Article by Prof. Gourango Chakraborty President of Swaraj Abhiyan West Bengal : A Brief Outline of Electoral Reforms Required for Effective and Meaningful Democracy in India – Part 1
A Brief Outline of Electoral Reforms Required for Effective and Meaningful Democracy in India – Part 1
A democracy to be effective and meaningful needs free and fair voting as the most powerful instrument. Unfortunately, corruption and corrupt practices, political interference, criminalisation back money and illiteracy stand in the way of holding a free and fair election in India. Thus electoral reforms are of urgent necessity in our common interest.
Six important pillars of electoral reforms required in India may be identified to be:
1. Independent Election Machinery
2. Right to Recall
3. Multi-day Online/Electronic Voting
4. State Funding and Equitable Media Facility
5. Rehauling of Democratic Representation System
6. Compulsory Voting by Citizens
Independent Election Machinery
[To serve as a free, fair and trustworthy election authority]
In order to have an independent and impartial Election Commission truly free from political influences in letter and spirit, a comprehensive amendment of the law relating to appointment of the members of Election Commission is an urgent necessity. The amended law will have two parts:
The first part containing provisions relating to the formation of a five-member special committee for selection of the members of Election Commission, who may be:
1. one of the three retired Chief Justices of India
2. one of the three retired Chairpersons of Union Public Service Commission
3. one of the three retired Cabinet Secretaries
4. one of the three retired Comptroller & Auditor Generals of India
5. one of the three retired Election Commissioners
[In all cases the age of the member concerned shall not be above seventy-five years and selection shall be made on the basis of seniority with reference to the term of the retirement of the person concerned excluding the one retiring immediately preceding the one already in office]
The second part of the law relating to the five-member special committee for selection will contain provisions relating to candidature for membership of Election Commission. The members of the Election Commission may be:
1. one senior-most officer from amongst the senior-most IAS officers
2. one senior-most officer from amongst the senior-most IPS officers
3. one of the senior Judges of Supreme Court
4. one senior-most officer from amongst the senior-most IAAS officers
5. one of the senior-most Chief Election Officers of States
[In all cases the person concerned must have less than one year’s service for retirement]
States may have a three-member Election Commission for State elections at municipal and panchayat levels.
Right to Recall
[To prevent incompetent persons serving as representatives and to call back dishonest representatives as punishment]
It appears in several cases that a representative after election gets involved in illegal and/or immoral activities without caring for approval of his electorate. At present voters do not enjoy any right to recall such representatives. Thus a law relating to Right to Recall has to be promulgated as a part of electoral reforms in order to confer a legal right to the voters to recall their elected representative for certain specific illegal and/or immoral activities in accordance with certain legal procedures.
Constitutional Authority and Legal Procedures for Enforcing Right to Recall
1. If any serious allegation in respect of any illegal and/or immoral activity arises against an elected representative or where an allegation of any offence mentioned in the Representation of Peoples Act has been made against such elected representative and sufficient evidence, documentary or otherwise is available whereby it can prima facie be established that the voters of the concerned constituency did in fact elect a person with questionable honesty and/or morality, any voter or group of voters of the said constituency can file a written complaint about recall of the dishonest representative to National Election Tribunal/National Tribunal for Recall of Peoples’ Representatives/National Tribunal for Electoral Offences.
2. An application containing the complaints against an elected representative with an affidavit as applicable in case of an application to a court of law is to be submitted by a duly qualified applicant (qualification and disqualification of an applicant to be prescribed by law).
(a) Notice to the Representative
(b) public notification and reply
(c) self-defence with affidavit of the representative
(d) second enquiry with right of further self-defence for the representative and with an option to resign
4. Public Hearing as per Court procedure.
5. Decision – Referendum/Rejection of application.
6. Right of Appeal – [within 30 days]:
(a) To Supreme Court in case of MP
(b) To High court in Case of MLA
7. Emergent Hearing and Judgement within 60 days. Decision of the Supreme Court/High Court to be final.
(a) Declaration of the date of election by Election Commission within 30 days.
(b) Voting within 10 days of declaration.
(1) If votes cast in the Referendum are less than 20% of the votes cast in the last election, the elected Representative shall continue as Representative.
(2) If votes cast in the referendum are 20% or more than 20% of the votes cast in the last election and at least 51% of the votes cast in the said referendum go against the elected Representative, his/her membership in the Parliament or State Assembly or Local Body shall stand terminated and the seat held by him/her shall be declared as vacant.
(3) A fresh election shall be held within 30 days to fill up the vacant seat for the rest of the term.
In case of States, Right to Recall can be enforced against elected representatives of Municipalities and Panchayats of the concerned State through State Election Tribunal/State Tribunal for Recall of Peoples’ Representatives/State Tribunal for Electoral Offences and the above-noted procedures may be followed with law providing for right of appeal to District Judges’ Court.
Photo credit: File Photo of Zee News
AUTHOR: Gourango Chakraborty
President of Swaraj Abhiyan West Bengal
The author’s views are personal.