How does the Election Commission of India discharge its constitutional mandate to conduct free and fair elections in the country? What challenges does it face? Analyse.
भारत का चुनाव आयोग देश में स्वतंत्र और निष्पक्ष चुनाव कराने के लिए अपने संवैधानिक जनादेश का निर्वहन कैसे करता है? इसे किन चुनौतियों का सामना करना पड़ता है? विश्लेषण करें।
Candidates can start the answer by writing on role of ECI and its constitutional mandate. Also highlight how it ensure the free and fair election also mention challenges faced by ECI.
The holding of free and fair elections is the sine-qua-non of democracy. To ensure the conduct of elections in free, fair and in an impartial manner, the constitution-makers incorporated Part XV (Articles.324-329) in the constitution and empowered Parliament to make laws to regulate the electoral process.
Ensuring free and fair elections in India:
- Election Commission ensure free and fair election by enforcing and maintaining a model code of conduct before elections and punishes any candidate or party that violates it.
- The Commission had gone to the extent of disciplining the political parties with a threat of de-recognising if the parties failed in maintaining inner-party democracy.
- It upholds the values enshrined in the Constitution viz, equality, equity, impartiality, independence; and rule of law in superintendence, direction, and control over the electoral governance.
- It conducts elections with the highest standard of credibility, freeness, fairness, transparency, integrity, accountability, autonomy and professionalism.
- It ensures participation of all eligible citizens in the electoral process in an inclusive voter-centric and voter-friendly environment.
- The Commission approaches the government well in advance to obtain the names of senior officers for the purpose of appointment as observers before any election.
- Commission via SVEEP, ECI engages more and more voters in the electoral process and ensure their ethical and inducement-free participation in voting.
- Misuse of Government Machinery: Misuse of official machinery: The issue of advertisements at the cost of government and public exchequer highlighting their achievements, disbursements out of the discretionary funds at the disposal of the ministers, use of government vehicles for canvassing etc.
- Distorting Informed Decision Making of Voters: Unregulated populism that offers and distributes ‘irrational freebies’ during election campaigns causes voters to be biased, especially the unprivileged, since freebies can sway them and affect the informed decision-making process for choosing their representatives.
- Lack of Independent Staff: Since ECI does not have its own staff, it relies on those of the Central and State Governments whenever elections are held.
- Politicisation of social media: social media reflects public opinion, that is a currency of democracy. But one of the most common criticisms of social media is that it creates echo chambers where people only see viewpoints they agree with.
- No Statutory Backing for Enforcing Model Code of Conduct (MCC): As far as enforcing Model Code of Conduct (MCC) and other election-related decisions are concerned, there is no clarity regarding the powers of Election Commission of India (ECI) to enforce them on ground.
- Phenomenon of fake news and misinformation – an important aspect of the role that social media are likely to play in the elections is the phenomenon of fake news and misinformation. The social rupture caused by such campaigns, including heightened insecurity for marginalised sections of society, is phenomenal.
- Use of bots and unfair means to trend on social media – The immediacy of the engagement, with deep penetration through the device of posts going viral, sometimes, allegedly, owing to the deployment of bots, creates challenge in conducting free and fair election.
The powers of the EC are enormous and all-encompassing which even exceed the powers of the executive in all election-related issues during the course of the election period. Thereby giving it effective tools in dispensing free and fair elections, only thing that lacks is will and integrity on the part of responsible officials.