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Table of Contents:

Chapters:

1. Introduction: Historical aspect of Election process Statement/Objective of the study Research Methodology Survey of Literature

2. Role of Election Commission since Independence: Conducting election Role-played during election

3. Challenges faced by Election Commission Different challenges

4. Reforms in Election Commission Various measures taken

5. Conclusion

Key words:

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Abstract: Elections are foundation stoneof any democracy. As the democracies in the modern times are mainly representative in character, they are shaped by the method of election. India has adopted the indirect or representative system of democracy. Besides, universal adult franchise, free, fair and periodic elections; independent election machinery is prominent among the features of Indian democracy. The conduct of free fair and impartial elections depends much upon the performance of the three elements which form a triangle. They are the independent and impartial electoral machinery; the political parties and candidates; and the electorate. According to the Constitution of India, the entire electoral machinery is supposed to function under the Election Commission of India, which has been granted freedom of functioning from the executive under Article 324 of the Constitution of India. Holding regular periodic elections, based on universal adult suffrage (granted under Article 326 of the Constitution)in a vast country like India with huge population, is not a small and easy task. In the proposed project, an attempt would be made to make a detailed analysis on the conduct and role of ElectionCommission of India in strengthening the largest democracy of the world. Election Commission, like any other institution, come across many challenges in its functioning viz. corrupt electoral practices, electoral offences role of money and muscle power, misuse of government power and machinery and discontent with the existing electoral system. Further attempt would be made to enumerate and analyse the problems and challenges facing the electoral machinery of India.

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Introduction: Elections are one of the most important ways citizens can participate in decisions that affects their lives and hold their representatives accountable for results. Elections therefore provide a critical intersection between citizens and the interlinked goals of poverty alleviation, human development, and achievement of the MDGs. The political legitimacy that credible elections confer is essential for robust states and provide a crucial mandate if governments are to have the capacity to tackle a myriad of sustainable development challenges. UNDP recognizes that elections are pivotal to its central ambition of alleviating human poverty and endeavours to strike a balance between offering short-term, event-specific support and longer-term support to electoral systems and processes that will help sustain democratic institutions.And to conduct it in a free and fair manner we need a constitutional body like election commission. If we look into the history of election process in India, It could be said that itstarted way back before independence during the Morley-Minto Act of 1909. It effectively allowed the election of Indians to the various legislative councils in India for the first time. Previously some Indians had been appointed to legislative councils. The majorities of the councils remained British government appointments. Moreover, the electorate was limited to specific classes of Indian nationals. The introduction of the electoral principle laid the groundwork for a parliamentary system even though this was contrary to the intent of Morley. As stated by Burke and Quraishi - To Lord Curzon's apprehension that the new Councils could become 'parliamentary bodies in miniature', Morley vehemently replied that, 'if it could be said that this chapter of reforms led directly or indirectly to the establishment of a parliamentary system in India, I for one would have nothing at all to do with it'. But he had already confessed in a letter to Minto in June 1906 that while it was inconceivable to adapt English political institutions to the 'nations who inhabit India. the spirit of English institutions is a different thing and it is a thing that we cannot escape, even if we wished...because the British constituencies are the masters, and they will assuredly insist. all parties alike. on the spirit of their own political system being applied to India.' He never got down to explaining how the spirit of the British system of government could be achieved without its body. In 1906, Lord Morley, the Secretary of State for Indian Affairs, announced in the British parliament that his government wanted to introduce new reforms for India, in which the locals were to be given more powers in legislative affairs. With this, a series of correspondences started between him and Lord Minto, the then Governor General of India. A committee was appointed by the Government of India to propose a scheme of reforms. The committee submitted its report, and after the approval of Lord Minto and Lord Morley, the Act of 1909 was passed by the British parliament. The Act of 1909 is commonly known as the Minto-Morley Reforms. Muslims had expressed serious concern that a first first past the post British type of electoral system would leave them permanently subject to Hindu majority rule. The Act of 1909 stipulated, as demanded by the Muslim leadership, that Indian Muslims be allotted reserved seats in the Municipal and District Boards, in the Provincial Councils and in the Imperial Legislature, that the number of reserved seats be in excess of their relative population (25 percent of the Indian population); and that only Muslims should vote for candidates for the Muslim seats (' separate electorates').
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These concessions were a constant source of strife between 1909-47. British statesmen generally considered reserved seats as regrettable, in that they encouraged communal extremism as Muslim candidates did not have to appeal for Hindu votes and vice versa. As further power was shifted from the British to Indian politicians in 1919, 1935 and after, Muslims were ever more determined to hold on to, and if possible expand, reserved seats and their weightage. However, Hindu politicians repeatedly tried to eliminate reserved seats as they considered them to be undemocratic and to hinder the development of a shared Hindu-Muslim Indian national feeling. The Founding Fathers of our Constitution have given us a parliamentary system of democracy. As fair and free elections are the bedrock of democracy, provision has been made for an Election Commission which has been vested with superintendence direction and control of elections. The Commission at present is a multi-member body, whereas the Chief Election Commissioner can be removed from office in like manner and on like grounds as a Judge of the Supreme Court and that his conditions of service cannot be varied to his disadvantage after appointment. Elections India : Article 324 of the constitution establishes an independent Election Commission to supervise parliamentary and state elections in India. Supervising elections in the world's largest democracy is by any standard an immense undertaking. Under Article 243-K and 243-ZA of the Constitution of India, introduced under 73rd and 74th Amendments, provisions for setting up the State Election Commissions for conduct of elections of local self governing bodies were made. Pursuant to these amendments Maharashtra State Election Commission was constituted on 23rd April, 1994. Shri D.N. Chaudhari was the first incumbent on the post of State Election Commissioner. The first major exercise of the state election commission was conducted in the year 1995. when elections to the Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation, Navi-Mumbai Municipal Corporation and Aurangabad Municipal Corporation were held. Prior to these elections to several Village Panchayats and a few Municipal Councils were conducted. The elections in India often transcend from being a mere political activity to a high publicized and often sensationalized national event, with clear cultural ramifications. The entire nation seems to suddenly come to life at the onset of the elections, particularly the General Elections. Even the assembly elections, which determine the state government, are events of great significance. All state elections are closely observed throughout the nation. Often the results of the state elections are considered to be clear indications of the mood of the nation. The General elections was held for the first time in 1951. However, then the House had a strength of 489 seats, with members chosen from the 26 states of India. Presently, there a total of 545 members in the House, with two unelected members as representatives of the Anglo-Indian community in India. A total of 543 members are chosen by the general elections. The General election continues to be by far the most important political event in the country. They are held once in every five year, unless the Central government is dissolved beforehand. India follows a bicameral legislative structure. The members to the House of the People or the LokSabha are elected through the General elections. These members are chosen from the parliamentary constituencies. The number of parliamentary constituencies in a state depends upon the size and the population of the state. The executive along with the Council of Ministers is chosen from among the members of the winning party or the ruling coalition, as the case may be.
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The Election Commission is the apex body that conducts the elections in India. Both the general and the assembly elections in India are held in accordance with the clear rules laid down by the Election Commission of India. The Election Commission or the EC comprises high-ranking government officials and is formed under the guidelines of the Indian Constitution. The EC is a highly powerful body and is granted with a great degree of autonomous powers to successfully conduct the elections. Even the judiciary resists from intervening while the electoral process is on. The work of the Election Commission typically starts with the announcement of various important dates and deadlines related to the election, including the dates for voter registration, the filing of nominations, counting and results. Its activities continue throughout the time-period, when the elections are conducted in the country. The fact that elections across the country are held in phases and not at the same time extends the period of its work. The responsibilities of the EC finally concludes with the submission of the results of the elections. Over the years, the Election Commission's enforcement of India's remarkably strict election laws grew increasingly lax. As a consequence, candidates flagrantly violated laws limiting campaign expenditures. Elections became increasingly violent (350 persons were killed during the 1991 campaign, including five LokSabha and twenty-one state assembly candidates), and voter intimidation and fraud proliferated. The appointment of T.N. Seshan as chief election commissioner in 1991 reinvigorated the Election Commission and curbed the illegal manipulation of India's electoral system. By cancelling or repolling elections where improprieties had occurred, disciplining errant poll officers, and fighting for the right to deploy paramilitary forces in sensitive areas, Seshan forced candidates to take the Election Commission's code of conduct seriously and strengthened its supervisory machinery. In Uttar Pradesh, where more than 100 persons were killed in the 1991 elections, Seshan succeeded in reducing the number killed to two in the November 1993 assembly elections by enforcing compulsory deposit of all licensed firearms, banning unauthorized vehicular traffic, and supplementing local police with paramilitary units. In state assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka, and Sikkim, after raising ceilings for campaign expenditures to realistic levels, Seshan succeeded in getting candidates to comply with these limits by deploying 336 audit officers to keep daily accounts of the candidates' election expenditures. Although Seshan has received enthusiastic support from the public, he has stirred great controversy among the country's politicians. In October 1993, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that confirmed the supremacy of the chief election commissioner, thereby deflecting an effort to rein in Seshan by appointing an additional two election commissioners. Congress (I)'s attempt to curb Seshan's powers through a constitutional amendment was foiled after a public outcry weakened its support in Parliament.

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Role of Election Commission since Independence:-

Elections are of vital importance in representative democracy whose process should recognise the peoples will and sovereignty. It is on thispremise that the election commission was established under article 324 in the constitution of India and mandated to recognise, conduct and supervise regular, free and fair election. James Nits in his book, Management dimension of free and fair elections shades more light on what constitute a free and fair election..to determine whether an election has been free and fair, the election must be conducted under conditions that enable the voter to cast his or her vote as he or she wishes purely on his or her own accord. The conditions must be such as the voter is able to cast his or her vote for whoever candidate he or she wishes to vote for. There must be no obstruction, harassment, hindrance, threats or intimidation. There must be no bribery to induce the voter to vote in one way or another. There must be no conditions creating fear in the minds of the voter for persecution or victimization after the election have taken place, He writes. Election Commission of India is a permanent Constitutional Body. The Election Commission was established in accordance with the Constitution on 25th January 1950. The Commission celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 2001. Originally the commission had only a Chief Election Commissioner. It currently consists of Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners,it had only the Chief Election Commissioner before 1989. The concept of multimember Commission has been in operation since 1993, with decision making power by majority vote. Elections are conducted according to the constitutional provisions, supplemented by laws made by Parliament. The major laws are Representation of the People Act, 1950, which mainly deals with the preparation and revision of electoral rolls, the Representation of the People Act, 1951 which deals, in detail, with all aspects of conduct of elections and post election disputes. The Supreme Court of India has held that where the enacted laws are silent or make insufficient provision to deal with a given situation in the conduct of elections, the Election Commission has the residuary powers under the Constitution to act in an appropriate manner. India is a Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic and also the largest democracy in the world. Since its independence in 1947, India has seen free and fair elections held at regular intervals as per the Constitution and electoral laws. The Election Commission of India is the body to conduct free and fair polls for two houses of parliament and the state and union territory legislative assemblies. It also conduct the polls for the Presidency and Vice-Presidency. Election Commissioner of India work towards the smooth functioning of the election. We, as a nation, have a lot by way of gratitude to the founding fathers of the Constitution who, with great wisdom, and keeping in view the complex social fabric of the nation, gave to us a Constitution that envisages, strong independent, neutral and apolitical institutions whose functioning would ensure the preservation of the democratic character of the nation. In keeping with this line of thinking, the founding fathers decreed that there shall be a centralised Election Commission of India which shall be mandated to conduct free and fair elections in the country. Not only this, but it also entrusted this body with the task of making the electoral rolls at State cost for the entire country so that the principle of universal adult suffrage was implemented by the same neutral and independent constitutional body that conducted elections in the country.
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It was an obvious intention of the founding fathers that the democratic character of the nation would be well preserved, both in content and character, if the election process by which the Parliament and the State Legislatures are constituted, is overseen and conducted by an independent neutral constitutional body, namely, the Election Commission of India. Fifty years later, with the experience of a large number of elections to the Parliament and State Legislatures behind us, we can safely say that the founding fathers were entirely correct in entrusting the task of conducting elections to a neutral, constitutional body, namely, the Election Commission of India. Initial years after independence, politics in the country was entirely different in its character and content than what it prevalent in our society today. The Prime Minister, who is an elder statesman and was active in the politics of that era, would, I think, readily subscribe to this view. The personages who were at the vanguard of the freedom movement and had a significant role to play in the making the constitution were the lead figures in the political firmament of the nation. Having played such a committed and an active role and having laid down the moorings on which the newly independent nation shall move forward, they were extremely concerned that the ethical values and the spirit of the Constitution and electoral laws should prevail. Their commitment in this regard was so high that they would not hesitate to embrace a personal loss in the arena of the politics, but would be uncompromising in sacrificing any of the lofty principles that they themselves had infused into our society. Besides this, the nation itself was in a state of optimism, having just gained its independence after a long freedom struggle, and all energies were channelled into the goal of rapid development of the nation. There were not too many contentious issues in society and the few that were there, got sorted out in the political domain through a consensual approach. As the decades progressed, contentious issues of a divisive nature starting surfacing in the social fabric of the country. In large measure, the divisive issues were related to the question of the distributive aspects of the development process. The persons at the helm of affairs in the field of politics now belonged to a new generation and were different from their predecessors. The leaders of the freedom struggle were those who, through their dedication, sacrifices and acumen, had infused energy and galvanised a somnolent society into coming forward to make the freedom struggle into a mass movement. The leadership that followed was one whom the people themselves or groups in society brought to the fore as their leaders. In this changed context, political leadership emerged from the masses and has perhaps become more representative of the masses. These issues resulted in changing the manner in which the political process came to be practised in the country. These changes continue to be reflected in the political scenario in the country, even today. In this changed scheme of things, politics, and with it elections, have now become hard fought battles, where no quarter is asked for or given. The letter of the law has become more important than the spirit that governs it. In this changed scenario, it became vitally important in the context of maintaining the democratic character of the nation that the authority that conducts elections remains fair, neutral and equidistant from all political groups and parties. It is remarkable how the Election Commission of India, which few years ago completed its Golden Jubilee Celebrations, very quickly adapted itself to the changed political milieu that came about in the country.
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From a relatively passive role that it had played in the earlier years following our independence, it quickly responded and moved centre stage to play a vigorous, proactive role to ensure that the democratic process in the country remains, as was envisaged by all at the time of Independence, free and fair in both character and content.It has not been an easy task for the Election Commission of India to assume this role for itself in the national scheme of things. Equations between different bodies and institutions in society do not change easily. Considerable hard work, coupled with an unflinching and resolute stand on certain fundamental issues, had to be taken by the Commission before this could be achieved. There were a lot of contentious interactions and even a large number of litigations between the Commission and other organisations in government, before it could carve out for itself the role that it currently enjoys. Over the years, the Commission has taken several measures to make the democratic process more pure and effective and suited to the changed times. I can, with considerable satisfaction, cite one out of the many examples that are there for all to see. There was a provision that was enacted as far back as 1951 which disallowed convicted criminals from contesting elections. This enactment was operationalized by the Commission in an imaginative manner in 1997, when it was being revealed that in certain parts of the country the character of the politics had changed so much that criminals who have been convicted by the courts were actively contesting and in some cases winning elections. The present Commission has necessarily to be congratulated by all right thinking persons in the country for this action of theirs. It must be stated to their credit, that all political personages and political parties across the board have welcomed this new proactive role of the Election Commission of India. They see in it a guarantee that even under difficult circumstances, elections in the country shall be conducted in a free and fair manner. A free and fair election is the bedrock on which a democratic society stands. Its importance cannot be overstated. Elections, therefore, have not only to be free and fair but should be viewed by all as being so. Fortunately, this has been achieved so far in the country. The Indian election process has a unique feature that captures attention during election times the Model Code of Conduct. It is a code that lays down the norms of behaviour and action that parties and contesting candidates shall adhere to at the time of elections. It has specific provisions to see that the party in power does not get an unfair edge over its rivals during elections by virtue of its having access of the levers of power. In sum and substance, the code envisages establishing a level playing field between contesting parties and candidates during elections. The Commission implements it with considerable vigour, this was a unique feature. Other democracies too have such codes. But India is perhaps the only country where the Model Code has been brought out on a voluntary basis by the major political parties themselves. Not only this, but on a unanimous basis, they have entrusted the task of implementing the provisions of this Code to the authority that conducts elections, namely, the Election Commission of India. Can there be a better example of the faith that the polity has for its referee, the Election Commission of India? It must be stated that not only have the people of India and the major political parties welcomed the Commissions proactive action in its endeavour to conduct free and fair elections, but also the Commission has received considerable support from courts of law, particularly the Supreme Court, while conducting elections in the country. One of the very interesting features of our Constitution is the provision of Article 329 (b).
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The founding fathers of the Constitution were very clear in their minds that the election process should be conducted in an unhindered fashion under the supervision, direction and control of the Election Commission of India. While the elections are being conducted, the grievances, even if they are legitimate grievances, can temporarily take a back seat and await adjudication only after the elections are over and the results declared. This would ensure that the election process is not subjected to any delay or even derailment due to intervention by courts of law. Time and again, in the heat of the election process, persons, social groups and political parties have approached the courts of law on issues, which they felt needed a judicial pronouncement. It is to the credit of the Supreme Court that in such instances they have acted in a manner to see that the election process is not affected or hindered in any fashion and if the process of adjudication required time then it has been postponed till the elections are completed. There are many countries in the world that are democratic in character and hold periodic elections on a regular basis to elect the political executive of their country. However, the Indian election scene stands out in the largeness of the scales involved. The number of electors in an election in the case of India is approximately 700 million, the highest in any democracy. The number of places where these electors cast their franchise is around one million. These polling booths are managed on election day by five million officials. It must be remembered that this entire exercise is carried out through the length and breadth of the vast sub-continent with its extremely varied physical features. People in this country cast their franchise at as high altitude as 16,400 ft. The polling parties that go to manage the polling stations in certain areas have to travel on the backs of the elephants to cross the jungle terrain involving journeys of more than three days. A typical example here is one of travelling through the jungles of Kaziranga in Assam. Similarly, in the desert, some of the polling parties travel for miles with ballot boxes and other necessary items required for the conduct of elections on camel backs. The principle of universal adult franchise is acted upon with utmost seriousness and, it is ensured that no elector is excluded from his right to cast his franchise on the grounds of operational difficulty like the habitats being located in difficult and inaccessible terrain. By way of an example, there is a polling station in Bomdila district in Arunachal Pradesh in the North East where a polling party travels for several days to manage a polling station where the total number of electors is only three in number. It must also be remembered that India is not yet a developed country. The constraints of conducting elections in a country that has a per capita income of three hundred and fifty dollars is much more than places where this figure is two thousand dollars or more. That the constraints that naturally emerge on account of poverty or illiteracy have not been allowed to hamper the conduct of elections is something about which the Commission can be justifiably proud of. The Election Commission of India is constantly engaged in improving the management of elections in the country. To this end, there has come about progressive increase of technological inputs in the management of elections. Electronic Voting Machines, computerisation of electoral rolls and issuance of Photo Identity Cards to all electors are some of the important measures that have been taken by the Commission in the recent past introduce to higher levels of technology and thereby improve the management and purity of the election process.

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The Election Commission of India has, in its role as a listening Commission, developed the practice of holding regular meetings with major political parties in the country. These meetings are invariably held before a general election. In these meetings, important issues regarding conduct and management of elections are discussed at length. The Commission, through this process, becomes aware of the views that exist across the entire political spectrum on these issues. This is an extremely healthy practice and the Commission has to be commended for following the path of consultation and eliciting the views of the major players in politics, before it takes a stand on a major issue. Sometimes the stand taken by the Commission may go against the views of one party or the other, but it is to the credit of the Commission that during these All Party Meetings, the political parties of India explicitly sees for themselves the neutral stand of the Commission and the equidistance that it maintains from all parties and groups. On just crossing the threshold of the new millennium we see all over the world greater and greater concern that societies must be governed on the basis of consent of the ordinary people towards such governance. The democratic way of life has received a fresh impetus from all directions. There are discussions, debates, views and counter views about the relative efficacy of this or that system of elections, the yardstick being which system reflects the will of the people most accurately. Such debates are to be welcomed and we must always have an open mind to explore better and more effective measures of representation of the peoples will and aspirations.

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Challenges of the Election Commission

What for all the nations in the world were, are and will be striving for? It is for the Development and welfare of its people. And who are the ones laying building blocks of development? It is our politicians- the representatives- the law makers and the people. And it is the Election Commission which is vested under Article 324 of Indian Constitution with the duty of conducting free and fair elections in the country. By this we could understand the importance of electoral system in our society, in our development! Mere conducting of elections periodically doesnt prove that we are republic and have an effective democracy. It is the way elections are held, the quality of people elected, their performances that make our democracy effective. In current scenario, the widespread disillusion in our political system is well visible. The poverty, unemployment, illiteracy levels indicate the inefficiency of our political system. Even after 60 years of our independence, our people suffer from lack of basic amenities in life. If a law is passed as to those with criminal and corruption charges are to be disqualified then around 93 MPs and 10 ministers in Man Mohan Singhs ministry stand disqualified. This is appalling! We cant put the entire blame for current state of affairs on our political system because it is not functioning in vacuum. The society has share in the blame. The behavior of our political system is its response to the society and to reform our political system, we need to reform society and its subsystems. This is where electoral reform becomes important. Although there has been many changes made from time to time on our electoral system, yet there were no significant and substantial reforms brought about. The reports of Dinesh Goswami Committee on Electoral Reforms (1990), Indrajit Gupta Committee on State Funding of Elections (1998), Law Commissions Report on Reform of the Electoral Laws (1999), NCRWC (National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution) went in vain without implementation. It is high time, The Representation of People Act (RPA), 1951 needs to be rewritten to bring the country under the able hands.

The functioning of Indian electoral system has experienced a number of challenges and atrocities. The inconsistency between the votes registered for a party and the seats conquered in parliament, the multitude of political parties, personality cult in party system, utilization of caste and communal allegiances, part of muscle and money power, wrongful utilization of governmental machinery, corruptive exercises like booth-conquering, intimidation and impersonation of voters are essential negative features of Indian electoral system. Election offences extend from the physical conquest of booths to the mobilization of youth organs of parties or ruffian groups who could aim and intimidate certain communities prior to the election from casting their ballots. Sometimes the poll staff is bribed in operative conspiracies and indirect acceptance as well. The threat of booth occupation has been prevalent from the days of second general election of 1957, particularly in Bihar. The incident slowly and steadily was diffused throughout the country in various kinds and degrees.

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The growing requirement for criminalization in elections obliged greater incoming of money even. Previously voters bribed person to person, later it supposed to be more favourable to purchase musclemen who could assure triumph by seizing booths or frightening voters. This has directed the way to rapid criminalisation of politics and the rise of politician underworld network. With the course of time, the criminals themselves began participating in elections in place of assisting others, some of the MPS with criminal records are as followed i.eMr.kameshwarbaitha from Jharkhand who is accused in 35 cases and has 50 serious crimes against him under IPC, Mr.jagadishsharma from bihar who is accused in 6 cases and has 17 serious crimes lodged against him under IPC,Mr.Balkumarpatel from Uttar Pradesh who is accused in10casesand 13 serious crimes against him under the IPC etc. which has become a serious issue. On some occasions, the politicians considered it essential to politicize the bureaucracy to operate in consonance of the ruling party on the eve of election. The official machinery is exploited to amass data on political competitors. The official machinery serves useful in hiring crowds, intimidating targeted sections of voters, creating local tensions, conditioning staff for poll duties, enrolling additional voters or removing certain names from there etc. They too, alternatively encourage the bureaucracy to coin money with a view to remain vulnerable. In the due course considerable segments of bureaucracy are encompassed into the politician underworld bureaucracy web. In its attempts to purge of the electoral procedure, the election Commission has prohibited transfers and promotions with the announcement of election dates. Notwithstanding its importance, the step has meagre utility considering the ultimate preparations are generally undertaken much ahead in time. The rest practices of misuse have too been annulled under structure code of conduct that has been even more rigidly implemented from T.N. Seshan days onwards. Electioneering inclines to be a costly practice. In a large country like India this is more applicable since the electoral constituency is generally very big both size and population wise. Mass illiteracy being an important factor, a candidate is asked to make large scale personal intimations with the voters which employ enormous expenditure. The increasing distance of political parties from the people is another cause for making elections to be so costly in our times. Transport, publicity and organizing the campaigners engage excessive sums. The ambition to win an election at any rate and the enlarging dependence on the muscle power in elections have facilitated unexpectedly large spending amassed through questionable methods, by the political parties and their candidates. The distance between expenditures spent in an elections and legally constrained limit on spending is also enhancing historically. Ceilings on campaign expenses being limited, black money in shape of donation to election funds of political parties or influential leaders have assumed to be an admitted reality. About 90 percentage of all election funds are accrued from the big business houses on desire of special favours or patronage. This does not only eliminate capable and efficient men and women from electoral contests in absence of financial backing but also fosters criminalization of politics. The electoral commission, established by the constitution is a statutory body and there is a need to ensure that sufficient safeguards are in place to protect its independence. By way of its operation, the commission plays an impartial role in organizing and conducting elections.
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The aim of these is for the reason that no other body including the line ministry and other complementary bodies should influence its work. It should be noted that impartial organization and management of the electoral process is essential for the conduct of free and fair election. Impartiality helps build voter and political confidence in the electoral system and the end results. The election official in-charge of organizing and supervising elections must be competent and well trained. Sometimes what happens is that they are politically influenced and act in accordance with the will of its masters, which hampers the election process in a substantial manner. The issue of equivalence to determine a candidates qualification is still susceptible to misinterpretation coupled with the problem of forgery by some persons order to qualify. The electoral laws pertaining to eligibility of votersandcandidates for particular elections are paramount. These have to be communicated to the voters and candidate in order not to create mishaps over which group of persons are favoured for whichever elections. Requirements for candidates to protest during elections for some offices have frequently raised concerns from opponents- leading to court cases. A few by-elections have already been conducted as a result of this. The election commission draws guidelines for campaigns. These guidelines are derived from provisions of the laws governing the conduct of elections during campaigns. The commission does this in anticipation that the candidates will be free to expound on their programs and campaign manifestos in an orderly manner. Likewise, the behaviour of voters/supports of candidates should demonstrate restraint from intimidation and violence. However the phenomenon of violence is taking root and is becoming a serious challenge in our electoral process. Some candidates now use it as method of campaign causing fear and intimidation among the electorates. The causes are rivalry among candidates, ignorance and lack of democratic culture, monetization of elections and bribing of voters, partisan politics and campaigns, greed for power coupled with fear to lose elections on polling day, weak electoral laws to effectively curb violence and affinity to rig.

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Reforms in Election Commission

One of the most important features of a democratic polity is elections at regular intervals. Elections constitute the signpost of democracy. These are the medium through which the attitudes, values and beliefs of the people towards their political environment are reflected. Elections grant people a government and the government has constitutional right to govern those who elect it. Elections are the central democratic procedure for selecting and controlling leaders. Elections provide an opportunity to the people to express their faith in the government from time to time and change it when the need arises. Elections symbolise the sovereignty of the people and provide legitimacy to the authority of the government. Thus, free and fair elections are indispensable for the success of democracy. In continuance of the British legacy, India has opted for parliamentary democracy. Since 1952, the country has witnessed elections to the legislative bodies at both the national as well as State levels. The electoral system in India is hamstrung by so many snags and stultifying factors. Such maladies encourage the anti-social elements to jump into the electoral fray. Our system was largely free from any major flaw till the fourth general elections (1967). The distortions in its working appeared, for the first time, in the fifth general elections (1971) and these got multiplied in the successive elections, especially in those held in the eighties and thereafter. [Dash 2006: 50] Many a time, the Election Commission has expressed its concern and anxiety for removing obstacles in the way of free and fair polls. It has had made a number of recommendations and repeatedly reminded the government the necessity of changing the existing laws to check the electoral malpractices. The Tarkunde Committee Report of 1975, the Goswami Committee Report of 1990, the Election Commissions recommendations in 1998 and the Indrajit Gupta Committee Report of 1998 produced a comprehensive set of proposals regarding electoral reforms. A number of new initiatives have been taken by the Election Commission to cleanse the electoral process in India. The important among these are being discussed here. Model Code of Conduct The Election Commission of India is regarded as guardian of free and fair elections. In every election, the EC issues a Model Code of Conduct for political parties and candidates to conduct elections in a free and fair manner. The Commission circulated its first Code at the time of the fifth general elections, held in 1971. Since then, the Code has been revised from time to time. The Code of Conduct lays down guidelines as to how political parties and candidates should conduct themselves during elections. A provision was made under the Code that from the time the elections are announced by the Commission, Ministers and other authorities cannot announce any financial grant, lay foundation stones of projects of schemes of any kind, make promises of construction of roads, carry out any appointments in government and public undertakings which may have the effect of influencing the voters in favour of the ruling party. Recently, the Punjab Government, which announced the budget for 2008-2009, did not propose any new concessions, because the Code of Conduct was in force for the May 2008 Panchayat elections. However, the Punjab Congress levelled serious allegations against the ruling SAD-BJP alliance for misusing government vehicles and making certain announcements, thereby violating the Model Code of Conduct. [The Tribune: 2008]
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Despite the acceptance of the Code of Conduct by political parties, cases of its violation have been on the rise. It is a general complaint that the party in power at the time of elections misuses the official machinery to further the electoral prospects of its candidates. The misuse of official machinery takes different forms, such as issue of advertisements at the cost of public exchequer, misuse of official mass media during election period for partisan coverage of political news and publicity regarding their achievements, misuse of government transport including aircraft/helicopter, vehicles. For example, during the 2003 Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections, the Commission had issued strict instructions to the political parties to abstain from the use of plastic and polythene for the preparation of posters and publicity material. But the political parties, particularly the BharatiyaJanata Party and the BahujanSamaj Party, put up a large number of saffron and green publicity flags made of polythene. [The Tribune: 2003] During the 2002 Punjab Assembly elections, an aggressive advertisement campaign was launched by the Congress against Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son, accusing them of corruption and bartering away the interests of Punjab. The Akali Dal hit back with its own set of equally aggressive advertisements against the Congress leaders. [Prashar: 2002] The Election Commission of India had to intervene to clarify that under the Model Code of Conduct, personal allegations against individual leaders were not allowed, though criticisms of policy decisions and performance were permitted. Similarly, the EC also held NarendraModi and Sonia Gandhi responsible for violation of the Model Code of Conduct by making controversial remarks during election campaign in the 2007 Gujarat Assembly polls. The EC expressed its severe displeasure over its violation by the two leaders and expected that both of them in future would adhere to the salutary provisions of the Code in letter and spirit. [The Financial Express: 2007] Despite sincere efforts on the part of the EC to check malpractices, in each and every election India witnesses violation of the Model Code of Conduct. Disclosure of Antecedents by Candidates IN June 2002, the EC on the direction of the Supreme Court, issued an order under Article 324 that each candidate must submit an affidavit regarding the information of his/her criminal antecedents; assets (both movable and immovable) of self and those of spouses and dependents as well; and qualifications at the time of filing his/her nomination papers for election to the LokSabha, the RajyaSabha and the State Legislative Assemblies. But political parties believed that the Election Commission and the judiciary were overstepping their powers. At the all-party meeting, held on July 8, 2002, representatives of 21 political parties decided that the Election Commissions order should not be allowed to be implemented. The Supreme Court again came out as a guardian of the citizens right to information. The Apex Court gave its judgment on March 13, 2003, basically asserting its previous June 2002 decision, which required full disclosure by all candidates. The order made it clear that failing to furnish the relevant affidavit shall be considered as a violation of the Supreme Courts order and as such the nomination papers shall be liable to be rejected by the Returning Officer. Furnishing of wrong or incomplete information shall result in the rejection of nomination papers, apart from inviting penal consequences under the Indian Penal Code. The 2004 General Elections were conducted under these rules.

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The above order is an effective step to make democracy healthy and unpolluted. Citizens have every right to know about the persons whom they prefer as their representatives. The EC has directed all Returning Officers to display the copies of nomination papers and affidavits filed by candidates to the general public and representatives of print and electronic media, free of cost. Registration of Political Parties THE party system is an essential feature of parliamentary democracy. However, there is no direct reference of political parties in the Constitution of India. The statutory law relating to registration of political parties was enacted in 1989 which was quite liberal. As a result, a large number of non-serious parties mushroomed and got registered with the Commission. Many of them did not contest elections at all after their registration. It led to confusion among electors as to whom to vote. To eliminate the mushrooming of parties, the EC had to take some rigorous steps. The Commission now registers a party which has at least 100 registered electors as its members and is also charging a nominal processing fee of Rs 10,000 to cover the administration expenses which it will have to incur on correspondence with the parties after their registration. In order to ensure that the registered political parties practice democracy in their internal functioning, the Commission requires them to hold their organisational elections regularly in accordance with their constitutions. The measures taken by the Election Commission to streamline the registration of political parties have shown effective results. These have lessened the headache of the administrative machinery, as well as confusion of the electorate. Checking Criminalisation of Politics Criminalisation of politics is a grave problem in India. This menace began in Bihar and gradually spread to every nook and corner of the nation. In 2003, a law was introduced to prohibit the election of criminals to the legislative bodies. However, persons with criminal background continue to hold seats in Parliament and State Assemblies. This leads to a very undesirable and embarrassing situation when law-breakers become law-makers and move around under police protection. During the 13th LokSabha elections candidates having criminal cases against them numbered 12 in Bihar and 17 in Uttar Pradesh. It has been rightly observed by J.P.Naik: Power is the spoiler of men and it is more so in a country like India, where the hungry stomachs produce power hungry politicians. The EC has expressed its serious concern over the entry of anti-social and criminal persons into the electoral arena. From time to time, it has set down norms and made recommendations to the government to curb the menace of criminalisation of politics. The Commission has urged all political parties to reach a consensus that no person with a criminal background will be given the party ticket. The candidates to an election are also obliged to submit an affidavit in a prescribed form declaring their criminal records, including convictions, charges pending and cases initiated against them. The information so furnished by the candidates shall be disseminated to the public, and to the print and electronic media.

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Limits on Poll Expenses TO get rid of the growing influence and vulgar show of money during elections, the EC has made many suggestions in this regard. The Commission has fixed legal limits on the amount of money which a candidate can spend during the election campaign. These limits have been revised from time to time. During 2004 elections, the ceiling limits for LokSabha seats varied betweenRs 10,00,000 toRs 25,00,000. For Assembly seats, the highest limit was Rs 10,00,000 and the lowest limit was Rs 5,00,000. The EC, by appointing expenditure observers keeps an eye on the individual accounts of election expenditure made by a candidate during election campaign. The contestants are also required to give details of expenditure within 30 days of the declaration of the election results. However, political parties do not adhere to the financialLakashmanRekha (limits) as huge amounts are spent by parties under the garb of their supporters. Apart from this, the EC is also in favour of holding the LokSabha and the Assembly elections simultaneously, and to reduce the campaign period from 21 to 14 days. This, they feel, will lead to trim down the election expenditure. The Election Commissions attempt to impose these measures has been a move in the right direction. Multi-Member Election Commission THERE was a longstanding demand to make the EC a multi-member body. The Supreme Court in the S.S.Dhanoa versus Union of India case had observed: When an institution like the Election Commission is entrusted with vital functions and is armed with exclusive and uncontrolled powers to execute them, it is both necessary and desirable that the powers are not exercised by one individual, however wise he may be. It also conforms to the tenets of democratic rule. With the 1993 Constitution Amendment Act, the Election Commission was made a multi-member body. The EC was made a multi-member body by the government in the wake of certain controversial decisions taken by the Chief Election Commissioner, T.N.Seshan. The Act provided that the decision of three members shall, as far as possible, be unanimous. But in case of difference of opinion among three members, the matter shall be decided according to the opinion of the majority. It was a significant step to remove a one-man show in such an important function as that of conducting elections. A single member EC would have no longer unbridled powers. In view of the large size of the country and the huge electors, the Election Commission also made a proposal for the appointment of Regional Commissions to different zones to reduce its burden. Use of Scientific and Technological Advancements THE Election Commission of India has been trying to bring improvements in election procedures by taking advantage of scientific and technological advancements. The introduction of electronic voting machines (EVMs) is one of the steps in that direction. The Election Commission has recommended the introduction of electronic voting machines with a view to reducing malpractices and also improving the efficiency of the voting process. On an experimental basis, the EVMs were first tried in the State of Kerala during the 1982 Legislative Assembly Elections.

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After the successful testing and long legal inquiries of the technological aspects of the machines, the EC took a historic decision to go ahead and start the use of EVMs for certain Assembly elections in November 1998. The Commission selected 16 Assembly constituencies in the States of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Union Territory of Delhi. Later, in the June 1999 Assembly elections, Goa became the first State to successfully use EVMs in all its Assembly constituencies. In the 2004 LokSabha elections, the machines were used all over the country. It is a major initiative taken by the EC to make the electoral process simple, quick and trouble-free. It has saved money, solved several logistical issues and also contributed to the conservation of environment through saving of paper. Another major advantage of these machines is that the counting of votes becomes more fast and accurate. Now there are no invalid and wasted votes at all, as every vote recorded in the machine is accounted for in favour of the candidate for whom it was cast. The Election Commission has not lagged behind in making use of Information Technology for efficient electoral management and administration. It launched a website of its own on February 28, 1998 [that is, www.eci.gov.in.]. This is now a good source to have accurate information about elections, election laws, manuals and handbooks published by the Election Commission. During the 1999 LokSabha elections, the Commissions Secretariat was directly connected with nearly 1500 counting centres across the country. The round-wise counting results were fed into the Commissions website from those counting centres. These results were instantly available throughout the world. In order to bring as much transparency as possible to the electoral process, the mediaboth electronic and printwere encouraged and provided with facilities to report on the actual conduct of the poll and counting. The Commission had, in cooperation with the State owned media (Doordarshan and All India Radio) taken several innovative and effective steps to create awareness among voters. All recognised national as well as State parties were allowed free access to the state-owned media on an extensive scale for their election campaign. During the 2004 general elections, the total free time allocated to political parties was 122 hours. With a view to prevent impersonation of electors at the time of voting and to eliminate bogus and fictitious entries into electoral rolls, the Election Commission took a bold step. In 1998, it decided to take a nationwide programme for the computerisation of electoral rolls. The printed electoral rolls as well as CDs containing these rolls are available to the general public for sale national and State parties are provided these free of cost after every revision of electoral rolls. The entire countrys electoral rolls are available on its website. Karnataka became the first State to prepare electoral rolls with the photographs of voters in the 2008 elections. The State EC developed the electoral roll management software called STEERS (State Enhanced Electoral Roll System) [The Hindu: 2008] to prevent duplication of voters lists and to eliminate wrong addresses. The EC has decided to introduce photo electoral rolls for proper verification of voters across the country by the 2009 general elections.In an attempt to improve the accuracy of the electoral rolls and prevent electoral fraud, the Election Commission in August 1993 ordered the issuance of electors photo identity cards (EPICs) for all voters.
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A modest attempt to introduce the photo identity cards was made for the first time in 1978 at the instance of the then Chief Election Commissioner, S.L. Shakdher, in the case of elections to the Legislative Assembly of Sikkim. During the 2004 Assembly elections, it was mandatory for people possessing EPICs to furnish it at the time of voting. People who did not possessEPICs had to bring the proofs of identity as prescribed by the EC at the time of voting [Rao 2004: 5438] During the 2007 Punjab Assembly elections, ParneetKaur (MP from Patiala), could not cast her vote till late afternoon as she had misplaced her voter card. [The Tribune: 2007] The distribution of EPICs, on the part of Election Commission, was a major step to reduce electoral malpractices. Only genuine voters were listed in the rolls with the issuance of voter identity cards.

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Conclusion

OVER the years, the Election Commission has conducted a number of laudable electoral reforms to strengthen democracy and enhance the fairness of elections. These reforms are quite adequate and admirable. Undoubtedly, the election machinery, under the aegis of the EC, deserves credit for conducting elections in a free and fair manner. However, our system is still plagued by many vices. To win votes, political parties resort to foul methods and corrupt practices. Such maladies encourage the anti-social elements to enter the electoral fray. The problem is not lack of laws, but lack of their strict implementation. In order to stamp out these unfair tendencies, there is a need to strengthen the hands of the EC and to give it more legal and institutional powers. The EC must be entrusted with powers to punish the errant politicians who transgress and violate the electoral laws. Our Election Commission tries its best to weed out the virus of malpractices. It is optimistic of strengthening and improving the working of democracy through free and fair elections. It has always devised better systems and is using advanced scientific technologies for maintaining the high reputation of the Indian elections. However, the success of reforms will largely depend upon the will of the political parties to adhere to and implement such reforms. An independent media and an enlightened public opinion have no substitute in pushing through reforms. If people vote according to their convictions and punish those who infract the rules, corrupt practices will automatically disappear. And this will go a long way towards enabling democracy to flourish and grow to its full capacity. Election observation is an obvious venture and a serious undertaking that requires a huge logistics outlay, well trained observers and adequate organisational capacity. However, if done well, its benefits could be immense. It is important for observers to be mindful that their primary function is to observe and not to supervise the election process. Observers, domestic or international, do not have the authority to intervene in the administration of an election. Eventually, what they are supposed to do is to consider all the factors that impinge on the credibility of the electoral process as a whole. Even so, the observer does not set out on a journey to find fault. Accordingly, election observation calls for a display of integrity and non-partisanship at all times, no doubt an onerous responsibility. But if observers do their work properly, they wield considerable moral authority towards electoral reform or election wrongdoing. When all is said and done, the primary beneficiary of election observation is not the sponsoring agency or the government or the EMB or the political parties and candidates. It is the people of the country. The people have the right to credible elections, and observers have a duty to upload that right. Failure to do is tantamount to betrayal of the peoples trust. So perhaps, the bottom line in election observation is whether the observer himself/herself is worthy of public trust.

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Finally, at a time when election surveys have acquired an unprecedented visibility, due to their relationship with the mass media, one can only lament the absence of rigorous studies on the role of the media, both print and audio-visual, in funding, shaping and publicizing election studies.

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