Elections In India : –
In order to ensure fair and free elections in the country part XV of the Constitution lays down the fundamental principles based upon which elections to both the Houses of the Parliament and State Legislature shall be organized. Part XV also provides for an autonomous Election Commission of India so that it will be able to hold fair and free elections.
Basic Electoral Principles : –
1. Article 325 : – This Article lays down the principles of universal suffrage. No person shall be denied the opportunity to be included in electoral rolls on grounds only of religion, race, caste or any of them. Further it prohibits the State from preparing separate, special or communal electoral rolls for the territorial constituency. Instead Article 395 provides for the preparation of a single electoral roll called general electoral roll for each territorial constituency for elections to the Parliament and State Legislature.
2. Article 326 : – This Article lays down the principle of Adult Suffrage. All citizens who are not less than 18 years of age and not otherwise disqualified by any law made by appropriate legislation on the grounds of non residence, unsound mind, crime or corrupt or illegal practices. Representation of People Act 1950 disqualified citizens from voting on all the above four grounds. However, since 2010, NRIs are allowed to vote in elections to Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assembly provided they physically cast their vote. Further they do not enjoy the right to contest elections.
The original Constitution prescribed the age of not less than 21 years to vote but 61st Constitutional Amendment Act reduced the age limit to 18.
3. Article 327 : – This Article confers the power on Parliament to provide by laws, regulation of all elections i.e general , mid term and by elections to both the Houses of the Parliament and State Legislatures preparation of electoral roll and delimitation . Accordingly the Parliament has enacted Representation of People Act 1950 and 1951 which regulate election to both Parliament and State Legislatures. Parliament has also been enacting the Delimitation Act.
4. Article 328 : – This Article confers the power on the state to provide by law regulating all elections to the respective State Legislature provided the Parliament has not made any law in this regard. So far the State government has not used this provision.
5. Article 329 ( a ) : – Provides the courts from interfering in delimiting exercise.
Article 329 ( b ) : – This Article states that no election petition can be filled except in a manner as provided by law by the appropriate legislature.
The Representation of People Act provides that an election dispute petition relating to both the Houses of the Parliament and State Legislature can be filed only before appropriate High Court after declaration of the official results. Therefore no election petition can be entertained by a court after the election notification is issued by the President or the Governor as the case may be till the election results are announced by the Election Commission of India.
Electoral Reforms : –
In order to further strengthen the autonomy and independence of the Election Commission of India, the Election Commission of India has made following recommendations to the Center to be passed into law : –
1. The President shall consult a high level panel before appointing the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioner. So as to impart transparency and accountability and make appointments to the Election Commission of India free of controversy.
2. The Election Commissioners shall also be removed in a manner by a judge of the Supreme Court of India.
3. As far as possible the seniority principle shall be followed while appointing the Chief Election Commissioner.
4. A retiring member of the Election Commission shall be prohibited from taking up any office of profit under state and also joining a political party for at least 10 years after his retirement.
5. The administrative expenses of the Election Commission of India shall be charged on the Consolidated Fund of India and shall not be subject to vote of Parliament as is the case with the office of President, Supreme Court, high Courts, CAG, UPSC, etc.