Report No. 255
Preparation and use of Common Electoral Rolls
17.1. Article 324(1) of the Constitution empowers the ECI to, inter alia, supervise, direct, and control the preparation and revision of electoral rolls for all the elections to Parliament and State Legislatures, which it does under the RPA. Similarly, as per Article 243K and 243ZA and the relevant State laws, the State Election Commission supervises, directs, and controls the preparation and revision of electoral rolls for elections to the local bodies. However, the practice between the two is not always coordinated, as per the following observations in the Background Paper on Electoral Reforms prepared by the Legislative Department of the Law Ministry in 2010:
"while some states have coordinated their electoral rolls with those prepared by the Election Commission, there are still some states that significantly modify them. Some states even have different qualifying dates for the State rolls from the Election Commission rolls."562
562. Background paper, supra note 230, at para 6.1.1.
17.2. The ECI has adopted a similar stance noting that State laws have dealt with the issue of electoral rolls for local elections in three different way.- (a) the electoral rolls prepared by the ECI are used as the basis for the preparation and revision of rolls for local body elections; (b) the ECI's electoral rolls are used in toto for the local body elections; and (c) the ECI's parliamentary and assembly rolls are used as a draft for local elections, and are subject to further changes in the form of inclusions and exclusions. In fact, in some cases, the qualifying dates for the Parliamentary/Assembly rolls and local body rolls also differ.563
563. ECI 2004 Reforms, supra note 203, at 20.
17.3. As the Background Paper and the ECI's 2004 reform proposal further note, such non-uniformity of practice amongst States causes duplication of essentially the same task between two different agencies, thereby duplicating the effort and the expenditure. This is especially true inasmuch as in most cases, the preparation and revision of rolls for both types of elections is entrusted to the same machinery at the field level. Further, it increases confusion amongst the voters, since they may find their names present in one roll, but absent in another.
17.4. Consequently, the use of common electoral rolls will save an enormous amount of time and effort, given that the ECI spends considerable money and exercises due care and caution in preparing its electoral rolls for the Parliamentary or Assembly election. Common electoral rolls will allow the use of Parliamentary and Assembly rolls to be used in local body elections through a "cut and paste" method,564 with the requisite modifications based on the wards or polling areas of the local bodies. For instance, section 7E of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957 deals with the preparation and revision of electoral rolls and provides that:
564. ECI 2004 Reforms, supra note 203, at 20.
"(1) The electoral roll for each ward shall be prepared before each general election in such manner as may be prescribed by rules by reference to the qualifying date and shall come into force immediately upon its final publication in accordance with the rules made for the purpose:
Provided that if the Election Commission is satisfied that, instead of preparing a fresh electoral roll of a ward before a general election, it would be sufficient to adopt the electoral roll of the assembly constituency for the time being in force as relates to the ward it may, by order, for reasons to be specified therein, direct that the electoral roll of the assembly constituency for the time being in force as relates to the ward shall, subject to any rules made for the purpose, be the electoral roll of the ward for the general election.
(2) The electoral roll prepared or adopted, as the case may be, under sub-section (1) shall-
(a) unless otherwise directed by the Election Commission for reasons to be recorded in writing, be revised in the manner prescribed by rules by reference to the qualifying date before each by-election to fill a casual vacancy in a seat allotted to the ward; and
(b) be revised in any year in the manner prescribed by rules by reference to the qualifying date if such revision has been directed by the Election Commission:
Provided that if the electoral roll is not revised as aforesaid, the validity or continued operation of the said electoral roll shall not thereby be affected."
17.5. The ECI, in its proposals in 2004 and in the CEC's letter dated
22.11.1999 to the Prime Minister has argued for the inclusion of common electoral rolls on the grounds of national interest in saving time, effort, and expenditure; reducing duplication or work and confusion amongst voters; and the fact that it would not pose "any problems to the electoral machinery in the field as it is the same at the ground level." The ECI relied on the fact that in an attempt to reduce (conduct of) election expenditure, various common items of polling materials such as ballot boxes were already being used in all three Parliament, Assembly, and local body elections.
17.6. The Law Commission fully endorses the above suggestions of the ECI regarding the introduction of common electoral rolls for Parliamentary, Assembly and local body elections. However, given that introducing common electoral rolls will require an amendment in the State laws pertaining to the conduct of local body elections, the Central Government should write to the various States in this regard. We hope that the States will consider amending their laws based on the suggestions of the ECI and the Law Commission.