2. A strong political will is also necessary. As the one election will require extending/curtailing the terms of several of the Houses. In some states,  extension/curtailment may go up to two to three years.
  3. Doubling of expenses on electronic voting machines (EVMs) and Voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) printer. Since the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections are not held together, the same EVMs and VVPATs are utilised for both the elections. At present, India is having more than one million polling stations. So, the expense of EVMs and VVPATs alone will cost more than Rs. 4,000 crores.
Significance of one nation one election

The advocates of simultaneous election credit the following two factors as a need.

  1. Simultaneous elections will reduce labour, time, and expenditure in the conduct of elections;
  2. Instances of pause in governance are addressed if elections are conducted in one go instead of staggered elections.
  3. Increased voter turnout: Frequent elections can bring in the election-fatigue factor
    at least among some sections of electors.
Simultaneous elections and expenditure:
  1. Polling stations for Lok Sabha and Legislative Assembly elections are the same. Further, there is no need for duplication of work in preparing the electoral rolls for the two elections. Hence, no extra labour or expenditure is involved for these purposes.
  2. Also, during the conduct of elections, all logistic arrangements, drills, training, deployment of the Central Police Force can cater to both the elections.
  3. All this would mean saving on transport, accommodation, storage arrangements, training, remuneration, and so on.
  4. Apart from the election and associated costs, simultaneous elections will also bring down the campaign expense of political parties. After one nation one election, Political parties will engage in public rallies, roadshows, smaller roadside meetings,
    advertisements on print and electronic media, etc. for both the elections. So All these will significantly reduce the campaign expense.
Simultaneous elections and governance:

Model Code of Conduct (MCC) will come into operation from the date the election is announced by the Election Commission.

  1. MCC prohibits using official resources for electoral activities, announcing financial grants, new schemes, etc. on the party in power.
  2. In the Lok Sabha election, the MCC applies to both the Union and State Governments.
  3. During the Assembly elections for a state, the Union government cannot introduce new schemes specific to that state 
  4. For bye-elections, the application of MCC is similar and restricted to the District concerned

If one nation one election is implemented, then the restrictions under MCC will applicable only for a limited period. So, governance will get improve in India holistically

Simultaneous elections and increased voter turn out:

Frequent elections can bring in the election-fatigue factor, at least among some sections of electors. This results in urban apathy on voting. Thus, a simultaneous nationwide election could push up the voter turnout, since a once-in-five-year event is bound to attract more enthusiastic participation across all sections. Better electors’ participation will further add to the credibility of the elections.

Need to avoid Local Body elections in one nation one election

So far, the debate on one nation’s election focussed on synchronizing Lok Sabha elections and the Assembly election. There is no or little debate on synchronizing Local bodies in one nation one election. The reasons are,

  1. Under the superintendence, direction, and control of the respective State Election Commissions the elections to local bodies are conducted. So, The local body elections are not under the National Election Commission. This will create a problem. Such as same polling officials reporting and take instructions from two different authorities simultaneously.
  2. In many states, The State Election Commission follows a distinct set of polling stations for local bodies’ elections. Bringing them under simultaneous elections will create unnecessary issues in them.
  3. Different authority for election petition-related challenge: The local bodies’ election can be challenged to the Court of District Judge and other lower courts. On the other hand, an election petition challenging a Parliamentary or Assembly election is to be brought up before the High Court. Therefore, situations may arise where the same issue forms a ground to challenge the election may be raised in two different Courts
Conclusion

For maintaining the electoral cycle, some countries have certain legal provisions to implement it. India can try to implement them for achieving one nation one election. For instance,

  • Coupling the ‘no-confidence motion’ along with the ‘vote of confidence’ in an alternative government. This vote of confidence will also mention a leader to head it. After passing both of them(no-confidence motion and vote of confidence), the alternate government will head the government for the remaining term. This helps to maintain the fixed term.

The further scrutiny and analysis of one nation one election is the need of the hour. But the implementation of one nation one election will also require a huge political will to implement.

Source: Yojana May, 2021

Posted in 7 PM, PUBLICTagged

The Case of EC’s Demand for Restriction on Media

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Synopsis: The Election Commission had asked the court to not let the media cover its verbal hearing. It should withdraw its request to recover some of its moral high ground.

Introduction 

The Election Commission of India is a constitutional body that draws its mandate to conduct free and fair elections from Article 324. It has built a desirable reputation for impartiality and public trust. However, the EC has appeared too weak to political pressures amid a pandemic.

  • The election commission approached the Supreme Court against the sharply critical observations by the Madras High Court about its management of elections. 
  • The HC said that possibly EC should face murder charges. EC complained in the apex court by stating that these comments are blatantly critical and derogatory. It further suggested that a line should be drawn so that such remarks are not reported by the media. 
    • The complaint shows disregard for an open and democratic public sphere.
  • The Supreme Court in its response rightly said that it is essential for constitutional bodies to take criticism from other constitutional bodies in the right spirit.
    •  The people have a right to be informed. The media has a duty to cover the unfolding of debate in the court of law not just its final verdict.
Where did the election commission go wrong?

The EC should take a moment to pause and do an honest introspection. It has invited serious questions from the start of the poll exercise.

  • Firstly, the eight-phase schedule for the West Bengal polls was overstretched especially during a pandemic. The EC ignored requests by opposition parties to shorten the election duration by clubbing together the last few phases.
  • Moreover, the segregation of phases and geographies seemed to favor a specific political party. 
  • Secondly, the EC made only casual attempts to make sure that COVID protocols were followed by candidates and parties. The COVID curve rose up in West Bengal and the rest of India. 
    • India crossed daily cases of 1 lakh on April 4. The daily cases to over 3 lakhs by registering 3,32,730 on April 22. 
  • Thirdly, the EC only banned roadshows and public meetings of over 500 after the Prime Minister’s announcement of the cancellation of his election meetings scheduled for the next day. 
What should the election commission do?
  • The EC had gained the trust of people over the years. It should focus on maintaining it. This will require constant awareness and work. The EC must know that the impression is growing of late that it has let itself go. 
    • The EC needs to act to regain and restore its hard-earned credibility. It should begin by withdrawing its self-indulgent and ill-conceived petition from the Supreme Court.
  • In a time when a stout executive does not hesitate to weaponize its mandate, the independence of monitorial institutions is especially precious and needed. 

Source: click here

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Reducing Independence of the Election Commission of India – Explained, Pointwise

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Introduction

The Election Commission (EC’s) independence and credibility has come into question in the recent phase of state elections in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, and Kerala. The Madras High Court blamed the EC. It was for proliferating the second wave of Covid-19 during the electoral process by not acting in a credible manner. After this, EC approached the Supreme Court in order to confront such allegations.

Although SC has denied any immediate relief to EC, the Matter is still under consideration. Now the question comes that why the constitutional body like the Election Commission, with a prestigious past record of impartiality, is facing such allegations. A thorough analysis of all these aspects along with remedial suggestions would be provided in this article.

About Election Commission
  • It is a permanent and independent body established by the Constitution of India to ensure free and fair elections in the country.
  • Article 324 of the Constitution provides that the power of superintendence, direction, and control of elections shall be vested in the election commission. 
  • This includes elections to parliament, state legislatures, the office of president of India, and the office of vice-president of India.
  • It grants election symbols and also recognizes political parties.
  • It issues a model code of conduct and keeps an eye on the election expenditure of candidates.
What was the case?
  • The Madras High court accused EC of spreading the 2nd wave of pandemic and stated that its officers should be booked for murder charges. Similarly, the Media also reported the institution negatively and held it responsible for the second wave.
  • The EC then approached the Supreme Court against such allegations claiming it as an act to undermine its credibility.
  • The supreme court will deliver the final verdict in due time, although it has issued some advisories – 
    • It is important for constitutional bodies to take criticism from other constitutional bodies in the “right spirit”.
    • The media has a duty to report “the unfolding of debate in the court of law” and not merely the final verdict. Both aspects constitute are important for people’s right to know.
What are the criticisms facing EC at present?
  • Criticism in Current Elections:
    • Election Commission planned a very long 8 phase election schedule in West Bengal amidst a pandemic. Further, even after the demand of merging the last few rounds of the election, EC showed no interest in the proposal.
    • Demarcation of phases and geographies appeared to favor the central Government.
    • Half-hearted attempts to ensure that Covid-19 protocols were followed by candidates and parties.
  • Other Criticisms:
    • There have been allegations of EVMs malfunctioning and not registering votes.
    • It has also not been able to contain money power and muscle power. Today those who come to parliament and legislatures are mostly moneyed candidates.
Reasons behind reducing independence:
  • Selection Procedure: The Chief election commissioner and other ECs are appointed by the President on recommendations of the central government. This raises a question of partisan behavior of officials towards the ruling party.
  • Security of Tenure: EC is a three-member body with a chief election commissioner and two election commissioners. CEC enjoys a secure tenure like an SC judge. However, the other two ECs can be easily removed by the President on the recommendation of CEC.
  • Post Retirement Jobs: The Constitution has not debarred the retiring election commissioners from any further appointment by the government. The government uses this loophole for compromising the independence of members.  
  • Lack of powers hindering independent functioning: It has no power to derecognize a political party or control the extent of party expenditure. Further, the model code of conduct is not legally enforceable.  
  • Inadequate Political Will: In the last 70 years numerous political leaders and parties became part of the government. However, very few were willing and able to bestow sufficient powers to EC for ensuring independent functioning.
  • Misuse of State Machinery: In recent times, there has been a rising trend of targeting family members of election commissioners using state institutions like the Enforcement Directorate, Vigilance commission, etc. This creates additional pressure on them thereby compromising independent behavior.    
Importance of ensuring independence:
  • Free and Fair Elections: A democracy can survive only when free and fair elections are conducted in it on a regular basis. This requires an independent EC which can curtail the use of money and muscle power and ensure adherence to electoral rules by all the stakeholders.
  • Non-Partisan Behavior: The body can resist political pressures especially from the ruling party only when it enjoys a considerable degree of independence.
  • Maintaining people’s Trust: The trust of the masses over the electoral process is contingent upon the degree of independence enjoyed by the EC. 
    • For instance, people’s trust over EVMs got reduced with increasing instances of partisan behavior by the EC towards the ruling party.
  • Acceptability of Verdict: The losing parties accept the electoral verdict as they believe in the impartial and independent functioning of EC. A failure to ensure the same can create distrust among the parties and in extreme situations can give way to a coup.
    • For instance, the alleged election fraud in Myanmar elections gave the military an opportunity for a coup in February 2021. 
Steps taken to improve credibility and independence of Election Commission:
  • Election Commissioner R.V.S. Peri Sastri (1986-1990) is credited with reforms like the introduction of EVMs and the reduction in the voting age to 18 years.
  • Chief Election Commissioner T.N. Seshan (1990-1996) implemented the model code of conduct, took steps against muscle and monetary power in elections. He also prohibited election propaganda based on religion and caste-based hatred.
  • The EC had launched a scheme for use of State-owned Electronic Media by political parties for providing a level playing field to every political party.
  • C-Vigil Application had been developed for reporting cases of MCC violation by the masses. It allows the masses to check the authenticity of EC in rectifying their requests.
Other Suggestions:
  1. Firstly, the EC must be appointed by a collegium as recommended by the Second Administrative reforms commission. It should comprise the Prime Minister, Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Law Minister, and the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
  2. Secondly, the government should expeditiously accept the 50 reform recommendations sent by the EC. These include: 
    • Rules on decriminalizing politics, transparent party funding, paid news 
    • Empowering the EC to countermand an election in cases of bribery.
  3. Thirdly, the EC should make judicious use of its plenary powers under Article 324. In the Mohinder Singh Gill case, the SC said that Article 324 gives wide-ranging powers to ECI to ensure free and fair elections.
  4. Fourthly, there must be a prudent cooling-off period for election commissioners in order to strengthen independence. 
  5. Fifthly, the expenditure of EC should be charged upon the Consolidated Fund of India similar to other constitutional bodies such as the UPSC.
Conclusion:

There is a need to undertake multiple reforms. This is to reinstall the shaken trust of EC’s independence and credibility amongst the masses. To begin with, the commission can withdraw its overcautious petition from the Supreme Court signaling its ability to accept criticism in the right spirit.

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Cannot Stop Media Reports on Court Observations – Supreme Court

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What is the News?

The Supreme Court has said that the media cannot be stopped from reporting the oral observations made by the judges during a case.

What was the case?
  • A petition was filed by the Election Commission of India(ECI) in the Supreme Court against the oral remarks made by Madras High Court.
  • The Madras High Court had said that the ECI was singularly responsible for COVID second wave. And ECI officers should probably be booked for murder.
  • The EC said that these oral remarks would impact or lower the faith of the masses in the poll body and democratic process.
  • Further, the EC had also asked the SC to stop the media from reporting on oral observations of the court.
What did the court say?

 On Madras High Court Observations:

  • The Supreme Court has asked the EC to take criticism of Madras HC constructively. Because discussions are in the public interest and faith in institutions is vital to democracy.
  • Further, according to the apex court, High Courts are also a constitutional body. Thus, the SC will not demoralize the high court judges by issuing any kind of restraint on them.
On Media Reporting:
  • The Court observed that the media is the watchdog of the sanctity of the judicial process.
  • Hence, no one can stop media from reporting oral remarks made by judges during a court hearing.
  • Further, an honest and full report of the comments in courts by the media gives the public insight. Thus, they can see whether judges are genuinely applying their minds to resolve their crises.

Source: The Hindu

Posted in Daily Factly articles, daily news, Daily News Updates, Factly: Polity and Nation, PUBLICTagged

New Rules by ECI and Effectiveness of Multi-Phase Polling

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Synopsis: New rules by the high court will help prevent a new surge after counting days. Election Commission of India also needs to reconsider the effectiveness of Multi-Phase Polling.

Introduction 

The Election Commission of India has banned victory celebrations after the election results are declared on May 2. ECI took the step after receiving criticism for not enforcing steps to control the spread of COVID-19 during the campaigns.  

What steps did the Election Commission of India take to curb the spread of the virus?
  • ECI Election Commission of India has restricted the number of people who can go with the winning candidate to meet the Returning Officer and collect the election certificate. 
  • The agents cannot enter the counting hall without a negative test report for COVID-19 or final vaccination reports. These strict rules are a welcome step.

However, it is unfortunate that these rules were missing or were not in force during the long campaign for elections.

What was the view of the court on ECI?

The Madras High Court stated that the ECI officials should bear great blame for the terrible spike in infections. 

  • The court’s expression of displeasure with ECI  Election Commission of India for failing to make all parties obey its rules was right. However, the suggestion by the Bench that ECI Election Commission of India officials should bear sole responsibility for the situation was avoidable.
  • But, the court’s advice that the counting process should not become a promoter for a new surge has definitely led to new rules for counting day.
Should multi-phase polling be a permanent practice?

The ECI Election Commission of India should reconsider its route to multi-phase polling as a permanent practice. 

  • Multi-phase voting has been protected for the last three decades as something compulsory. This is because of the time needed to move central forces to different parts of the country. Moreover, Security and sensitivity in select constituencies are also concerns.
  • However, a long campaign contributes to the build-up of tension. Covering an entire State in as few phases as possible will help localise the potential for violence. It will prevent the spread of tension due to the virulence of the campaign.
  • Further, it will also reduce the fatigue of forces deployed throughout the campaign till the day of counting. A shorter election may be a safer one too.

Source: click here

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Issues Associated with Election Commission of India

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Synopsis: Recently, the Election Commission of India held a discussion. It was in the light of the many questions and doubts being raised regarding the model Code of Conduct and powers of ECI under Article 324.

Background
  • The Model code of conduct (MCC) is a set of guidelines that ECI issues. The political parties, candidates, and governments need to follow MCC during an election.
  • T.N Seshan (former chief election commissioner) enforced the model code of conduct (MCC) for the first time using the powers under Article 324.
  • It brought the issue of ballot rigging and the use of Muscle power during elections under control.
  • Apart from MCC, the ECI also gives directions, instructions, and clarifications on other issues that emerge during the election.
  • However, some issues linked to the model code, and the exercise of the ECI under Article 324, requires clarity.
What is Article 324?
  • Article 324 empowers the Election Commission of India to direct, control, and conduct elections to Parliament and Legislature of every state. It also conducts elections to the offices of the President and Vice President
  • In Mohinder Singh Gill case, the SC stated that Article 324 gives plenary powers to ECI to ensure free and fair elections.
What are the issues?
  1. First, with respect to the Model code, the question about the enforceability of the code remains unresolved.
      • The Model Code was framed on the basis of a consensus among political parties. It has no legal backing.
      • But the commission has the power to suspend or withdraw recognition of a political party. If, it refuses to follow the MCC according to the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.
      • Now, the question is, since the MCC is legally not enforceable, how can the ECI take punitive action; such as withdrawal of recognition against a political party.
  2. Second, ECI’s intervention in the administrative decisions of a Union or State government during elections is questionable. For example, ECI recently stopped the Kerala Government from continuing to supply kits. It was containing rice, pulses, cooking oil, etc.
      • According to the MCC, if the ECI believes that such actions will affect free and fair elections, It can stop a government from taking any administrative action.
      • The issue here is, whether the distribution of food will affect free and fair elections.
      • Further, The SC in the Subramaniam Balaji case held that the distribution of colour TVs, computers, cycles, goats, cows, etc., that is in accordance with the directive principles of state policy, is permissible during an election.
      • Also, according to Section 123 (2)(b) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, the declaration of a public policy will not amount to interfering with the free exercise of the electoral right.
  3. Third, under Article 324, ECI has the power to abruptly transfer any senior officials working under State governments. If it believes that the presence of those officials will adversely affect the free and fair election.
      • However, in Mohinder Singh Gill’s case, the Court had made it clear that the ECI can draw power from Article 324 only when no law exists which governs a particular matter.
      • Transfer of an official is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the government. It needs the concurrence of the State governments.
      • Further, Article 324 does not confer absolute powers on the ECI to do anything in connection with the elections.

No constitutional body has absolute power.  Because in the words of justice S.M. Fazalali, if ECI is armed with unlimited and arbitrary powers and if it becomes partisans, it might lead to a constitutional crisis. Integrity and independence of the electoral process are important and indispensable to the democratic system.

Source: The Hindu

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IEVP or International Virtual Election Visitors Programme (IVEP) 2021

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What is the News?

The Election Commission of India hosted the International Virtual Election Visitors Programme(IEVP) 2021.

About International Virtual Election Visitors Programme (IEVP) 2021:
  • The Election Commission of India(ECI) organized IEVP 2021.
  • Attended by: Election Management Bodies(EMBs)/ Organisations from 26 countries and three International Organisations attended it.
  • Focus of the programme: The programme aims to provide the participants with an overview of:
    • The large canvas of the Indian electoral process.
    • The ECI will take new initiatives on voter facilitation, transparency and accessibility of the electoral system.
    • ECI’s response to the changing needs of training and capacity building and New formats necessitated by COVID-19
    • insights into the elections underway in different states.
About Association of World Election Bodies(A-WEB):
  • Association of World Election Bodies(A-WEB) was established in 2013 in South Korea. It is the largest association of Election Management Bodies (EMBs) worldwide.
  • Purpose: The purpose is to achieve sustainable democracy around the world.
  • Chaired by: India is currently chairing A-WEB for the 2019-21 term.
  • Members: At present A-WEB has 115 EMBs as Members & 16 Regional Associations/Organisations as Associate Members.
    • ECI is very closely associated with the process of formation of A-WEB since 2011.
  • Secretariat: Seoul, South Korea.
  • Programmes: A-WEB undertakes Election Visitor and Observation Programmes in various countries. These programs aim to study various election management practices and share knowledge with other Member of EMBs.

Source: PIB

 

Posted in Daily Factly articles, Factly: IR, Factly: Polity and Nation, PUBLICTagged ,

Supreme Court Allows Sale of “Electoral Bonds”

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What is the News?

The Supreme Court has refused to stay the sale of electoral bonds prior to the Assembly elections in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.

What was the case?
  • An NGO, Association for Democratic Reforms(ADR), filed a petition. The petition demanded a stay on the sale of the Electoral bonds scheduled between April 1 and 10.
  • The petitioner alleged that there were serious apprehensions in the electoral bonds. Further, the ADR mentioned that the sale of bonds before the elections would increase illegal and illicit funding of political parties through shell companies.
What did the Supreme Court say?
  • On Anonymity of Buyers: The scheme ensures that unidentified persons cannot a) purchase the bonds; b) give them to the political parties. Under Clause 7 of the scheme, buyers have to apply in the prescribed form either physically or online, disclosing their particulars.
  • On Corporate Houses Can Finance Political Parties: The Companies Act requires registered companies to file financial statements with the Registrar of Companies. Hence, the purchase and encashment of the bonds through banking channels will reflect in their financial statements. Further, it is also available in the public domain.
  • Bonds are not tradable: The court rejected the contention that bonds can be Repurchased with Black Money. It said that under clause 14 of the Scheme, the bonds are not tradable. Moreover, the first buyer will not stand to gain anything out of such a sale except losing white money.
  • Apprehension of Foreign Influence on Elections: The court observed that the apprehension of Foreign Influence on Elections is misconceived as under Clause 3 of the Scheme. Under this, the Bonds may be purchased only by a person who is a citizen of India or incorporated or established in India.
What were the arguments against the Electoral Bonds?
  • The anonymity of Buyers: Neither the donor nor the political party is obligated to reveal whom the donation comes from.
    • Before the introduction of electoral bonds, political parties had to disclose details of all their donors who donated more than Rs 20,000.
  • Corporate Houses Can Finance Political Parties: Electoral bonds could be a channel for corporate bribes paid to political parties as a “quid pro quo” (favour or advantage granted in return for something).
  • Bonds Bought with White Money can be Repurchased with Black Money: The first purchase of the Electoral Bonds may be through banking channels for a consideration paid in white money. But someone may repurchase the bonds from the first buyer by using Black Money.
  • Foreign Influence on Elections: There is an apprehension that foreign corporate houses may buy the bonds and attempt to influence the electoral process in the country.

Source: The Hindu

Posted in Daily Factly articles, Factly: Polity and Nation, PUBLICTagged ,

Why Electoral Bond Scheme should be declared unconstitutional?

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Synopsis: The electoral bonds scheme violates the core principles of the Indian Constitution. It must be declared unconstitutional by the courts.

Background
  • The Electoral Bond Scheme was notified by the Government of India in 2018.
  • For the last three years, electoral bonds have been the dominant method of political party funding in India.
  • It allows for limitless and anonymous corporate donations to political parties.
  • Anonymous electoral funding of elections without any limit is against the democratic electoral process. It violates core principles of the Indian Constitution.
  • So, petitions were filed in the supreme court to scrap the unconstitutional Electoral Bond Scheme.
Why the Electoral Bond Scheme is unconstitutional?

The electoral bond scheme is unconstitutional because it,

      • Violates the right to know of the citizens.
      • Provides a way for uncapped political donations,
      • Violate equality before the law.
      • Against multi-party democracy.
      • Provides a source for black money in elections.
  • Firstly, it violates the fundamental rights of citizens- the Right to Know. The Supreme Court has stated that the “right to know”, is an integral part of the right to freedom of expression under the Indian Constitution.
  • Secondly, it will give rise to a Corporate-political nexus. It has been largely accepted that across democratic societies, money is the most effective way of buying a policy. Due to a lack of information on the source of funds, it is impossible to assess whether a government policy is designed to benefit its funders.
  • Thirdly, limitless and anonymous donations increase the role of money in politics. It will hamper the healthy functioning of Democracy.
  • Fourthly, it creates unequal contests between the Opposition and the ruling party. Since the donations are channeled through the State Bank of India, it is possible for the government to find out the source of donations of opposition.
    • Government has the power to restrict donations to rival political parties. For example, in the last three years, the ruling party has received more donations compared to other parties.
  • Fifthly, it will result in increasing institutional corruption. The electoral bonds scheme allows even foreign donations to political parties. This is also against the defense of the government that states the purpose of the electoral bonds scheme is to prevent the flow of black money into elections.
What is the role of courts and how they have responded?
  • In a functioning democracy, the role of an independent judiciary is to protect the fundamentals of the democratic process.
  • The courts need to be cognizant of the laws and rules that violate the democratic process.
  • Despite the Electoral Bond Scheme creating unequal competition, and seeking to enforce one-party rule over multi-party democracy, the judiciary has remained silent.
  • The petition challenging the constitutional validity of the electoral bonds scheme was filed in 2018. But it has been left unheard for three years.

What is the way forward?

  • First, to reduce the role of money in elections, public money should be used for funding elections. This will create a level playing field among the political parties contesting elections.
  • Second, there needs to be caps or limits on financial contributions to political parties.
  • Third, the judiciary should fast-track cases that are vital to the future health of Indian democracy.
  • Fourth, the Electoral Bond Scheme that gives undue advantage to the ruling party needs to be declared unconstitutional.

The entire purpose of democracy, which as B.R. Ambedkar rightly pointed out, was not just to guarantee one person, one vote, but one vote one value.

Source: The Hindu

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, PUBLICTagged

“Postal ballot” extended to certain people in Tamil Nadu

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What is the News?

For the first time in India, the Election Commission of India has allowed the casting of postal votes for a certain section of Peoples. In the upcoming Tamil Nadu assembly elections, the ECI allowed elderly voters aged over 80, the differently-abled, and persons tested positive for COVID-19 to cast a vote via postal ballot.

What is the Postal Ballot System?
  • A postal Ballot is a facility whereby a voter can cast his/her vote remotely. The user cast the vote by recording preference on the ballot paper and sending it back to the election officer before counting.
  • Section 60 of the Representation of People’s(RP) Act,1951 provides for the person a postal ballot facility.

Click Here to Read more about Postal Ballots

 Procedure for voting through Postal Ballots for these three categories:
  • People permitted to cast a postal ballot can choose to vote by filling up Form 12D. After filling them, he/she can submit the form to the nodal officer within five days of notification of an election.
  • Officials would then visit the houses of the voters on a fixed day before the day of polling. They will receive their ballots in ballot boxes physically. However, indelible ink will not be applied on the fingers of electors.
  • Further, those who have filled 12-D forms will not be allowed to cast votes at the polling booths.

Source: The Hindu

Posted in Daily Factly articles, Factly: Polity and Nation, PUBLICTagged

Remote Voting Facility in India – Explained, Pointwise

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Introduction

The Chief Election Commissioner has proposed to include the ‘remote voting facility’ in the upcoming 2024 Lok Sabha elections. This will enable voters to cast votes from remote locations and improve voter turnout. However, the success of this method depends on various other steps including the creation of enabling infrastructure for remote voting. In this article, we will explain the remote voting facility and its challenges in India.

Current Scenario
  • Firstly, the first pilot project of the remote voting facility is likely to start in the next 2-3 months.
  • Then, a team of experts from IIT Madras and other IITs is working on drafting the modalities of ‘remote voting’ or ‘blockchain’ voting system in full swing.
  • Other projects in pipeline:
    • Introduction of E-Voting for NRI(Non-Resident Indians) in the next 6-12 months.
    • Linking of Aadhaar card with EPIC (Electoral Photo Identity Card). This will improve voter identification at polling stations.
About Remote Voting Facility (RVF):
  • It will enable a voter to cast his or her vote from any polling station in the country. 
  • It will remove the compulsion on voting only at the domicile polling station. (As the voter is registered in his domicile).
  • The project is being developed by the IIT-Madras using blockchain technology.
Blockchain Technology:
  1. A blockchain is a distributed ledger of information which is replicated across various nodes on a “peer-to-peer” network (P2P Network)
  2. The data exists on multiple computers at the same time. It constantly grows as new sets of recordings or blocks get added to it in a decentralization manner.
  3. All transactions that occur on a standard Blockchain are verified and signed with cryptography to ensure security and anonymity.
    • Cryptography: It is the process of converting ordinary plain text into unintelligible text and vice-versa. 
    • The intended person can encrypt the coded message and use them.
  4. The ledger can record many transactions such as monetary transactions, property transfer, and even ballot storage.
Probable working of Remote Voting Facility

Blockchain is a decentralized, transparent, and an encrypted data technology. This could potentially help to minimize election tampering. Further, the Blockchain can also maximize polling in elections. The probable implementation will include the following steps.

  1. In the first stage, the user’s voter identity will be verified and authorized through a multi-layered identification system. This system can have web cameras and biometric identification. This will prevent duplication.
  2. In the second stage, a blockchain-enabled personalized e-ballot paper will be generated. The citizens will use this paper to cast his/her vote.
  3. In the third stage, an encrypted blockchain hashtag (#) will be created. This hashtag will then be sent to all the people in the chain. So, the person cannot cheat his/her vote in other locations.
Significance of Remote Voting Facility (RVF)
  1. Firstly, Higher Voter Turnout:  The voter turn in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections was 67.11% across 542 constituencies. The RVF can increase the voter turnout in the upcoming Lok Sabha election. 
  2. Secondly, Promote Inclusivity: Individuals who are ‘on the move’ like students, patients, migrant labourers, essential service providers, etc. will become part of the electoral process.
  3. Thirdly, Flexibility: RVF gives more flexibility to voters. An individual can cast his/her vote from multiple locations and not solely from one registered polling station.
  4. Fourthly, Greater Political Accountability: RVF will give a voice to unheard groups like migrant workers. The contesting candidates generally did not concern with them, as they will not vote in elections.
  5. Fifthly, Strengthens Representative Democracy: RVF will ensure more eligible voters cast their vote. Thus, it will help in fulfilling the ambition of the representative democracy. 
  6. And lastly, Fulfils Constitutional Mandate: Article 326 of the Indian Constitution has given voting rights to every individual above 18 years i.e. universal adult suffrage. The spirit of this article calls for ensuring universal voter turnout in elections and RVF can help us move closer towards this.
Challenges with Remote Voting Facility
  1. Cyber Threats: As RVF is based on blockchain, therefore it might be attacked by hackers which would distort the final result.
  2. Privacy Concern: The process involves saving a user’s biometrics and facial data. Any misuse of such by concerned authorities or hackers would undermine the right to privacy.
  3. Stakeholder’s Confidence: Nowadays, political parties and candidates are questioning the credibility of EVMs. Instilling trust over RVF will be a challenging task.
  4. Confidentiality of Voting: As the RVF facility will be availed in front of an authorized officer, the secrecy of the voting process might get jeopardized.
Suggestions to improve Remote Voting Facility
  1. The government has to do a wider consultation with all the concerned stakeholders before the rollout of RVF. This includes political parties and civil society groups (like the Association for Democratic reforms).
  2. In the pilot phase, the Parties and candidates should get timely notifications of RVF. By providing real-time information can strengthen trust in the electoral process.
  3. Also, The Election Commission should organise the RVF hackathons in order to build greater public confidence. So that the ‘didn’t want to vote’ category people also cast their vote with confidence.
  4. For ensuring a universal voter turnout, awareness generation should be done.
  5. Further, till the RVF develops, easing and enhancing the process of postal ballot is desired.
    • India used the Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS) in 2019 Lok Sabha Elections. The ETPBS helped the armed forces, central paramilitary forces and central government officers working in Indian missions abroad to cast their vote.
Conclusion

Technology has played a pivotal role in strengthening the electoral process of the world’s largest democracy. For example, the introduction of EVMs, VVPAT machines, C- Vigil App, etc. The launch of RVF will be a significant step. But the apparent challenges have to be resolved first. This will make Remote Voting a safe, secure, trustworthy, and transparent process.

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Madras High Court on Use of Public Funds for Campaigns

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What is the News?

The Madras High Court has asked the ECI (Election Commission of India) to ensure that public funds are not for campaign purposes.

What was the case before the Madras High Court?

  • A political party filed the PIL in the Madras High Court. It seeks a direction to ECI to prohibit ministers, the Leader of the Opposition, and all others holding public office from campaigning on behalf of their party’s candidates.
  • The petitioner alleged that these people end up misusing their public office during elections. It becomes a disadvantage for the other candidates in the fray.

Key Observations made by the Court:

  • ECI has sufficient authority to put in place checks and balances. It can allow Ministers to enjoy their official status and simultaneously can prevent them from spending government funds for campaigning or election purposes.
  • However, security concerns for higher officials like Chief Ministers and those holding Cabinet positions at the Centre shall also be considered.
  • But the EC can still put some guidelines in place in addition to the existing guidelines. It is indicated in the model code to ensure government funds are not used for campaigning purposes, which is a usual exercise at present.

What is the Model Code of Conduct(MCC)?

  • The Model Code of Conduct(MCC) is a set of guidelines. The Election Commission issues them (EC) to regulate political parties and candidates prior to elections.
  • The MCC becomes operational from the date of the announcement of the election schedule until the date of the result.

MCC guidelines on Party in Power: The MCC incorporated certain restrictions in 1979, regulating the conduct of the party in power.

  • Ministers must not combine official visits with election work or use official machinery for the same. However, the ECI has exempted the Prime Minister from this MCC provision related to the combining of an official visit with an electioneering visit.
  • The party must avoid advertising at the cost of the public exchequer. Also, official mass media shall not be used for publicity of achievements in the elections.
  • Ministers and other authorities must not announce any financial grants, or promise any construction of roads, provision of drinking water among others.
  • Other parties must be allowed to use public spaces and rest houses and these must not be monopolised by the party in power.

Source: The Hindu

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The Issue of Public trust on ECI |Election Commission

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Synopsis: The public trust gained by the ECI (Election Commission of India) over the years is reducing. It is due to an increasing doubt over the fairness of the polls.

Background

  • Recently, the Citizens’ Commission on Elections (CCE), released the second part of its report “An Inquiry into India’s Election System.
  • The retired Supreme Court judge Madan B Lokur chairs CCE.
  • The report examines the critical aspects of conducting elections. Such as:
      • The integrity and inclusiveness of the electoral rolls.
      • Criminalisation in politics.
      • The use of financial power.
      • Compliance with the model code of conduct.
      • The role of media in conducting elections etc.,

Some important revelations made in the report:

  • Since the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, “grave doubts” have been raised around the fairness of the polls.
  • The Election Commission of India (ECI) has failed to perform its duties. The report has stated reasons, such as
      • Exclusion of marginalized groups from voters’ lists.
      • The opacity of electoral bonds.
      • The power of big money in winning elections.
  • It has warned that India is becoming an “electoral autocracy

How India’s Election commission has built trust over the years?

Eminent bureaucrats such as Sukumar Sen, TN Seshan, and James Michael Lyngdoh worked for fair and accountable election machinery. Their work yielded citizen’s trust over the election process.

  • First, Sukumar Sen, India’s first Chief Election Commissioner. He was remembered for successfully conducting the first general elections despite many barriers such as scope, scale, logistics, and social issues. For example, elections need to be conducted for 176 million citizens, nearly 85 per cent of whom were illiterate.
  • Second, TN Seshan the 10th Election Commissioner. He was instrumental in implementing the model code of conduct to curb muscle and monetary power in elections. He enforced strict mechanisms to ensure fairness in the election process. For example,
    • Contestants were required to submit full accounts of their expenses for scrutiny. Those, who didn’t abide by polling rules, were arrested.
    • Also, officials who were biased towards candidates were promptly suspended.
    • He also prohibited election propaganda based on religion and caste-based hatred. For example, he canceled the Punjab elections in 1991.
  • Third, Lyngdoh presided over the Election commission during 2001 to 2004, the period marked by the 2002 Gujarat riots. After the dissolution of Gujarat assembly after the Gujarat riots, there was immense pressure from the political parties to hold elections earlier than intended. However, Lyngdoh insisted that polls could not be held as the state had not yet recovered from the violence of the riots.

Why the public trust on Election commission is eroding now?

  • First, ECI remains toothless against electoral offenses. For example,
      • During the 2019 elections, the Election commission gave “clean chits” to politicians, despite provocative political statements during campaigning.
      • The EC in a return reply to the supreme court stated that its powers to punish candidates for hate and religious speeches during the election campaign is limited.
  • Second, lack of transparency and accountability. For example, the earlier CECs used to proactively engage with the Citizens’ Commission on Elections (CCE) to discuss its reports. But currently, there has been no response from the EC.

Source: Indian Express

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Electoral Bond and its challenges – Explained, Pointwise

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Introduction

Recently the Supreme Court agreed to hear a plea to stay the fresh sale of Electoral Bonds. It is a significant decision considering the upcoming state assembly elections in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Assam. Political parties rely on Electoral Bonds for the majority of their funding.

Electoral bonds are surrounded by criticisms since their introduction. The Election Commission of India(ECI) and the Reserve Bank of India(RBI)  stated that these bonds allow the transfer of illicit black money from shell companies. Later, the ECI also criticized the bonds as a “retrograde step as far as transparency of donations is concerned”. In this article, we will analyze the issues surrounding the Electoral Bonds in India.

About the recent case
  1. The Finance Act 2017 introduced amendments in the Reserve Bank of India Act, Income Tax Act, Companies Act, Representation of Peoples Act, and Foreign Contributions Regulations Act. It made the implementation of the Electoral Bonds Scheme in India, possible.
  2. Right after that, in 2017 itself, the NGOs Association of Democratic Reforms(ADR) and Common Cause filed a case in court against the Finance Act 2017 to stay the execution of such bonds.
  3. The Supreme Court in 2019 directed the Political Parties to submit the details of donations received through the bonds in a sealed cover to the Election Commission of India. Based on that, the political parties submitted the amount of donations received through bonds.
  4. The ECI and the RBI analysed these reports. After that, they both opposed the implementation of Electoral bonds. Further, they also mentioned these Bonds as detrimental to Indian Democracy. The ECI even filed an affidavit mentioning the anonymous nature of bonds.
  5. Since the case is not yet decided, the ADR recently demanded to fast pace the case. Further, it also cited the issues surrounding the Electoral Bonds. The SC also agreed to hear the dispute sooner.
What are Electoral Bonds?

The Electoral Bonds are the non-interest-bearing financial instruments. These Electoral bonds allow eligible donors to pay eligible political parties using banks as an intermediary. The Electoral Bonds aim to ensure transparency in the funding of political parties.

Eligibility criteria for receiving and donating funds
  1. Eligibility of Political Parties
    • Only the political parties registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 are eligible to receive funds through Electoral Bonds.
    • Further, these registered political parties also have to receive not less than 1% votes in the last Lok Sabha elections or the State Legislative Assembly to receive funds through electoral bonds.
  2. Eligibility of Donors
    • Any citizen of India or entities incorporated or established in India can purchase these Electoral Bonds.
    • Citizens can buy electoral bonds either singly or jointly with other individuals.
Functioning of the Electoral Bond Scheme
  1. The State Bank of India (SBI) issues electoral bonds in the months of January, April, July, and October.
  2. The electoral bonds are available in denominations from Rs 1,000 to Rs 1 crore.
  3. The donors can buy electoral bonds and transfer them into the accounts of the political parties as a donation. The name of the donor is kept confidential.
  4. Political parties will create a specific account. This account will be verified by the ECI. The political parties will encash the electoral bonds only in this verified account.
  5. The bonds will remain valid for 15 days. Within that time, the political parties have to encash the electoral bond in the designated accounts.
Need for Electoral Bonds
  1. These bonds are aimed to reduce anonymous cash donations made to political parties. In the previous system, the political parties did not disclose the donor, the amount of donations received, etc. These anonymous donations led to the generation of black money in the economy.
    For example, Nearly 70% of the Rs.11,300 crore in political funding came from unknown sources.
  2. The Electoral bonds encourage political donations of clean money. According to the government, the bonds will encourage political donations from individuals, companies, HUF, religious groups, charities, etc. Since the amount is transferred through the bank, the identity of the donor can be captured by the issuing authority.
Challenges with Electoral Bonds
  1. Firstly, the problem of Anonymity: In the electoral bond scheme, there is no provision exist for revealing the donor of the political party.
    • This violates the freedom of political information, which is integral to Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution.
  2. Secondly, the challenges with the amendments of Finance Act 2017. The Election Commission points out various challenges in the Finance Act like,
    • Amendments made to Companies Act 2013: The amendment removed an eligibility clause(A company can make a political contribution only if its net average profit of three preceding financial years is at 7.5%).
      • As per ECI,  this gives rise to the creation of shell companies just to fund political parties.
      • Due to this amendment, Any troubled, dying company can donate an unlimited amount anonymously to a political party
      • Further, this also gives rise to the issue of Black Money again in political funding.
    • Amendments made to RPA 1951: The amendment made political parties need not report to ECI the donations received through electoral bonds.
      • This reduces the transparency in political parties. Further, it hampers public scrutiny in democracy.
    • Amendments made to Foreign Contributions Regulation Act: This permitted acceptance of donations from foreign companies with retrospective effect.
      • This facilitated the unchecked foreign funding of political parties in India.
      • Further, This provision also threatens Indian policies influenced by foreign companies.
    • Amendments made to Income Tax Act: The amendment provided 100% tax exemption to the political donations. Further, the amendments also exempted companies from mentioning such donations to the Income Tax department.
      • The shareholders of the company won’t know where their money has gone.
  3. Lastly, A threat to the donor: Since the electoral bonds are issued by the State Bank of India(a Public Sector Bank) the government can know the donor even though the bond does not mention the name. Thus, the bonds provide a ruling party with a chance to threaten the donors of the opposition party.
Suggestions to improve the political funding
  1. An alternative to electoral bonds is a National Electoral Fund to which all donors can contribute. The funds can be allocated to political parties in proportion to the votes they get. This will protect the identity of donors. Apart from that, it would also weed out black money from political funding.
  2. The best way to bring transparency in political funding is to put a complete ban on cash donations by individuals or companies to political parties. (At present Political parties can receive cash donation below Rs.2000)
  3. Further, India has to consider State funding of political parties. The Indrajit Gupta Committee on State Funding of Elections has supported partial state funding of recognised political parties.
  4. Further, the government have to amend the changes made in the Finance Act of 2017.

The issue of electoral bonds can be rectified easily if the political parties wish to improve transparency. But that is not an easy thing to do. The Supreme Court has to address the issue clearly to improve transparency in political funding. Apart from that, India needs to educate the Voters through awareness campaigns especially about the ill-effects of money power during elections.

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SC agreed to hear the issue of “electoral bonds”

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What is the News?

The Supreme Court agrees to hear a plea on staying the fresh sale of Electoral Bonds. The hearing of the case has been set before the upcoming state assembly elections. It is important considering the dependency of political parties on electoral bond for funding.

What are Electoral Bonds?
  • Electoral Bonds are interest-free bearer financial instruments for making donations to political parties. They were introduced by the Government of India by the Finance Bill, 2017.
  • The bonds are issued in multiples of Rs. 1,000, Rs. 10,000, Rs. 1 lakh, Rs. 10 lakh and Rs. 1 crore without any maximum limit.
Key Features of Electoral Bonds:
  • Firstly, eligibility: Only the registered Political Parties which have secured at least 1% of the votes polled in the last Lok Sabha elections or the State Legislative Assembly are eligible to receive the Electoral Bonds.
  • Secondly, donors:  Electoral bonds may be purchased by a citizen of India or entities incorporated or established in India. A person can buy Electoral Bond, either singly or jointly with other individuals.
  • Thirdly, authorised Bank: The State Bank of India (SBI) has been authorized to issue and encash Electoral Bonds.
  • Fourthly, validity: The Electoral Bonds shall be valid for fifteen calendar days from the date of issue. No payment shall be made to the Political Party if the Electoral Bond is deposited after the expiry of the validity period.
  • Fifthly, political parties will create a specific account. This account will be verified by the Election Commission. The political parties will encash the electoral bond only in this verified account.
  • Lastly, the Electoral Bond deposited by an eligible Political Party in its account shall be credited on the same day.
Arguments against Electoral Bonds:
  • Anonymity: Neither the donor nor the political party is obligated to reveal whom the donation comes from.
  • Black Money: The sale of electoral bond had become an avenue for shell corporations and entities to park illicit money and even proceeds of bribes with political parties.
  • Tax Exemption: Electoral Bonds donations enjoy 100% tax exemption. Further, they need not be reported to the Income Tax department either.
  • Removal of Cap on Net Profit Donations: The government has removed the eligibility cap for funding political parties. Earlier a company can make a political contribution only if it has 7.5% of the net average profit for three preceding financial years.

Source: The Hindu

Posted in Daily Factly articles, Factly: Polity and Nation, Factly: Schemes and Programs, PUBLICTagged

“Nominated members” and “Anti-defection Law” in India

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Synopsis: The important reason behind the inclusion of nominated members to RajyaSabha and the provisions of Anti-defection Law.

Introduction:

Recently a nominated MP of Rajya Sabha has resigned due to allegations under the anti-defection law. The allegation raised after a political party nominated him as their election candidate.

Constituent Assembly debate on Nominated members:

During the making of the Constitution, the Constituent Assembly felt that Rajya Sabha should have nominated members. They want to bring in the persons who might not win elections but willing to bring knowledge and expertise to discussions in the Upper House.

N Gopalswami Ayyangar said that nominating members to Rajya Sabha gives “an opportunity to the Upper House to bring outside talent in discussions and debate. Further, the nominated members will bring in the persons who do not ordinarily associate with the House of the People.

Nominated Members to the Rajya Sabha:

Due to the fore mentioned reasons, Rajya Sabha includes 12 nominated members from different walks of life. The criteria include distinguished fields like literature, science, art, and social service, etc.

The President nominates such individuals as recommended by the Council of Ministers. Except the voting in the election of the President, Nominated members will have the same rights and privileges as elected members. (Nominated members cannot vote in the election of the President).

What is the Anti-Defection Law?

After Independence, there were many times the state governments were toppled due to MLAs changed their political loyalties. This occurred to the Centre also in 1967. So, to reduce that, in 1985 the government amended the Constitution to include the Tenth Schedule. It is popularly known as the anti-defection law.

Salient features of Anti-defection Law:

The aim of the Anti-defection Law was to bring stability to governments by deterring MPs and MLAs from changing their political loyalties.

Even though the Upper House has no role in deciding the present government’s dissolution. Anti-defection law applies equally to both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs. Similarly, the Anti-defection law applies to the State Legislative Assemblies.

The Anti-defection Law deprives the parliamentary/state legislative membership for the violations of the provisions. As per the Anti-defection Law, three scenarios are prescribed as a violation.

Three scenarios mentioned in the Anti-defection Law:

  1. When an elected member “voluntarily gives up” the political party in which he/she got elected. Or when he/she votes in the House contrary to the wishes of the party.
  2. When an independent MP/MLA joins a political party after the election.
  3. When a nominated MP/MLA joins a political party after six month time.
    Note: Nominated Members can join any party of their wish during their first six months.
Judicial intervention on Anti-defection Law:

The courts have interpreted the joining of party many times. The courts held joining or changing a party not only include the formal ones but also include informal ones also.

The court in past mentioned such informal actions as defection. This includes campaigning for another political party, appearing in political rallies or fighting an election on the symbol of a political party, etc

Source: The Indian Express

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Supreme Court’s Judgment on State Election Commission

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Synopsis – The Supreme Court in its recent judgment ruled that government officials cannot be appointed as State Election Commissioner (SEC).

Introduction-

  • 25 years have passed since local governance was introduced in India by the 73rd and 74th Constitution Amendments. However, there is very little and actual progress in this direction.
  • There is inadequate devolution of powers to the third tier of governance.
  • The SEC is responsible for holding unbiased elections for local bodies in the state. But local elections often suffer from abuse, charges of ward fixing, and ward reservation.

What is the case?

  • The government notification on municipality elections in Goa was initially challenged in the Bombay HC. Allegedly, the reservation of wards for women, SCs, and STs was not in accordance with the law.
  • The Bombay HC struck down the reservation notices of specific wards. It ruled that they caused constitutional infractions.
  • Then the Goa government approached the SC, challenging this order.
  • However, the SC upheld the Bombay HC’s ruling. SC said that the appointment of the law secretary as the poll body head is against the independence of the election.

The Supreme Court ruling

  • Entrusting additional charge of State Election Commissioner to a government official is a mockery of the Constitution.
  • Under Article 142 the SC directed all SECs who currently hold an additional charge, to step down immediately. It stated that a government employee or bureaucrat cannot be appointed as Election Commissioner.

Way forward-

  • The SC ruling will help secure the independence of SECs in the future.
  • The independence of the Election Commission cannot be compromised in a democracy.
  • Centre should work on the devolution of powers to the local level of governance. It ensures that decisions are made closer to the local people, communities, and businesses.

Source- The Hindu

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SC Ruling on State Election Commission: Explained, Pointwise

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Introduction

Recently, the Supreme Court held that State Election Commissions(SECs) should have independent State Election Commissioners. Further, the judgement mentioned, a Bureaucrat holding government office should not be appointed as State Election Commissioner. This article will explain two things: a) the reasons behind the judgement; b) issues faced by the State Election Commissions in India.

About the recent judgement

In Goa, the government gave additional charge of managing the State Election Commission to the law secretary. Further, the Goa government also neglected the reservation for women, SCs, and STs in the upcoming Municipality election notification. A case got filed in the High Court of Bombay at Goa. The High Court struck down the notice and held that it is a violation of Article 243T of the Constitution.

But the State government filed a Special Litigation petition stating that the High Court has interfered in the ‘election process’. In this case, (State of Goa vs Fauzia Imtiyaz Sheikh) the Supreme Court in its judgement made a few important observations. Such as:

  • By providing additional charges to the law secretary of an independent constitutional office (State Election Commission), the State government has violated the provisions of the Constitution. Further, the court mentioned that the position of law secretary is “directly under the control of the State Government”. So, appointing him as a State Election Commissioner will impact the independence of the office.
  • Apart from that, the court also held that according to the Constitution, all states and territories shall appoint an Independent State Election Commissioner. 
  • Furthermore, State governments should not interfere with the functioning of the State Election Commission.
What are State Election Commissions?

The constitution envisages State Election Commissions (SEC) for every state to safeguard the free and fair election. It is constituted under the provisions of Article 243K read with article 243ZA of The Constitution of India.

Further, the constitution also mentions the State Election Commission should consist of a State Election Commissioner.

The constitutional provisions with respect to State Election Commissions:

  1. Article 243K(1): This provision mentions two important following things.
    1. The superintendence, direction, and control of the preparation of electoral rolls for, and the conduct of all elections to the Panchayats (and the Municipalities under Article 243ZA) will be vested in the State Election Commission.
    2. The Governor will appoint the State Election Commissioner.
  2. Article 243K(2): This article mentions that the Governor will decide the tenure and appointment of the State Election Commissioner. But there are few restrictions as well. Such as:
    1. His conditions of service shall not be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment.
    2. Only by following the grounds and procedures to remove the judge of a High Court, the State Election Commissioner can get removed from his office.

Note: The President based on the recommendation of the Parliament can remove the judge of a high court. So, the governor cannot remove the State Election Commissioner. Even though, they he/she have appointed him.

Judicial intervention regarding State Election Commissions

The court intervened in the functions and powers of the State Election Commission multiple times. The important ones are,

  1. Kishan Singh Tomar vs Municipal Corporation of the City of Ahmedabad (2006): In this case, the Supreme Court held that during the conduct of the panchayat and municipal elections, the state governments should abide by the orders of the SECs. Just like they follow the instructions of the Election Commission during Assembly and Parliament polls. In conclusion, the SECs will enjoy the same powers as the Election Commission of India(ECI).
  2. Aparmita Prasad Singh vs. State of U.P. (2007):  The UP government has reduced the term of the State Election Commissioner from seven years to five years in 2007. The then Election Commissioner of UP filed a case regarding that.
    In that, the Allahabad High Court held that cessation of tenure by the State government does not amount to the removal of the State Election Commissioner. But, the Court also mentioned that the State can alter the terms and conditions of the State Election Commissioner before appointing him/her.
  3. N. Ramesh Kumar vs State of Andhra Pradesh (2020): In this case, the court held that the State government cannot remove the State Election Commissioner by a promulgation of the ordinance.
Challenges with the State Election Commissions
  1. Lack of autonomy in SECs: Despite the provisions for independence of SECs, they are not functioning as an autonomous institution.
    For example, In 2008 the then state election commissioner of Maharastra asserted that he should have the power to hold elections to the offices of mayor, deputy mayor, and sarpanch offices. But the State assembly got him arrested for the breach of privilege and sent him to jail for two days.
  2. Lack of Constitutional safeguard for SECs: The manner of removal of SECs has been flouted by the State governments by alternative methods such as restricting the terms and conditions etc. This is evident in the Aparmita Prasad Singh vs. State of U.P. case
  3. No uniformity of service conditions for SECs: Since the Constitution vest the power to determine the service conditions on State legislatures, the service conditions are not uniform across the country.
Impact of the issues in State Election Commission
  1. Functions of Municipalities and Panchayats: The court in the Kishan Singh Tomar case observed that due to various problems in the State Election Commission, the SECs are facing challenges in preparing the electoral rolls and conducting timely elections. This will impact the regular functioning of Local government institutions.
  2. Impact on Free and Fair Election: Free and fair elections form the bedrock of a democracy. Any restriction of the functions of State Election Commissions will directly affect the free and fair election. For example, In the recent Goa government case itself, the election notification violated the reservation for women, SC, and STs.
Suggestions to improve the performance of State Election Commissions
  1. The State governments have to follow the judicial directives. Such as,
    • Appointing the independent person as the State Election Commissioner,
    • Instituting the autonomy of SECs
    • Respect the SECs functions during the elections of Panchayats and Municipalities
  2. The Second ARC(Administrative Reforms Commission) has recommended a few important recommendations to improve the functioning of SECs. State governments should implement them. The recommendations are,
    • Formation of collegium: The state government should create a collegium consisting of the Chief Minister, the Speaker, and the Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly. The collegium will recommend the State Election Commissioner to the Governor for the appointment.
    • Creation of an institution to bring the Election Commission and the SECs under one roof. This will make better coordination, better utilization of resources, and experience sharing.
  3. As per the recommendation of the Law Commission, The Central government can provide a separate independent and permanent Secretariat for the SECs and Election Commission.

In conclusion, the independence of the State Election Commission is essential to ensure free and fair elections at the grass-root level. So, the State governments have to ensure that to protect the bedrock of democracy.

 

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SC Ruling on Appointment of “State Election Commissioners”

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What is the news?

The Supreme Court held that independent persons should be appointed State Election Commissioners, not the Bureaucrats holding government office.

What was the case?

  • The Supreme Court gave this judgment in a case related to Goa. There the law secretary was given the charge of State Election Commissioner.

What are the key observations of the Supreme Court Judgment?

  • States should appoint independent persons and not bureaucrats holding government office as Election Commissioners. Because the independence of EC cannot be compromised at any cost.
  • The court has also asked all states to comply with the constitutional scheme of the independent State Election Commissioner(SEC).
    • Under the constitutional mandate, it is the duty of the State to not interfere with the functioning of the State Election Commission.

About State Election Commission(SEC):

  • State Election Commission is a constitutional authority. It is constituted under the provisions of Article 243K read with article 243ZA of The Constitution of India.
  • Purpose: They were constituted for superintendence, direction, and control of the preparation of electoral rolls for all elections to the Panchayats and the Municipalities.
  • Composition: The State Election Commission is a single-member Commission comprising the State Election Commissioner.
  • Appointment: Governor appoints the State Election Commissioner of the State. They enjoy the same powers as Election Commission of India(ECI). SEC can only be removed from his office on the same grounds and procedures as a judge of a High Court.

Source: The Hindu

 

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No postal ballots for NRIs this time: ECI

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What is the News?

Election Commission of India has said that the Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) will not be able to vote by postal ballots for the upcoming elections in five states.

What is a Postal Ballot?

  • It is a facility whereby a voter can cast his/her vote remotely. The user cast the vote by recording preference on the ballot paper and sending it back to the election officer before counting.
  • Section 60 of the RP Act,1951 provides for the person to be given a postal ballot facility. However, the Election commission requires consulting with the government.

Who can avail the Postal Ballot facility currently?

  • Members of the armed forces like the Army, Navy, and Air Force.
  • Members of the armed police force of a state (serving outside the state)
  • Government employees posted outside India and their spouses
  • Voters under preventive detention
  • Special voters such as the President of India, Vice President, Governors, Cabinet ministers, Speaker of the House, and government officers on poll duty have the option to vote by post. But they have to apply through a prescribed form to avail of this facility.
  • Absentee Voters: These are voters who are unable to cast their vote due to their service conditions or other conditions. They include voters a) employed in essential services b) Persons with disabilities and c) senior citizens above 80 years of age.

Note: In 2020, the Election Commission has allowed senior citizens above the age of 65 and COVID-19 positive voters to cast their vote by post.

What about Postal Ballot facilities for NRI voters?

  • The Election Commission of India(ECI) put forward the proposal of extending postal ballots to overseas electors in 2020.
  • The proposal has been referred to the Ministry of External Affairs. The Ministry has said that a wider consultation should be held with different stakeholders before extending this facility.

Source: The Hindu

[Answered] Discuss the role and function of election commission of India. How Election Commission ensure free and fair elections in India?

Posted in Daily Factly articles, daily news, Daily News Updates, Factly: Polity and Nation, PUBLICTagged

Registered Unrecognised Political Parties are not transparent : ADR report

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What is the News?
Association for Democratic Reforms(ADR) has released a report titled “Analysis of Donations received by Registered Unrecognised Political Parties”. The report underlines the lack of transparency among Registered Unrecognised Political Parties.

Facts:

What is Registered Unrecognised Political Parties?

If a party satisfies any one of below-mentioned criteria, then they are called Registered Unrecognised Political Parties. The conditions are

    • If the political party is newly registered
    • If the political parties not secured enough percentage of votes in Assembly or General Elections to become a State party
    • Political Parties that never contested in elections since they got registered with the Election Commission.

These parties don’t enjoy all the benefits extended to the recognised parties such as reserving a separate symbol for the party, subsidized land for party office etc.

Key Findings:

  • The number of registered unrecognised political parties has increased two-fold from 2010 to 2019. From 1,112 parties in 2010 to 2,301 in 2019.
  • State-wise: Of the total of 2,301 registered unrecognised parties, 653 parties or 28.38% belong to Uttar Pradesh. This is followed by Delhi (291 parties or 12.65%) and Tamil Nadu (184 parties or 8%).
  • The number of these parties has increased disproportionately during the year of Parliamentary elections between 2018 and 2019.
  • Donations: These parties received 90 crores from 12,998 donors in two financial years (2017-18 and 2018-19). Among that, 65.63 crores or 72.88% of the total declared donations belongs to Apna Desh Party of Uttar Pradesh.
  • Contributions Report: Only 78 or 3.39% of the total 2,301 registered unrecognised parties donation information is available in the public domain for 2018-19. For 2017-18, the reports are available for only 82 parties or 3.56% of the total registered unrecognised parties.

Source: The Hindu

Posted in Daily Factly articles, Factly: Polity and Nation, Index | Reports | Summits, PUBLICTagged

“Remote Voting Project” – Election Commission tries out new innovation

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Source: The Hindu

Gs3: Science and Technology- Developments and their Applications and Effects in Everyday Life.

Synopsis:  ECI is planning to implement a remote voting project. It must analyze the issues of the system before its implementation.

Remote Voting Project

  • Recently, the Chief Election Commissioner  (Sunil Arora)  announced that it is starting trials of a “remote voting project”.
  • IIT-Madras is developing the system for the “Remote Voting Project” by using  Blockchain technology.
  • The concept of remote voting became popular during the COVID-19 pandemic to address social distancing.

Read MoreRemote Voting Project 

How voting technology developed over time?

Since the beginning, EC has been facing challenges in ensuring a fair and just voting system for the country. Over the years, it has introduced many changes for that.

  • In the initial phases, ECI  used the “paper balloting” method to conduct elections in India.
  • However, the “paper balloting” method was subjected to malpractices such as ballot stuffing and booth capturing.
  • Due to this weakness, ECI introduced  Electronic Voting Machine in India (EVM). EVMs are able to stand intense scrutiny, because of their standalone single-chip device. This device is not connected to any network.
  • Recently,  Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) are added to the EVMs. It enhanced the ability to verify the voting.

Now, ECI has started trials in the “Remote Voting Project” that uses blockchain technology. This system will definitely face the same level of scrutiny, that faced by EVMs.

How blockchain-based voting system work?

  • This technology has been already in use for cryptocurrencies. It is used to record a list of transactions that can be used to find out who owns which bitcoins without any centralized authority.
  • The blockchain method uses an online public bulletin board that is public and available for anyone to read and verify.
  • The voting authority will have to authenticate this bulletin board.
  • Further, The public bulletin board allows for a linear ordering of data that ensures only a user can add data.
  • This allows the users to sign in to the bulletin board using cryptographic signatures to register their votes in a ledger.
  • The blockchain-based voting system with its cryptographic features, promises data security and verifiability.

What are the issues in using a blockchain-based voting system?

  • The use of blockchain-based voting systems will depend upon a network. It will also face all the online vulnerabilities that devices are facing at present.
  • Also, a  recent draft paper by MIT and Harvard researchers pointed to serious vulnerabilities in the designs of a remote block-chain-based voting system.
  • The research paper also claims that blockchains will introduce issues related to complexity and their management.

The ECI should be cautious before deploying this method in elections.

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, PUBLICTagged ,

What is the “Remote Voting Project” by Election Commission of India?

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What is the News?

As per Election Commission, the remote voting project would be launched soon.

What is the Remote Voting Project?

  • A remote voting project will enable a voter to cast his or her franchise from any polling station in the country. It will remove the compulsion on voting only at the polling station, where the person is registered.
  • This program would help lakhs of voters who live outside their home constituencies for work or education.
  • The project is being developed by the IIT-Madras using blockchain technology.

What is an e-EPIC?

  • It is an Electronic version of the Electoral Photo Identity Card(EPIC). It would be a non-editable PDF version of the EPIC. Furthermore, it can be downloaded on the phone and stored on the DigiLocker app or printed from a computer.
  • All general voters who have valid EPIC numbers would be able to download the Electronic version of the Electoral Photo Identity Card.

Source: The Hindu

Posted in Daily Factly articles, Factly: Polity and Nation, PUBLICTagged

Kenneth Arrow’s paradox and why elections are flawed

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Synopsis- Theory of Arrow’s paradox and the impact of loss of concentration

Introduction-

  • The mechanics of all elections are flawed. The mathematician Kenneth Arrow laid bare the flaws in elections.
  • The internet helps the minority voice to instigate a large part of the populace. The recent U.S. presidential election is an example of this.

What is Arrow’s paradox?

The theorem is named after mathematician and Nobel laureate Kenneth Arrow, who demonstrated the theorem in his doctoral thesis in 1950.

He identified that in any electoral system where three or more options exist, a curious paradox comes into play. Views of the minority voice can dictate the broader choice. His finding is now called Arrow’s Paradox.

For example-

  • A set of population has three preferences in the run-up to an election which pits binary choices against each other – A= go to war or B= Don’t go to war.
  • the voters will be distributed along three lines as follows:
      • The minority – The hawks, those who want to go to war.
      • The majority of voters but are roughly equally split.
          1. The doves, who prefer not to go to war under any circumstance.
          2. The realists, who don’t want to go to war unless it’s absolutely necessary.
  • The minority hawks have the ability to dictate the outcome by convincing the realists by prevailing on the realists that war is actually needed.
  • Arrow’s Paradox can cause an election which should have a predictable outcome to become a farce since the outcome can be gamed to allow minority factions to prevail.

How arrow paradox theory swayed US elation result?

People now generally lose concentration after eight seconds, highlighting the affects of an increasingly digitalized lifestyle on the brain.

  • The recent events such as Proposition 22 in US elections have proved this phenomenon.

Proposition 22

  • Uber, Lyft and other gig industries poured money into their ‘Yes on Proposition 22’ campaign, raising over $200 million and the courts to preserve their business model by keeping drivers from becoming employees eligible for benefits and job protections.
  • Misleading campaigns- 58% of more than 11 million voters choosing to keep drivers classified as independent contractor, without the additional steps needed after that to get to the truth.
  • The outcome was a defeat for labor unions that had pushed for a state law aimed directly at Uber and Lyft, mandating they provide drivers with protections like minimum wage, overtime, health insurance and reimbursement for expenses.

It is certain that there will be future attempts at influencing elections using both intense messaging which takes advantage of our shortened attention spans as well as the setting of agendas of electoral choice which Arrow first described.

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Importance and steps for‘Free, fair and safe’ elections amid pandemic

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Synopsis:  EC should ensure ‘Free, fair and safe’ upcoming elections in the states of Kerala, Tamilnadu, West Bengal, Assam and Pondicherry (UT). 

 Background 

  • Since the pandemic broken, Millions of people have exercised their political right to vote in more than 34 countries, including India (In Bihar).   
  • With the reappearance of a variant of covid virus in countries like Britain, human beings exposing themselves to the risk of getting and spreading infection through this exercise of franchise is immense. 
  • So, it becomes crucial that when elections are announced ECI should pay equal attention to both the election (democratic process) as well as the constitutional rights “right to life” as enshrined in Article 21 and “right to lead a healthy life” as held by SC in Sunil Batra vs. Delhi Administration. 
  • But as a life with liberty will be pure theory if a person’s life itself is placed in danger. Thus, there is a need for taking additional measures while announcing elections. 

What are the precautions that needs to be taken while conducting elections in these states? 

As the upcoming elections in Kerala (140 seats), Tamil Nadu (234), Puducherry (30), West Bengal (294) and Assam (126) are scheduled in the coming months. Following steps should be taken to ensure the people’s right to health life; 

  • First, the senior citizens who are more vulnerable to infections should be enabled to vote in the first three hours of the voting using a separate queue-lane.   
  • Second, Personnel scheduled to be drafted for election duty including security staffs needs to be identified as a priority category for getting vaccinated. 
  • Third, every voter entering a booth must be asked to wear mask like the mandatory requirement of Voter Identity card. 
  • Fourth, ECI needs to repeat the precautions that were taken during Bihar elections such as reducing the numbers of voters per booth, increasing the number of booths, thermal testing each voter and making postal votes available to senior voters above the age of 80. 

Commitment to political freedom and a compliance with pandemic mitigation measures are an unavoidable contradiction It is the constitutional duty of the state to protect and reduce the risks of pandemic hazard to as near zero as possible while allowing citizens towards their constitutional entitlement of universal adult franchise. Elections during the pandemic must be made safe from the virus to protect the Democracy. 

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Karnataka MLC disqualified for being appointed as minister: HC

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Source: Click here

News: Karnataka High Court has held that Member of Legislative Council(MLC) Vishwanath stands disqualified under the anti-defection law and hence cannot be inducted into the state cabinet.

Facts:
  • Background: A petition was filed in the court alleging that AH Vishwanath had been appointed as member of the Legislative Council(MLC) for the sole purpose of making him minister despite the fact that he had lost the bye-polls.
    • The petitioner argued that he was still disqualified as per the Supreme Court judgement which upheld former Assembly Speaker’s orders for disqualification.
    • The plea maintained that a disqualified member can become eligible to hold the position of a minister only if they win the bye-elections from the same constituency.
  • What was the judgement: The Karnataka High Court has held that AH Vishwanath has incurred disqualification under Article 164(1B) and Article 361 B of the Indian Constitution.
Additional Facts:
  • Article 164(1B): It states that any member of the Legislative Assembly either the house or the council, belonging to any political party, if disqualified as a member of the Assembly, shall also be disqualified to be appointed as a Minister for the period of their disqualification.
  • Article 361B– It states that a member of a House belonging to any political party who is disqualified for being a member of the House under Tenth Schedule shall also be disqualified to hold any remunerative political post for duration of the period commencing from the date of his disqualification till the date on which the term of his office as such member would expire or till the date on which he contests an election to a House and is declared elected whichever is earlier.
  • Anti-defection law: It is contained in the 10th Schedule of Constitution.It was enacted by Parliament in 1985.It lays down the process by which legislators may be disqualified on grounds of defection by the Presiding Officer of a legislature based on a petition by any other member of the House.
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Credibility of exit/opinion polls

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Context: Prediction of Election outcome through Exit polls and opinion polls have not been accurate.

Some examples where election prediction has miserably failed?

  • The example of the Venezuelan recall referendum of 2004: The exit poll that predicted Hugo Chávez to be recalled however, Hugo Chávez won in the Venezuela Referendum
  • In recent Bihar elections: The exit polls, mostly predicted a Rashtriya Janata Dal victory with huge margin however the NDA proved exit polls are wrong.
  • US presidential elections 2016: Hillary Clinton consistently led Trump in national polls in 2016 however Trump won the election.

What are the reasons for such failures?

  • Principles of statistics ignored: Pollsters do not follow the statistical principles properly in designing, sampling, and analyzing their data.
  • Lacks holistic coverage: They do not cover remote corners of the country and cover sensitive booths for their surveys.
  • No scope for Margin of error: The standard requirements of 3 percentage points as margin of error is not adhered.
  • Selection bias: The samples selected by them does not maintain the proportions across gender, age, income, religion, caste, and other important factors.
  • Issues in method of sampling: Non responses are not properly tackled and the aspect of ‘random’ sampling is not given adequate importance.

Evaluation of Budget 2021

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US Federal Election Commission Vs Indian Election commission

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Context: Comparison between Indian U.S. Federal Election Commission and Indian Election commission

What are the Issues pertaining to the functions of U.S. Federal Election Commission?

Vacancies:

  • The Commission has hardly been able to function in the last year because of resignations.
  • The Commission haven’t passed a single order since August 2019, owing to lack of quorum, for which at least four members are needed.
  • As a result, several hundred matters lie pending before the Federal Election Commission.

Lack of consensus:

  • The six posts of Commissioner are supposed to be equally shared by Democrats and Republicans.
  • This has created a situation where decision making was often divided on partisan lines.

Powerless:

  • During the recent Presidential election, when there are allegations over election process the President decided to appeal only to the U.S. Supreme Court without any reference to the Federal Election Commission.

How different is U.S. Federal Election Commission compared to Indian Election commission?

  • Origin: The Federal Election Commission was established recently in 1975, with the special mandate to regulate campaign finance issues. Whereas Election commission of India came in to force on 25th January 1950.
  • Members: The Federal Election Commission is led by six Commissioners. Whereas Indian Election commission consists of one Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners.
  • Scope: Federal Election Commission has a much narrower mandate than its Indian equivalent. In India, by virtue of being the custodian of the electoral roll, all matters related to keeping the roll updated, fall under the ECI’s domain and ECI enjoys enormous power.
  • Role of Judiciary: In India the role of the judiciary is limited post the election period. Our constitutional makers were clear that if election-related petitions were entertained during the course of the election process, it would impede the process and delay election results.
  • Scope of Postal ballot: In the 2016 U.S. election, almost a quarter of the votes counted arose from postal ballots. In India we have confined postal ballots to only a few categories, of largely government staff, the police or armed forces.

Ever since our first election in 1951-2 our political parties, both losers and winners, have invariably accepted the results declared by the Election Commission of India, allowing the transfer of power  to be passed on in a smooth manner.


 

Federal Water Governance Ecosystem

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Power of Election Commission Of India

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Electoral System of India :Power of Election Commission Of India

Context: Power of Election commission of India to enforce poll norms and clean campaigns.

Background of the issue

  • Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister, Kamal Nath, while campaigning for a by-election to the Madhya Pradesh Assembly recently used the derogatory word “item” for a BJP woman candidate.
  • Following this, the ECI revoked the star campaigner status for Kamal Nath.
  • The Supreme Court has recently stayed the order issued by the Election Commission of India (ECI) revoking Kamal Nath’s status as the star campaigner of the Congress party.

What is star campaigner status?

  • It is a privilege given to few candidates. The expenditure incurred on the campaign by those from the list of star campaigners is not included in the expenditure of the candidate concerned.
  • It ensures that some leaders can charter helicopters and travel extensively to cover more territory and constituencies without breaching any individual candidate’s spending limit.

Why the court stayed ECI’s order?

  • Section 77 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which relates to a candidate’s election expenditure, empowers the political party to decide itself who its “leaders” are and list of ‘star campaigners’ to the election authorities.
  • It is against the right to campaign without incurring electoral expenditure on the candidates’ account.
  • Stating that the EC has no power to withdraw the status of star campaigner submitted by political parties the Supreme court stayed the Election Commission’s order.

What were the arguments made by ECI?

  • The ECI has cited the clause in the MCC (non statutory) that bars candidates from resorting to “criticism of all aspects of the private life, not connected with the public activities” of other leaders and party workers.
  • Also, the ECI has made reference to the Supreme Court’s observation that when laws are absent, the ECI can invoke its residuary power to meet an infinite variety of situations that cannot be foreseen by lawmakers.

What is the way forward?

  • The ECI needs to be empowered to revoke the status of a campaigner, if there is an apparent breach of campaign norms or the Model Code of Conduct.
  • ECI’s power to enforce poll norms and clean campaigns should not be
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SC stayed the EC decision on the Star Campaigner | Nov. 3rd, 2020

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Supreme Court stayed EC decision on Star Campaigner Status.

Supreme Court in a recent judgment stayed the Election Commission’s October 30 order, canceling the ‘star campaigner’ status of former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath.

Before cancellation of the status Election Commission had issued a written warning to the former CM for his remarks on an opposition leader.

About the SC judgment

SC in its judgment said the Election Commission had no power to determine who should be ‘star campaigner’ of a political party.

As per the petition, Section 77(1) of the Representation of People Act, 1951 read with Guidelines for Star Campaigners issued by the Election Commission, from time to time, makes selection/revocation of ‘star campaigners the sole prerogative of the political party.

Who is a star campaigner?

A star campaigner is a famous personality campaigning in an election for a political party, who can be a politician, or even a film star, and is famous among the general public.  There is no law governing who can or cannot be made a star campaigner.

They are nominated by the concerned political parties specifying their constituencies and duration of the status.

Is there any law or guidelines governing star campaigners?

There is neither any strict law governing who can or cannot be made a star campaigner nor the definition of ‘star campaigner’. However, EC after the announcement of polls issues guidelines for the Model Code of Conduct that regulate poll campaigns by candidates.

Under Section 77 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, the word ‘leaders of a political party’ has been used for the same.

As per guidelines:

  • A ‘recognized’ party declared as such by the Election Commission – can nominate a maximum of 40-star campaigners.
  • An unrecognized political party can nominate a maximum of 20 star campaigners.

Recently EC revised the guidelines for star campaigners in view of COVID safety norms. As per the revision:

  • The maximum limit on the number of star campaigners for recognized National/State political parties has been reduced to 30 in place of 40.
  • For unrecognized registered political parties, the number has been limited to 15 from 20.

Read the Official EC document here

Model Code of Conduct (MCC)

  • The model code refers to a set of norms laid down by the Election Commission of India, with the consensus of political parties.
  • MCC bears no statutory backing and remains unenforceable.
  • It spells out the dos and don’ts for elections. Political parties, candidates, and polling agents are expected to observe the norms, on matters ranging from the content of election manifestos, speeches, and processions, to general conduct, so that free and fair elections take place.
  • The MCC is operational from the date that the election schedule is announced till the date that results are announced.

Read – All about Model Code of Conduct

Read – All about election Commission of India

Why political parties appoint star campaigners?

As per the popular belief, star campaigners attract a large no. of voters compared to ordinary campaigners, but it has more to do with the poll expenses than the fame of star campaigners.

The Election Commission keeps a tab on expenditure incurred by individual candidates during campaign Rs 70 lakh for most states in one constituency by each candidate.

As per Section 10A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, An incorrect account or expenditure beyond the cap can lead to disqualification for up to three years.

Expenditure incurred on electioneering by the star campaigner is not added to a candidate’s poll expenditure giving him/her more leeway.

According to the Representation of People’s Act, these expenses will be borne by the political parties. But there are few guidelines that are required to be followed:

  • The star campaigner has to stick oneself to general campaigning for the political party.
  • Entire campaign cost except expenditure incurred on traveling will be added to the candidate’s election expenses if star campaigner shares the stage with a candidate. This applies even if the star campaigner seeks vote for the candidate taking his or her name.
  • The expenditure incurred on the rally will be shared equally by the contestants if more than one candidates share the stage with the star campaigner
  • If the candidates are not present but their posters or photographs have been displayed in their constituencies where a star campaigner holds a poll rally, the entire expense will be added to the election expenses of the contestants.

Guidelines for PM acting as a ‘star campaigner’

  • The MCC guidelines say when a prime minister or a former prime minister is a star campaigner, the expenditure incurred on security including on the bullet-proof vehicles will be borne by the government and will not be added to the election expenses of the party or the individual candidate.
  • However, if another campaigner travels with the prime minister or a former minister, the individual candidate will have to bear 50 percent of the expenditure incurred on the security arrangements.

Read more – Issue of star campaigners during Delhi elections

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