Ram Narain Yadav:The process of election is termed as the cornerstone of democratic system, as it is the political means through which political opinion and awareness of the people are moulded and promoted. Election involves people into politics and public affairs through participation and mobilization. Besides this, election provides political linkages, resolves conflicts, fulfils people’s aspirations and also brings about peaceful and orderly change of authority. The election process gets an added significance in a parliamentary democracy where the entire responsibility vests in the people who, after adjudging policies/programmes/promises made by different political parties for the development of society, give their mandate for the governance. Election is a multi-dimentional concept which directly or indirectly involves the entire people, electorate, political parties, candidates for elections, election machinery, elected members, legislative bodies and the Government.
To make the democracy a success, people have to give their allegiance to the democratic institutions based on ‘rule of law’. For this, it is the duty of the authorities concerned to conduct free and fare elections. If elections are distorted and are not free and fair, peoples’ faith in democracy also gets eroded. The people would positively respond to the electoral process if the legitimacy of democracy is maintained.
Elections give rise to disputes also. Therefore, the lawmakers and the public must be aware and know that their elections are well run. Besides other sources, the Information Technology and media make them possible aware about all the activities during elections process.
In the past, there is a genuine wide-spread concern among the masses about the influence and corrupt practices including muscle, mafia power, rigging, misuse of religious/cast identities, which led to the voices for electoral reforms. Thus, on suggestions made by Academics, Parliamentarians, Law Commission etc, the Election Commission has of late been trying to enforce a Code of Conduct, various rules, orders etc. with a view to cleanse and streamline the electoral process. The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution had made some important recommendations regarding Electoral Reforms. Resultantly certain electoral reforms have been made to well run the elections.
To check and control all evils of elections, to enforce the provisions of law, Code of Conduct and to make the people aware about activities, etc., Election Commission appoints the officers and officials at various levels who also are responsible to ensure free and fare elections. These officers also care about related matters and remove all inaccuracy and redress complaint of the public satisfactorily.
Since Indian Democracy is in progress, certain disputes including; Ink Controversy in the elections of Council of States; Frequent defects/snags in Electronic Voting Machines in-spite of making improvements from M1 to M2, introducing VVPAT system; Fulfillment of promises made to the people by Political Parties; Various actions of Election Machinery, during elections processes, including recent incident in Jammu & Kashmir where safety of defence officials carrying EVMs on foot was on high stake, etc; are presently on rise.
Relevant abstract of my Article on ‘ink controversy in Haryana’ which was published in tatkalnews.com on 17.6.2016 and Daily Post Newspaper on 22.7.2016, emphasizing the need of reforms in Election Systems is stated here under:
“(2): Subject to rule 38A as made applicable, by clause (ii) of rule 70, to election, in a council constituency and, by assembly members other than by postal ballot under clause (a) of rule 68, a ballot paper shall be invalid on which; (e) there is any figure market otherwise than with the article supplied for the purpose; Provided that this clause shall not apply to a postal ballot paper;.
The Election Authorities had made all concerned aware, about the process including marking number on ballot papers by pen (article) of specific colour supplied by the Election Authorities. Then, why were persons present there not vigilant enough? Why were they not aware that provision of rule-73(2)(e) for marking number is pre-cautionary? Was it not their lapse to overlook such happening advertently or inadvertently? Does it not suffice that the existence and survival of political parties depend upon the ‘quality of qualification/knowledge and experience’ of their members and parliamentary functionaries? The political parties have to give a thought in the changed scenario in Indian Polity.
Though it is for Competent Authority and provisions of General Clauses Act, 1897 to interpret these rules, yet a perusal of this rule 73(2)(e) shows that i) it is a precautionary provision; ii) Clause (e) does not bar/deny any electors to use other article (pen) at the polling place, but it make them cautious of its implications; further, iii) it may be expected that any elector knowingly or intentionally intend to mark number by other pen; iv) even if it is presumed that any of the electors claimed to have marked the number by other pen (article) un-intentionally and it remained un-noticed by him, candidates and agents, and such act remained un-objected and the result is declared, then how it can be taken into consideration after declaration of results, without following applicable law? v) how can intention or alleged wrong doing, under such circumstances, be blamed, determined or proved ? vi) does not it indicate that the success and failure to achieve goal depend upon the best preparation/knowledge/experience by all the persons connected?
People are watching and they act once after five years for giving power to their representatives, so whatever may be the outcome in the present issue, the only option now left is election petition under Article-329 (b) of Constitution read with Sections-80, 80A, 81, 100, 123 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.”
Now, the question is not of doubt of intention or hacking EVMs. But in view of above, as has been experienced recently, it is imperative to remove certain shortcomings and apprehensions in such matters which are in the mind of people and political parties. Therefore, it is for the Election Commission to initiate dialogues with the Law Commission, Parliamentary Institutions and their Functionaries, Political Parties, Eminent Persons, Technical Experts etc. to arrive at a consensus on required electoral reforms, with a view to retain faith of people in democracy. Further it is also important that in addition to election petition and without interrupting election process, certain disputed matters decided by the Election Machinery during election process, be entertained by the Courts for adjudication to fix accountability for lapses and eradicate the genuine grievances making required amendment in Election Law.