Electoral reforms version 2.0

What should be done to smash democracy's licence permit raj

r-swaminathan

R Swaminathan | October 21, 2011



1. Amend Rule 125A of Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 to provide for a ban for ten years in the first instance to any candidate withholding or providing incorrect information on Form 26 as prescribed under Rule 4A of Conduct of Election Rules, 1961. A second offence should lead to a life ban.

2. Amend Section 8 of the Representation of People Act, 1951 to provide for the following:

a. Special fast-track court to try cases of electoral malpractices, including misuse of religion or religious sentiments for electoral purposes, within a period of six months. The court should have suo-moto powers to take independent cognizance of news reports and complaints from general population and take up cases for trial.

b. Candidate or person accused of crimes like murder, rape, smuggling, dacoity, corruption and financial misdemeanors aimed at defrauding a public or a private enterprise should be barred for life.

c. Immediate disqualification of elected representatives if a case filed against them in either the special court or any other court, irrespective of the judicial level, is proven to be true.

d. Such elected representatives should also be debarred from contesting any election for a period of ten years from the date of conviction.

3. Negative or neutral voting to be introduced. If 1/3rd of the total votes cast in an election are for neutral/negative option, then that particular election should be rescinded and candidates getting less than 1/3rd of the votes be debarred from contesting further elections at that level for a period of five years.

4. An independent election auditing authority comprising of professional Chartered Accountants directly reporting to the Central Election Commissioner should be set up. The authority should have the powers to investigate and audit the accounts of candidates as well as parties.

5. Amend Rule 125A of Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 to ensure funding for parties and candidates is electronically mapped either via a bank statement or through online transactions. Cash payments should be strictly prohibited and any candidate or party violating it should be penalised with punishments ranging from fines to ban and debarment.

6. Make Aadhar the base to create an online database of all eligible voters thereby eliminating the need to constantly update electoral rolls as well as do away with duplication of preparing electoral rolls at the state and the Centre.

7. Voting should be made compulsory and electronic voting across wireless access devices and through kiosks be allowed. Postal ballot should also be allowed to all citizens.

8. Candidates who secure five percent or less of the total votes polled be barred from fighting an election at that particular for the next ten years.

9. Amend Clause (5) of Article 324 of the Indian Constitution to provide similar protection to Election Commissioners as provided to the Chief Election Commissioner.

10. Amend Section 33 of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1951 to ensure that a person cannot contest in an election, including by-elections, from more than one seat.

11. Amend Section 13CC and Section 28A of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1951 so that government officials of any state or the Centre cannot be transferred six months before any election unless expressly approved by the Election Commission.

12. Amend Section 10A of the Representation of Peoples Act to disqualify candidates and elected representatives for a period of seven years if they fail to submit audited accounts to the Election Commission within six months after the completion of an electoral process.

13. Amend Section 29A of the Representation of Peoples Act  for the following:

a. No new party can be formed unless the leaders of the party (office-bearers) have fought direct elections having a garnered at least a cumulative 10 percent of the total votes cast in their respective elections.

b. Political parties should be given clearly defined status. The current gradation of parties into national and regional be expanded to include national, regional, state and intra-state (local). This will facilitate prospective independents to join a party and fight elections under a party banner.

c. The gradation of the parties will have to be strictly conjoined with the percentage of votes being polled by the parties in their respective tier of elections. It is suggested that a minimum of 25% votes be polled by parties in order to retain their tier.

d. National regional and state parties polling less than 25% votes in a particular election will be relegated to a lower tier. Intra-state parties (local) polling less than 25% votes will be debarred for 10 years.

e. Leaders of a party debarred or demoted cannot float another party at the same tier for five years.

f. Leaders, especially the office-bearers, forming a new party will have to submit a five-year socio-economic political plan with the Election Commission, renewable after every five years, which would need to be approved, before registration.

g. The parties should be submitting an annual progress report on the plan to the Election Commission, which should have the power to monitor the reports and suggest remedial action, including punitive action, in case of delays or deviations.

h. Every new party will have to submit a bank guarantee to ensure transparency of its accounts, appoint qualified and accredited auditors, made a certified declaration to file audited accounts to the Election Commission every financial year and submitted audited statements of assets and liabilities of all its leaders, including office-bearers, before registration.

i. The new parties must follow the internal democracy systems and processes as defined by the Election Commission, including regular internal elections, periodic party meetings and maintenance of logs of all internal meetings.

j. The new parties must submit a clearly defined organisational structure to the Election Commission and every change in the structure must be ratified by the parties as per the norms of internal democracy systems and processes as discussed earlier.

k. Every new party or old party should ensure that representation of marginalised sections and women as mandated by the Indian Constitution must be strictly adhered to. Non-adherence must be dealt with punitive action ranging from fines to debarment and banning of the party.

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