THE REV­O­LU­TION­AR­IES

India Today - - INSIDE - —Kaushik Deka

ELEC­TION COM­MIS­SION, AMUL, IN­FOSYS, AAD­HAAR, ZEE, RE­LIANCE POLYESTER, KHADI GRAM UDYOG, BCCI, TCS, STATE BANK OF IN­DIA, HDFC, BALAJI TELEFILMS

THE GE­N­E­SIS

The Elec­tion Com­mis­sion of In­dia is re­garded as the guardian of free and fair elec­tions. Over the years, it has grown from be­ing just a con­sti­tu­tional rub­ber stamp with lit­tle or no power to reg­u­late elec­toral mal­prac­tices to one of the most re­spected and feared con­sti­tu­tional bod­ies. Re­forms in­tro­duced by the EC over the decades—model code of con­duct, ceil­ing on poll ex­penses, voter iden­tity cards, elec­tronic vot­ing ma­chines, and the re­cent NOTA (none of the above) op­tion in EVMs—have all changed for the bet­ter the way we choose our rep­re­sen­ta­tives. The wa­ter­shed mo­ment in elec­toral ac­tivism in In­dia was the ten­ure of T.N. Se­shan, chief elec­tion com­mis­sioner be­tween 1991 and 1996. Se­shan took on the po­lit­i­cal class with un­prece­dented poll re­forms. There’s still more to do. As former CEC S.Y. Qu­raishi says, “The EC must be en­trusted with pow­ers to pun­ish po­lit­i­cal par­ties (in­clud­ing de-reg­is­tra­tion) that com­mit a ma­jor vi­o­la­tion of their oath or in­dulge in wil­ful dis­obe­di­ence of the law­ful or­ders, such as not sub­mit­ting ac­counts and au­dit re­ports, not con­duct­ing in­ter­nal party elec­tions and per­sis­tently vi­o­lat­ing the model code of con­duct.”

WHAT NEXT?

In the be­gin­ning, the EC had only the chief elec­tion com­mis­sioner. Two more elec­tion com­mis­sion­ers were ap­pointed by the Pres­i­dent of In­dia on Oc­to­ber 16, 1989, to help the EC cope with the in­creased work­load on ac­count of low­er­ing of the vot­ing age from 21 to 18 years. The con­cept of two elec­tion com­mis­sion­ers was dropped in Jan­uary 1990, but Par­lia­ment passed a law in 1991 to re­vive it. Of late, the EC has sought to em­power it­self to pun­ish any­one ‘dis­obe­di­ent and dis­cour­te­ous’ to­wards its au­thor­ity. It has pro­posed that the Con­tempt of Courts Act, 1971, cover the EC and its com­mis­sion­ers. Many ex­perts feel the big­gest re­form needed is in the se­lec­tion of com­mis­sion­ers, who are ap­pointed by the gov­ern­ment.

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