• LAWGIC STRATUM

LAW COMMISSION REPORT ON ELECTORAL REFORMS

Author: Madumitha





Introduction


The Law Commission of India is the body that is formed by the Government of India. Its main objective is to create reforms relating to legal issues in the nation. The Commission mainly consists of legal experts and practitioners. Every Law Commission is formed only for a fixed period, acting as an advisory body for the Ministry of Law and Justice. The Commission shall submit reports on legal issues for which it was set-up to the Government. Many recommendations that have been submitted to the Government have been implemented which has contributed largely to various legal reforms in India.


In 2014, while the Law Commission was working on submitting its report, the Supreme Court requested the Law Commission to “expedite consideration” reporting on the following issues:

a) De-criminalisation of politics

b) Disqualification for filing false affidavits


Following this order, a national consultation was organized by the Law Commission for these issues. Apart from the representation of political parties, shareholders from various parts of the country were also present. These shareholders included a retired SC Judge, former Chairman of the Law Commission, senior advocates, former CEC, members of ECI, Member of Parliament, including various members from the Bar & Bench, academia, and other civil society organizations.[1]


This resulted in a presentation on 24th February 2014, in the form of the 244th Report, “Electoral Disqualifications”, of the first part of the Commission's work on the decriminalization of politics and disqualification for the filing of false affidavits. The findings of the Commission were eventually forwarded to the Hon’ble SC.


The 244th Report, which was the second part of the Commission’s work, aimed to identify the issues brought up in the consultation paper and related issues, to make suggestions to the Constitution, the RPA, and other lawsto strengthen India’s electoral system. In the case of Yogesh v. ECI[2], the Supreme Court recorded the Government’s submission of the views of the Law Commission and the interim report. In line with this, the Law Commission had also given recommendations on these matters.[3]


The Law Commission under the head of Justice A.P. Shah submitted a Report in 2015 concerning respect to various reforms to be made in the electoral process in India, making it more efficient, effective, and inclusive. The report is said to be one of India’s most important as many far-reaching recommendations were made, especially regarding election financing.


Previous Law Commission Reports on Electoral Reforms


The Law Commission has submitted 3 Reports on electoral reforms; in 1999, 2014, and 2015. The 1999 Report dealt with the amendments in the RPA and the Indian Constitution. It also included suggestions that an election’s winner would get 50%+1 of the valid votes to keep out undesirable parties from being elected.[4]


The 2014 Report dealt with 2 issues: decriminalization of politics and disqualification of filing false affidavits. The 2015 Report focussed mainly on election finance.[5]


Recommendations Made in the 2015 Law Commission Report[6]


Chapter I of the Report is the longest in the Report dealing with election finances. The Commission provided that transparency of political contributions and under-reporting of expenditures have been two main issues under election financing. The Report recommended that political parties are to compulsorily disclose any contribution that exceeds ₹20,000.


The Report also recommended that the President of India shall, after consulting a 3-member selection committee, appoint the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners. This committee shall consist of the Prime Minister of India, the Leader of Opposition of the Lok Sabha, and the Chief Justice of India.


The Report also recommended that equal constitutional protection was to be given to all the Election Commissions regarding their removability from the office. Also, independent candidates, also known as dummy candidates, shall be debarred from contesting in the elections. These dummy candidates are usually brought into the elections by parties to reduce the votes that go to other parties.


One main recommendation of the Law Commission was that paid news shall be made an electoral offense. This paid shall also include parties paying for news and media groups receiving payment for news. Additionally, if a candidate had failed to file the election expenses and other contributions received by them, the disqualification period was recommended to be increased from 3 years to 5 years, preventing them from contesting in the next election, at the least.


The report also recommended an amendment to be made in the Constitution of India, giving the President of India or any State Governor the power of disqualifying any Member of Parliament or Member of the Legislative Assembly on the grounds of defection, after advising the poll panel.


The Report went against the concept of a right to recall and that of rejecting a winning candidate, where the votes polled by them were lesser than those opting for NOTA. This was done keeping in mind that India follows the first-past-the-post system among other factors. The Report was also not in favour of making voting a compulsory process referring to it as an undemocratic practice.


The report also included comments on inner-party democracy within political parties, suggesting that introducing this would enhance election financing and electoral accountability, prevent corruption and improve the democratic functioning of India.


Conclusion


In a society that relies on elections for justice and rationalization, electoral reforms may not be limited to process and procedure; they may also be about the perception of what democracy gave voters and what they thought they deserved. The views articulated by the SCI and the Law Commission offered a substantive background for democratic changes and a way for democracy to change.


References:

[1] These included the All India NR Congress (Pondicherry), All Jharkhand Students Union Party (Jharkhand), Biju Janata Dal, Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Nationalist Congress Party, J & K National Panthers Party, Rashtriya Lok Dal, and Telangana Rashtra Samithi. [2]Yogesh v. ECI, WP (Civil) No. 422/2014. See http://lawyerslaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/SC-order-regarding-recommendation-on-electoral-reforms.pdf http://lawyerslaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/SC-Order-regarding-totaliser-in-electronic-voting-machines.pdf [3] Law Commission of India, Government of India, Report No. 244: Electoral Disqualifications, 2014, available at http://lawcommissionofindia.nic.in/reports/report244.pdf [4] Law Commission of India, Government of India, 170th Report on Reform of the Electoral Laws, 1999, available at http://lawcommissionofindia.nic.in/lc170.htm# [5]Revisiting India’s Electoral Reforms, available at https://www.livemint.com/Opinion/VJe9yfsux8vLD33rOgOn0N/Revisiting-Indias-electoral-reforms.html [6] Law Commission of India, Government of India, Report No. 255: Electoral Reforms, 2015, available at http://lawcommissionofindia.nic.in/reports/Report255.pdf

16 views0 comments