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Report No. 255

Electoral Reforms

Chapter 1

Background to the Report

A. History of Electoral Reform in India

"I mean to diminish no individual, institution or phase in our history when I say that India is valued the world over for a great many things, but for three over all others : The Taj Mahal; Mahatma Gandhi; and India's electoral democracy."

- Gopalkrishna Gandhi (2013)1

1. In the foreword to Mr. S.Y. Qureshi's book, An Undocumented Wonder: The Making of the Great Indian Election ix (2014).

"It needs little argument to hold that the heart of the Parliamentary system is free and fair elections periodically held, based on adult franchise, although social and economic democracy may demand much more."

- Supreme Court of India (1978)2

2. Mohinder Singh Gill v. Chief Election Commissioner, (1978) 1 SCC 405, 424, at para 23

1.1. These two quotes, although more than three decades apart, speak to the same message of the importance of democracy, and hence, purity in the election process. It is trite to say but important to note that a fair and unbiased electoral process, with greater citizen participation is fundamental to safeguarding the values of democracy.

1.2. Maintaining the purity of the electoral process however, requires a multi-pronged approach, which includes removing the influence of money and criminal elements in politics, expediting the disposal of election petitions, introducing internal democracy and financial transparency in the functioning of the political parties, strengthening the Election Commission of India (hereinafter "ECI"), and regulating opinion polls and paid news.

1.3. Unfortunately, these are some of the issues, which have plagued the Indian electoral system over the decades and have eroded the trust of many people in the country. Consequently, over the years, a number of committees have examined some of the major challenges and issues affecting India's electoral system and have made suggestions accordingly.

Both the Law Commission in its 170th Report on "Reform of the Electoral Laws" in 1999 and the ECI in its seminal 2004 "Proposed Electoral Reforms" report have addressed some of these challenges. Other Committees and Commissions, which have examined these issues, are:

  • The Goswami Committee on Electoral Reforms (1990)
  • The Vohra Committee Report (1993)
  • The Indrajit Gupta Committee on State Funding of Elections (1998)
  • The Law Commission Report on Reform of the Electoral Laws (1999)
  • The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (2001)
  • The EC.- Proposed Electoral Reforms (2004)
  • The Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2008) (hereinafter ("ARC")

Unfortunately, their recommendations were not followed by legislative action, required for the enhancement of the quality of democracy, by reducing the influence of money and media in politics and ensuring free and fair elections.



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