Arioso Review * January – 2006 Need for Electoral Reforms Shattered Dash Elections are the life and blood of modern democracies. The health and vitality of parliamentary democracy is sustained by ensuring free, fair and peaceful elections where the verdict of the people finds full expression. The Indian electoral system was free from any major flaw till the fourth general elections in 1967.
The distortions in its working appeared, for the first time, in the fifth general elections, 1971 and multiplied In the successive elections, especially those held in the eighties and thereafter. Money power has played decisive role in elections In the past and continues to do so with greater force today. Suggestion with regard to putting curb on money power Is that of state funding. This practice of state funding for political parties to reimburse their poll expenses is prevalent In some countries like Germany, France, Israel, Canada, Japan, USA etc.
In this system, political parties polling a minimum percentage of votes are entitled to subsidy by the state. The Darkened Committee Report of 1975, the Swami Committee Report of 1990, the Election Commission s Recommendations in 1998 and Intranet Guppy committee Report of 998 produced comprehensive set of recommendations regarding electoral reforms. A few reforms have been Implemented Like the voting age has been lowered from 21 years to 18 years; Increase In the amount of security deposit from Roars to RSI. 0,OHO for general constituencies and RSI. 250 to RSI. 5,OHO for reserved constituencies; Introduction of electronic voting machine; and making obligatory for candidates torso Assemblies to declare their criminal background, educational qualifications and economic status at the time of filing nomination papers. But a lot has to be done. Since winning election has become an end n itself, in addition to money power, muscle power has also become an important factor.
This is done in two ways: a) by preventing the voters of weaker sections of society on their way to polling stations for casting their ballots; and b) by forcibly capturing polling booths for marking and inserting ballot papers in the ballot box of the candidate of choice. The most significant outcome of the use of muscle power in elections has been that many local muscle men, and criminals whose services were earlier sought for extortion or feathering’s are now directly entering the fray and are elected in the process.
In order to deter the criminal elements entering the electoral field, law should make it mandatory for a person convicted by a court of law and sentenced to imprisonment for six months or more to be debarred from 50 votes polled in this category is more than 50 percent of the total votes polled, all candidates should be debarred from contesting elections for at least six years by the Election Commission and the election be declared void. The election should then be re-conducted with fresh candidates. Contesting polls for a period of the sentence imposed and an additional period of six years.
Any person who is accused of any offence punishable with imprisonment for five years or more should be disqualified, even when her/his trial is pending provided that the competent court of law has taken cognizance of the offence and framed the charges against him. Besides making elections clean, there is utmost necessity of prescribing a maximum age candidates. Those want to compete in the elections should be made to sit in a test of knowledge of the Constitution, country s economy, freedom struggle and geography. The Election Commission of India should conduct this test.
Certain minimum marks in these subjects would be fixed to qualify for becoming a politician. Psychological tests should also be introduced to judge their overall personality. If the bureaucrats are chosen from among the best in India, why not the leaders ? There should be a retirement age for politicians. Often, people above the age of 60 are not issued driving licenses. The logic, according to experts, is that the decision-making ability starts declining after the age of 60. But in our country, most of the leaders of this age are driving the government.
Another deficiency of the system is that inadequate representations of women in legislatures. Instead of following the reservation rule with the possibility of further internal reservation, all recognized political parties should fix a specified percentage of women candidates, in all state and parliamentary elections, that they may take part in. Political parties play a pivotal role before elections, during elections and in the formation of government after elections. The working of political parties is however not regulated either by constitutional or by legal provisions.
One of the most critical needs of the time is to reform political parties and to make them open, democratic and accountable. Political parties should be made more accountable by being forced to do internal audits of their finances and producing evidence of internal democracy. There is also need of reorganization of constituencies. In Delhi itself, while one Parliamentary Constituency consists of four lash voters another constituency has as many as 22 lash voters. This large differences in terms of population must be done away with. Some of the inception of the Constitution.
The continued reservation of seats for specified castes has been a cause of complaint in some parts of the country. Reserved constituencies for certain castes and rib’s could be rotated after each census on the basis of strength of their population. Such a step would possibly remove the grievances of the Another reform that may be suggested is that government in poll bound states should resign before polls. The cabinet ministers of states going to polls, barring Chief Minister, Finance and Home Ministers, should resign after elections are announced.
This suggestion seeks to defuse misuse of government money and administrative powers to influence elections. Voters should be given the right to cast a negative vote. In every ballot paper or ballot electronic voting machine, there should be an option; none of the above , and if the number of 51 on the part of electoral machinery at all levels, the political parties, the candidates and electorate. An independent press and enlightened public opinion have no substitute to push through reform. The participation of the youth in election plays a major role in restoring our faith in democracy.
Finally, there should be proper mechanism, fully functional and fully equipped to fight with any triviality. General population of perpetually being denied representation in the legislature. Reform is not single time effort but a continuous process. It would be appropriate if a tanning committee, comprising members of parliament and experts in election laws, is constituted to go into the question, as and when it arises, and to suggest changes wherever necessary, in the election law to the government.