Elections play a significant role in any democratic setup. India, being the world’s largest democracy is one of the hotspots of the election process around the globe. In India, elections are held at three levels i.e. Centre elections, State elections and Municipal/Panchayat Elections. To put it simply, the election can be termed as the process of voting to choose someone as your representative at any level of government wherein the right to vote is a statutory right which can influence the decisions about how the country is governed.
The Election is one of the significant components of democracy as it allows choosing leadership, and political participation which in turn facilitates a voter to raise his/her voice and resentment against a ruling party. It is also a self-corrective system as, after every five years, the ruling parties are kept in check and made to consider the demands of the public.
The Constitution of India elaborates on the electoral system of India in Part XV of the constitution i.e. Article 324-329. Article 324 of the constitution entrusts the election commission to ensure free and fair elections in the country which is the sacrosanct spirit of the election in the country. Apart from the Constitution of India,
Role Of The Election Commission Of India
The Election Commission of India is the sole autonomous constitutional body that independently organises and regulates elections in India. Originally the commission had only one Election Commissioner but after the Election Commissioner Amendment Act 1989, it has been made a multi-member body. The commission consists of one Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners.
The Election Commission of India executes several key functions. Its superintendents direct and control the entire process of conducting elections to the Parliament and Legislature of every State and to the offices of the President and Vice-President of India. The most important function of the commission is to decide the election schedules for the conduct of periodic and timely elections, whether general or bye-elections. It prepares electoral rolls and issues Electronic Photo Identity Cards (EPIC). It decides on the location-polling stations, assignment of voters to the polling stations, location of counting centres, arrangements to be made in and around polling stations and counting centres and all allied matters. It grants recognition to political parties & allots election symbols to them along with settling disputes related to it.
Electoral Offences Under Indian Penal Code, 1860 –
IPC has defined bribery under corrupt practices and it states that bribery is considered to be committed by the person who gives gratification to some other person in form of food, clothes, drink or any other form. The person accepting such gratification is equally responsible for bribery and shall be liable for punishment up to 1-year imprisonment or fine or both as per Section 171E.
The person who interferes directly or indirectly with the free exercise of any of the electoral rights shall also be penalised with 1-year imprisonment or fine as per section 171F of IPC. Further, if the person impersonates another person and votes on behalf of someone else shall also be punished with the same punishment.
If a person has incurred some expenses or authorised some expenses without the knowledge of the candidate or holding any meeting or in another way for promotion of such candidate, then such person shall be liable for a fine of Rs 500 under Section 171H of IPC. Even if a lawyer fails to keep the accounts of the election, he shall be liable for a fine of Rs 500 too under Section 171I of IPC.
Furthermore, there are around 22 offences mentioned under the Representation of People’s Act 1951 which include among others, filing of false affidavit, convening, attending Public Meetings or causing commotion during the concluding hour, promoting enmity between classes of citizens, maintaining Secrecy of Voting and not persuading voters, prohibition of canvassing, etc.
Types of Elections
There are different types of elections conducted at the national, state and Municipal/Panchayat level like the election of President, Vice-President, Loksabha, Rajyasabha, Legislative Assembly, Legislative Council, Municipality, Panchayat, etc.
This article shall talk about the following types of elections in detail:-
National Level Elections
Presidential Election -
The President is considered to be the first citizen of India and is the symbol of solidarity, unity and integrity of the nation. Article 52 of the Constitution describes the President of the country. Further, Article 54 mentions that there shall be an election for the President of India.
The President of India is elected through a single-transferable voting system wherein the voters of the same is an electoral college comprising of the elected representatives of the Parliament and Legislative Assemblies of the States and Union Territories of Delhi, Jammu & Kashmir and Puducherry (since 1992 through Constitutional Amendment Act). However, no nominated members of the houses of Parliament are allowed to vote in the presidential election.
In addition to that, Article 55 of the Constitution describes the manner of the election of the president i.e. president is elected indirectly by an electoral college, the election is done by a secret ballot, and it is held in accordance with the system of proportional representation using a single transferable vote.
There are certain qualifications prescribed in Article 58 of the constitution to contest the election of President i.e. He/She must be an Indian citizen, A person must have completed the age of 35, A person must be qualified for election as a member of the House of the People and must not hold a government (central or state) office of profit. However, a person is eligible for election as President if he/she is holding the office of President, Vice-President, Governor or the office of Union/State Minister.
As the election of the President is conducted through an Electoral College consisting of the Members of Legislative Assemblies and Members of Parliament, there are certain values assigned for the vote of an MLA and MP to keep them as a whole on an equal pedestal.
The value of the vote of an MLA and MP is calculated as follows:-
Total population of State/Total number of elected members in the state legislative assembly * 1/1000
The total value of votes of all MLAs of all states/ Total number of elected members of Parliament
Lok Sabha Elections -
In India, there are two houses in the parliament namely Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha wherein the former is the lower house and the latter is the upper house. The election of the Lok Sabha is conducted based on an adult franchise. Every person who is a citizen of India and is 18 years of age is entitled to vote at the election provided the person is not disqualified under the provisions of the law of land or any statute on the ground of the unsound mind, crime or corrupt legal practice, non-residence, etc.
Lok Sabha is a body of elected representatives who are chosen through direct election based on adult suffrage. The Lok Sabha is sanctioned by the constitution to have a maximum strength of 552 which includes 530 members from the states and up to 20 members from the Union Territories. Previously, the President could nominate two members from the Anglo-Indian community in Lok Sabha. However, this practice was discontinued in the year of January 2020 through the 126th Constitutional Amendment Bill of 2019 when enacted as the 104th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2019.
Direct Election- Every citizen of the country who has attained 18 years of age and is not disqualified by law is eligible to vote in the Lok Sabha election irrespective of his/her social status, religion, caste, race, etc.
Article 84 of the constitution prescribes that a person shall only be qualified to contest the Lok Sabha Election if he is a citizen of India and makes and subscribe before some person authorised on that behalf by the Election commission an oath or affirmation according to the form set out in the third schedule, have attained the age of 25 years and possesses such other qualification as may be prescribed in that behalf by or under any law made by Parliament.
Lok Sabha Elections -
Rajya Sabha is the Upper house of Parliament which has been sanctioned by the constitution as per Article 80 of the constitution. The maximum strength of the Rajya Sabha can be 250 members, out of which 238 members are elected from the States and Union Territories and 12 members are nominated by the President having special knowledge namely, Literature, science, art and social service. Rajya Sabha is a permanent body. One-third of its members retire after every two years.
The members of the Rajya Sabha are not elected by the people directly. Their election is conducted taking into account the members of legislative assemblies of the states as their voters by the system of proportional representation using the single transferable vote. In the election process, every state is allotted a certain number of seats in the Rajya Sabha while the representative of Union Territories is chosen as prescribed in the law enacted by Parliament.
Article 84 of the constitution prescribes certain qualifications to contest the election of Rajya Sabha i.e. citizen of India, before the person authorised by the election commission an oath according to the Third Schedule of the constitution, member for a seat in Rajya Sabha should not be less than thirty years of age and He/she should possess such other qualifications as Parliament may prescribe by law.
State Level Elections
Legislative Assembly Elections -
The Election of the Legislative Assembly is conducted at the State level but it is managed only by the Election Commission of India. Article 170 of the Constitution prescribes that the maximum strength of the legislative assembly shall be 500 and the minimum strength shall be 60.
Direct Election: There is a direct election based on adult suffrage and whosoever has attained the age of 18 years can vote for the election of the legislative assembly.
Nomination of Anglo-Indian Community member: One member from Anglo-Indian Community can be nominated by the governor if the governor feels like it is not adequately represented in the House.
Territorial Constituencies: Each state is divided into different territorial constituencies for election and one member is elected from each constituency.
Qualification to contest election for Legislative Assembly
There are certain qualifications mentioned in Article 173 of the constitution to fulfil to contest the election of the Legislative assembly i.e. if he is a citizen of India and makes and subscribed before some person authorised on that behalf by the Election commission an oath or affirmation according to the form set out in the third schedule, have attained the age of 25 years and possesses such other qualification as may be prescribed in that behalf by or under any law made by Parliament.
Municipal Corporation Elections -
Municipal Corporation is considered to be the institution of self-government after the enactment of the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act in the Constitution of India. The municipal corporation elections are conducted to elect Municipal Councillors and ward representatives for Municipal Corporations.
The election of Municipal Corporation is conducted under the supervision of the State Election Commission wherein the state election commission is an independent body and comprises individual members who served as bureaucrats at the national and state level with huge reputations, integrity and values.
There is a certain qualification which needs to be fulfilled to contest Municipal corporation Elections i.e. He/She must be a citizen of India, must have attained the age of 21 years, and must not have been disqualified under any law for contesting the municipal election, must have registered in ward electoral roll and must have not been employed by any municipal corporation in India.
Panchayati Raj Elections -
Panchayati Raj is the oldest system of local government wherein Panchayat means an assembly of five and raj means the rule. However, it was officially established by the Indian constitution through 73rd Amendment Act, 1992. The Panchayati Raj Elections are also conducted under the supervision of the State Election Commission.
The structure of Panchayati Raj consists of three levels:
Contrary to what is often believed, the Panchayati Raj system is also acknowledged as a sort of direct democracy (i.e., they wield full functions of a government at the village level).
The election of the Panchayati Raj system comprises the voters who are listed on the electoral records and are residents of a village while there is a reservation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes have designated them at all levels in proportion to their numbers and one-third of the seats are reserved for women.
According to Article 243 D of the constitution, this policy also applies to all levels of the chairperson's office. Rotational distribution of the reserved seats among the Panchayat's several constituencies is an option. There is a standard policy with five-year terms for each term. Before the term ends, new elections must be held. In the case of dissolution, elections must be held compulsorily within six months, according to Article 243 E of the constitution.
A person shall be qualified to contest election for Panchayat Elections if he/she makes and subscribes before the returning officer or any other person authorised by the State Election Commission an oath or affirmation according to the form set out for the purpose in the first schedule, his/her name appears in the electoral roll of any constituency in the Panchayat, he/she has completed his 25 years of age and he/she has not been disqualified under any other provisions of this Act.