Assembly Elections 2017: What is the process, some laws and facts

Source: Wikipedia (Biswarup Ganguly)

Elections are a basic process which ensures that democracy thrives in a country. Elections as an administrative exercise involve logistics of humongous nature which becomes clear when we look at some numbers. The number of polling stations has increased from 1,96,084 in 1952 (first general election) to 9,27,553 in 2014! Similarly, the number of eligible voters has increased from 17.6 lakh  Indians in 1952 to 8340 lakh in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. 

Election Commission of India

The responsibility of supervision, direction, and control of conducting elections in India lies on Election Commission of India (ECI). ECI is a body which derives its powers from the Article 324 of Indian Constitution. ECI is a three-member body consisting of one Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners. All three election commissioners are equivalent to Supreme Court judges in terms of salaries and allowances etc.

Hierarchy of officers involved in elections

A brief outline of officers who conduct elections is given below:

  • Chief Election Commissioner (CEC)
  • Election Commissioner
  • Chief Election Officer of a State (CEO)
  • District Election Officer
  • Returning Officer
  • Electoral Registration Officer
  • Presiding Officer/ Polling Officer

Functions of ECI apart from conducting elections are

  • Preparation of Electoral rolls – One of the most important functions of the Election Commission is to prepare for identification the up-to-date list of all the persons who are entitled for voting at the poll.
  • Recognition of political parties and allotment of symbols – The Election Commission gives recognition of parties and allotment of symbols.
  • Scrutiny of the nomination papers – The Election Commission of India examines the nomination papers of the candidates. This function is performed by the returning officer who notifies all the contesting candidates the date, time and place for the formal scrutiny of nomination papers.
  • Monitoring of Election Expenses – Every candidate contesting elections is required to maintain and file the accounts of his / her election expenses within a prescribed period after publication of the result of the election. ECI scrutinizes these expenses and can prosecute candidates in case the declarations made are found to be false.

Election laws

Purpose Relevant laws
Election   of President and Vice-President Presidential   and Vice-Presidential Elections Act, 1952.
Elections   for Parliament, State Legislative Assemblies and State Legislative Councils Representation   of People Act, 1952
Elections   for Municipalities, Corporations and other local bodies 73rd and   74th Amendment Act, 1992 and other state laws for local bodies.
Registration   of voters Representation   of People Act, 1950
Registration   of political parties and allotting symbols Part   IV-A of Representation of People Act, 1951 and Election Symbols (Registration   and Allotment) Order, 1968

Other facts about elections in India

Model Code of Conduct (MCC), is a guidance for political parties which they abide by to ensure free and fair elections.

  •  MCC is not a law, but most of its stipulations are covered under other laws.
  • MCC has been created by consensus between political parties and is thus voluntary in nature.

None Of The Above (NOTA)

  •  NOTA means negative voting. NOTA is an option where a voter can come to the polling booth and decide not to vote for any of the candidates contesting. These votes are not taken into consideration in calculating the total number of valid votes.
  • NOTA as an option on electronic voting machines was introduced in December 2013 after the Supreme Court passed an order. This lead to the repeal of Section 49-O of Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 which had a similar provision. It was first time used on a nation wide basis in Lok Sabha election of 2014.