rticles 324 to 329 in Part XV of the Constitution make the following provisions with regard to the electoral system in our country:
1. The Constitution (Article 324) provides for an independent Election Commission in order to ensure free and fair elections in the country. The power of supertendence, direction and conduct of elections to the Parliament, the state legislatures, the office of the President and the office of the Vice-President is vested in the Commission1. At present, the commission consists of a chief election commissioner and two election commissioners2.
2. There is to be only one general electoral roll for every territorial constituency for election to the Parliament and the state legislatures. Thus, the Constitution has abolished the system of communal representation and separate electorates which led to the partition of the country.
3. No person is to be ineligible for inclusion in the electoral roll on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex or any of them. Further, no person can claim to be included in any special electoral roll for any constituency on grounds only of religion, race, caste or sex or any of them. Thus, the Constitution has accorded equality to every citizen in the matter of electoral franchise.
4. The elections to the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies are to be on the basis of adult franchise. Thus, every person who is a citizen of India and who is 183 years of age, is entitled to vote at the election provided he is not disqualified under the provisions of the Constitution or any law made by the appropriate legislature (Parliament or state legislature) on the ground of non-residence, unsound mind, crime or corrupt or illegal practice4.
5. Parliament may make provision with respect to all matters relating to elections to the Parliament and the state legislatures including the preparation of electoral rolls, the delimitation of constituencies and all other matters necessary for securing their due constitution.
6. The state legislatures can also make provision with respect to all matters relating to elections to the state legislatures including the preparation of electoral rolls and all other matters necessary for securing their due constitution. But, they can make provision for only those matters which are not covered by the Parliament. In other words, they can only supplement the parliamentary law and cannot override it.
7. The Constitution declares that the validity of any law relating to the delimitation of constituencies or the allotment of seats to such constituencies cannot be questioned in any court. Consequently, the orders issued by the Delimitation Commission become final and cannot be challenged in any court.
8. The Constitution lays down that no election to the Parliament or the state legislature is to be questioned except by an election petition presented to such authority and in such manner as provided by the appropriate legislature. Since 1966, the election petitions are triable by high courts alone. But, the appellate jurisdiction lies with the Supreme Court alone.
Article 323 B empowers the appropriate legislature (Parliament or state legislature) to establish a tribunal for the adjudication of election disputes. It also provides for the exclusion of the jurisdiction of all courts (except the special leave appeal jurisdiction of the Supreme Court) in such disputes. So far, no such tribunal has been established. It must be noted here that in Chandra Kumar case5 (1997), the Supreme Court declared this provision as unconstitutional. Consequently, if at any time an election tribunal is established, an appeal from its decision lies to the high court.
Election Commission of India (ECI) Under Article 324 of the Constitution of India, the Election Commission of India is vested with the power of superintendence, direction and control of conducting the elections to the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies. The Election Commission of India is a three-member body, with one Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners. The President of India appoints the Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commissioners.
Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) The Chief Electoral Officer of a state/ Union Territory is authorised to supervise the election work in the state/Union Territory subject to the overall superintendence, direction and control of the Election Commission. The Election Commission of India nominates or designates an Officer of the Government of the state / Union Territory as the Chief Electoral Officer in consultation with that State Government / Union Territory Administration.
District Election Officer (DEO) Subject to the superintendence, direction and control of the Chief Electoral Officer, the District Election Officer supervises the election work of a district. The Election Commission of India nominates or designates an officer of the state Government as the District Election Officer in consultation with the state government.
Returning Officer (RO) The Returning Officer of a Parliamentary or assembly constituency is responsible for the conduct of elections in the Parliamentary or assembly constituency concerned. The Election Commission of India nominates or designates an officer of the Government or a local authority as the Returning Officer for each of the assembly and parliamentary constituencies in consultation with the State Government / Union Territory Administration. In addition, the Election Commission of India also appoints one or more Assistant Returning Officers for each of the assembly and Parliamentary constituencies to assist the Returning Officer in the performance of his functions in connection with the conduct of elections.
Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) The Electoral Registration Officer is responsible for the preparation of electoral rolls for a Parliamentary / assembly constituency. The Election Commission of India, in consultation with the state / UT government, appoints an officer of the government or the local authorities as the Electoral Registration Officer. In addition, the Election Commission of India also appoints one or more Assistant Electoral Registration Officers to assist the Electoral Registration Officer in the performance of his functions in the matter of preparation / revision of electoral rolls.
Presiding Officer The Presiding Officer with the assistance of polling officers conducts the poll at a polling station. The District Election Officer appoints the Presiding Officers and the Polling Officers. In the case of Union Territories, such appointments are made by the Returning Officers.
Observers The Election Commission of India nominates officers of Government as Observers for Parliamentary and Assembly Constituencies.These observers are of various kinds6:
1. General Observers: The Commission deploys General Observers in adequate number to ensure smooth conduct of elections.These Observers are asked to keep a close watch on every stage of the electoral process to ensure free and fair elections.
2. Expenditure Observers: Expenditure Observers from Central Government Services are appointed to keep a close watch on election expenditure of the candidates and to ensure that no inducement is offered to the electors during the entire election process for exercise of their franchise.
3. Police Observers: The Commission deploys IPS officers as Police Observers at State and District levels, depending upon the sensitivity of the Constituency, wherever required.They monitors all activities relating to force deployment, law and order situation and co-ordinate between the Civil and Police administration to ensure free and fair election.
4. Awareness Observers: For the first time in the 16th Lok Sabha Elections (2014), the Commission deployed Central Awareness Observers to oversee the efficient and effective management of the electoral process at the field level, mainly in respect of voter awareness and facilitation.Awareness Observers are deployed to observe the interventions undertaken by the election machinery to bridge the gap in people’s participation in the electoral process particularly in regard to voters’ turnout.They also monitors the various media related aspects of RP Act 1951 and observe the mechanism directed by the Commission at District levels on checking the problem of ‘Paid News’.
5. Micro Observers: In addition to General Observers, the Commission also deploys Micro Observers to observe the poll proceedings on the poll day in selected critical polling stations.They are chosen from Central Government / Central PSUs officials.Micro-Observers verify the BMF at the Polling stations and certify the same before start of polling.They observe the proceedings at the Polling Stations on the poll day right from the mock poll to the completion of poll and the process of sealing of EVMs and other documents to ensure that all instructions of the Commission are complied with by the Polling Parties and the Polling Agents.They also report to the General Observers directly about vitiation of the poll proceedings, if any, in their allotted Polling Stations.
6. Assistant Expenditure Observers: In addition to Expenditure Observers, Assistant Expenditure Observers are appointed for each Assembly segment to ensure that all major election campaign events are videographed and complaints of electoral malpractices are promptly attended.
Time of Elections Elections for the Lok Sabha and every state Legislative Assembly have to take place every five years, unless called earlier. The President can dissolve Lok Sabha and call a General Election before five years is up, if the Government can no longer command the confidence of the Lok Sabha, and if there is no alternative government available to take over.
Schedule of Elections When the five-year limit is up, or the legislature has been dissolved and new elections have been called, the Election Commission puts into effect the machinery for holding an election. The Constitution states that there can be no longer than six months between the last session of the dissolved Lok Sabha and the recalling of the new House, so elections have to be concluded before then.
The Commission normally announces the schedule of elections in a major press conference a few weeks before the formal process is set in motion. The Model Code of Conduct for guidance of candidates and political parties comes immediately into effect after such announcement8.
The formal process for the elections starts with the Notification or Notifications calling upon the electorate to elect Members of a House. As soon as Notifications are issued, candidates can start filing their nominations in the constituencies from where they wish to contest. These are scrutinised by the Returning Officer of the constituency concerned after the last date for the same is over after about a week. The validly nominated candidates can withdraw from the contest within two days from the date of scrutiny.Contesting candidates get at least two weeks for political campaign before the actual date of poll.
On account of the vast magnitude of operations and the massive size of the electorate, polling is held on a number of days for the national elections. A separate date for counting is fixed and the results declared for each constituency by the concerned Returning Officer.
The Commission compiles the complete list of members elected and issues an appropriate Notification for the due constitution of the House. With this, the process of elections is complete and the President, in case of the Lok Sabha, and the Governors of the concerned states, in case of State Assemblies, can then convene their respective Houses to hold their sessions.
Oath or Affirmation It is necessary for a candidate to make and subscribe an oath or affirmation before an officer authorised by the Election Commission9. For any particular election, the authorised persons are, principally, the Returning Officer and the Assistant Returning Officer for the constituency. In the case of a candidate confined in a prison or under preventive detention, the superintendent of the prison or commandant of the detention camp in which he is so confined or is under such detention is authorised to administer the oath. And in the case of a candidate confined to bed in a hospital or elsewhere owing to illness or any other cause, the medical superintendent in charge of the hospital or the medical practitioner attending on him is similarly authorised. If a candidate is outside India, the Indian Ambassador or High Commissioner or diplomatic consular authorised by him can also administer oath/affirmation. The candidate, in person, is required to make the oath or affirmation immediately after presenting his nomination papers and in any case not later than the day previous to the date of the scrutiny10.
Election Campaign The campaign is the period when the political parties put forward their candidates and arguments with which they hope to persuade people to vote for their candidates and parties. Candidates are given a week to put forward their nominations. These are scrutinised by the Returning Officers and if not found to be in order can be rejected after a summary hearing. Validly nominated candidates can withdraw within two days after nominations have been scrutinised. The official campaign lasts at least two weeks from the drawing up of the list of nominated candidates, and officially ends 48 hours before polling closes.
During the election campaign, the political parties and contesting candidates are expected to abide by a Model Code of Conduct evolved by the Election Commission on the basis of a consensus among political parties. The model code lays down broad guidelines as to how the political parties and candidates should conduct themselves during the election campaign. It is intended to maintain the election campaign on healthy lines, avoid clashes and conflicts between political parties or their supporters and to ensure peace and order during the campaign period and thereafter, until the results are declared. The model code also prescribes guidelines for the ruling party either at the Centre or in the state to ensure that a level field is maintained and that no cause is given for any complaint that the ruling party has used its official position for the purposes of its election campaign11.
Once an election has been called, parties issue manifestos detailing the programmes they wish to implement if elected to government, the strengths of their leaders, and the failures of opposing parties and their leaders. Slogans are used to popularise and identify parties and issues, and pamphlets and posters distributed to the electorate. Rallies and meetings where the candidates try to persuade, cajole and enthuse supporters, and denigrate opponents, are held throughout the constituencies. Personal appeals and promises of reform are made, with candidates travelling the length and breadth of the constituency to try to influence as many potential supporters as possible.
Polling Days Polling is normally held on a number of different days in different constituencies, to enable the security forces and those monitoring the election to keep law and order and ensure that voting during the election is fair.
Ballot Papers and Symbols After nomination of candidates is complete, a list of competing candidates is prepared by the Returning Officer, and ballot papers are printed. Ballot papers are printed with the names of the candidates (in languages set by the Election Commission) and the symbols allotted to each of the candidates. Candidates of recognised parties are allotted their party symbols.
Voting Procedure Voting is by secret ballot. Polling stations are usually set up in public institutions, such as schools and community halls. To enable as many electors as possible to vote, the officials of the Election Commission try to ensure that there is a polling station within two kilometres of every voter, and that no polling stations should have to deal with more than 1500 voters. Each polling station is open for at least eight hours on the day of the election.
On entering the polling station, the elector is checked against the electoral roll12, and allocated a ballot paper. The elector votes by marking the ballot paper with a rubber stamp on or near the symbol of the candidate of his choice, inside a screened compartment in the polling station. The voter then folds the ballot paper and inserts it in a common ballot box which is kept in full view of the Presiding Officer and polling agents of the candidates. This marking system eliminates the possibility of ballot papers being surreptitiously taken out of the polling station or not being put in the ballot box.
Since 1998, the Commission has increasingly used Electronic Voting Machines (EMVs) instead of ballot boxes. In 2003, all state elections and by elections were held using EVMs. Encouraged by this, the Commission took a historic decision to use only EVMs for the Lok Sabha election in 2004. More than 1 million EVMs were used in this election.
Electronic Voting Machine An Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) is a simple electronic device used to record votes in place of ballot papers and boxes which were used earlier in conventional voting system. The advantages of the EVM over the traditional ballot paper / ballot box system are given here:
(i) It eliminates the possibility of invalid and doubtful votes which, in many cases, are the root causes of controversies and election petitions.
(ii) It makes the process of counting of votes much faster than the conventional system.
(iii) It reduces to a great extent the quantity of paper used thus saving a large number of trees making the process eco-friendly.
(iv) It reduces cost of printing (almost nil) as only one sheet of ballot paper is required for each Polling Station13.
Supervising Elections The Election Commission appoints a large number of Observers to ensure that the campaign is conducted fairly, and that people are free to vote as they choose. Election expenditure Observers keeps a check on the amount that each candidate and party spends on the election.
Counting of Votes After the polling has finished, the votes are counted under the supervision of Returning Officers and Observers appointed by the Election Commission. After the counting of votes is over, the Returning Officer declares the name of the candidate, to whom the largest number of votes have been given, as the winner and as having been returned by the constituency to the concerned House.
Elections to the Lok Sabha are carried out using a first-past-the-post electoral system. The country is split up into separate geographical areas, known as constituencies, and the electors can cast one vote each for a candidate, the winner being the candidate who gets the maximum votes.
Elections to the State Assemblies are carried out in the same manner as for the Lok Sabha election, with the states and union territories divided into single-member constituencies, and the first-past-the-post electoral system used.
Media Coverage In order to bring as much transparency as possible to the electoral process, the media are encouraged and provided with facilities to cover the election, although subject to maintaining the secrecy of the vote. Media persons are given special passes to enter polling stations to cover the poll process and the counting halls during the actual counting of votes.
Election Petitions Any elector or candidate can file an election petition if he or she thinks there has been malpractice during the election. An election petition is not an ordinary civil suit, but treated as a contest in which the whole constituency is involved. Election petitions are tried by the High Court of the state involved, and if upheld can even lead to the restaging of the election in that constituency.
Table 68.1 Results of Lok Sabha Elections
|Elective Seats||Seats won by Parties (Major)|
|First (1952)||489||Congress 364, Communist 16, Socialist 12, KMPP 9, Jana Sangh 3.|
|Second (1957)||494||Congress 371, Communist 27, Praja Socialist 19, Jana Sangh 4.|
|Third (1962)||494||Congress 361, Communist 29, Swatantra 18, Jana Sangh 14, Praja Socialist 12, Socialists 6.|
|Fourth (1967)||520||Congress 283, Swatantra 44, Jana Sangh 35, CPI 23, CPM 19, Sanyukta Socialist 23, Praja Socialist 13.|
|Fifth (1971)||518||Congress 352, CPM 25, CPI 24, DMK 23, Jana Sangh 21, Swatantra 7, Socialist 5.|
|Sixth (1977)||542||Janata 298, Congress 154, CPM 22, CPI 7, AIADMK 18.|
|Seventh (1980)||542||Congress 353, Janata (Secular) 41, Janata 31, CPM 36, CPI 11, DMK 16.|
|Eight (1984)||542||Congress 415, TDP 28, CPM 22, CPI 6, Janata 10, AIADMK 12, BJP 2.|
|Ninth (1989)||543||Congress 197, Janata Dal 141, BJP 86, CPM 32, CPI 12, AIADMK 11, TDP 2.|
|Tenth (1991)||543||Congress 232, BJP 119, Janata Dal 59, CPM 35, CPI 13, TDP 13, AIADMK 11.|
|Eleventh (1996)||543||BJP 161, Congress 140, Janata Dal 46, CPM 32, TMCM 20, DMK 17, SP 17, TDP 16, SS 15, CPI 12, BSP 11.|
|Twelfth (1998)||543||BJP 182, Congress 141, CPM 32, AIADMK 18, TDP 12, SP 20, Samata 12, RJD 17.|
|Thirteenth (1999)||543||BJP 182, Congress 114, CPM 33, TDP 29, SP 26, JD (U) 20, SS 15, BSP 14, DMK 12, BJD 10, AIADMK 10.|
|Fourteenth (2004)||543||Congress 145, BJP 138, CPM 43, SP 36, RJD 24, BSP 19, DMK 16, Shiv Sena 12, BJD 11, CPI 10.|
|Fifteenth (2009)||543||Congress 206, BJP 116, SP 23, BSP 21, JD(U) 20, Trinamool 19, DMK 18, CPM 16, BJD 14, Shiv Sena 11, NCP 9, AIADMK 9, TDP 6, RLD 5, CPI 4, RJD 4, SAD 4.|
|Sixteenth (2014)||543||BJP 282, Congress 44, AIADMK 37, Trinamool 34, BJD 20, Shiv Sena 18, TDP 16, TRS 11, CPM 9, YSR Congress 9, NCP 6, LJP 6, SP 5, AAP 4, RJD 4, SAD 4.|
Table 68.2 Prime Ministers after each Lok Sabha General Election
|General Elections (Year)||National Parties||Prime Minister|
|First (1952*)||BJS, BPI, CPI, FBL (MG), FBL (RG), HMS, INC, KLP, KMPP, RCPI, RRP, RSP, SCF, SP||Jawaharlal Nehru (15th August, 1947 to 27, May, 1964)|
|Second (1957)||BJS, CPI, INC, PSP||-do-|
|Third (1962)||CPI, INC, BJS, PSP, SSP, SWA||-do-|
|Gulzari Lal Nanda (27th May 1964 to 9th June, 1964)|
|Lal Bahadur Shastri (9th June, 1964 to 11th January 1966)|
|Gulzari Lal Nanda (11th January 1966 to 24th January, 1966)|
|Fourth (1967)||BJS, CPI, CPM, INC, PSP, SSP, SWA||Mrs. Indira Gandhi (24th January 1966 to 24th March 1977)|
|Fifth (1971)||BJS, CPI, CPM, INC, NCO, PSP, SSP, SWA||-do-|
|Sixth (1977)||BLD, CPI, CPM, INC, NCO||Morarji Desai (24th March, 1977 to 28th July, 1979)|
|Charan Singh (28th July 1979 to 14th January 1980)|
|Seventh (1980)||CPI, CPM, INC (I), INC (U), JNP, JNP (S)||Mrs. Indira Gandhi (14th January 1980 to 31st October, 1984)|
|Eighth (1984)||BJP, CPI, CPM, ICS, INC, JNP, LKD||Rajiv Gandhi (31st October, 1984 to 2nd December, 1989)|
|Ninth (1989)||BJP, CPI, CPM, ICS (SCS), INC, JD, JNP (JP), LKD (B)||Vishwanath Pratap Singh (2nd December, 1989 to 10th November, 1990)|
|Chandra Shekhar (10th November, 1999 to 21st June, 1991)|
|Tenth (1991)||BJP, CPI, CPM, ICS (SCS), INC, JD, JD(S), JP, LKD||P.V. Narasimha Rao (21st June 1991 to 16th May 1996)|
|Eleventh (1996)||AIIC (T), BJP, CPI, CPM, INC, JD, JP, SAP||Atal Bihari Vajpayee (16th May 1996 to 1st June, 1996)|
|H.D. Deve Gowda (1st June, 1996 to 21st April 1997)|
|Inder Kumar Gujral (21st April, 1997 to 19th March, 1998)|
|Twelfth (1998)||BJP, BSP, CPI, CPM, INC, JD, SAP||Atal Bihari Vajpayee (19th March, 1998 to 22nd May, 2004)|
|Thirteenth (1999)||BJP, BSP, CPI, CPM, INC, JD(S), JD(U)||-do-|
|Fourteenth (2004)||BJP, BSP, CPI, CPM, INC, NCP||Dr. Man Mohan Singh (22nd May 2004 to 21st May 2009)|
|Fifteenth (2009)||BJP, BSP, CPI, CPM, INC, NCP, RJD||Dr. Man Mohan Singh (22nd May 2009 to 25th May 2014)|
|Sixteenth (2014)||BJP, BSP, CPI, CPM, INC, NCP||Narendra Modi (26th May 2014 to till date)|
*There were 14 recognised parties on all-India basis during 1952 elections.After the first general election, 4 parties were recognized as national parties (Indian National Congress, Praja Socialist Party, Communist Party of India and All India Bhartiya Jan Sangh) in 1953.
Source: Electoral Statistics – Pocket Book (2015), Election Commission of India, pp.118-120.
Table 68.3 Participation in Lok Sabha Elections
|General Elections (Year)||Number of Candidates||Electorate (Million)||Voter Turn-out (Percentage)||Number of Polling Stations|
Table 68.4 Women in Lok Sabha Elections
|General Elections (Year)||Contested||Elected|
Table 68.5 Cost of Lok Sabha Elections
|General Elections (Year)||Cost Borne by Election Commission (In Crores)|
Table 68.6 Largest and Smallest (Area-wise) Lok Sabha Constituencies in Fourteenth General Elections (2004)
|Sl. No.||Constituency||State/UT||Area (sq. km)|
|I. LARGEST CONSTITUENCIES|
|1.||Ladakh||Jammu & Kashmir||173266.37|
|4.||Arunachal West||Arunachal Pradesh||40572.29|
|5.||Arunachal East||Arunachal Pradesh||39749.64|
|II. SMALLEST CONSTITUENCIES|
|1.||Chandni Chowk||NCT of Delhi||10.59|
|2.||Kolkata North West ||West Bengal||13.23|
|4.||Mumbai South Central||Maharashtra||18.31|
|5.||Delhi Sadar||NCT of Delhi||28.09|
Table 68.7 Largest and Smallest (Electors-wise) Lok Sabha Constituencies in Sixteenth General Elections (2014)
|Sl. No.||State / UT||Constituency||Total No. of Electors|
|I. LARGEST CONSTITUENCIES|
|5.||NCT of Delhi||North West Delhi||20,93,922|
|II. SMALLEST CONSTITUENCIES|
|2.||Daman & Diu||Daman & Diu||1,02,260|
|3.||Jammu & Kashmir||Ladakh||1,59,949|
|4.||Dadra & Nagar Haveli||Dadra & Nagar Haveli||1,88,783|
|5.||Andaman & Nicobar Islands||Andaman & Nicobar Islands||2,57,856|
Table 68.8 Articles Related to Elections at a Glance
|324.||Superintendence, direction and control of elections to be vested in an Election Commission|
|325.||No person to be ineligible for inclusion in, or to claim to be included in a special, electoral roll on grounds of religion, race, caste or sex|
|326.||Elections to the House of the People and to the Legislative Assemblies of states to be on the basis of adult suffrage|
|327.||Power of Parliament to make provision with respect to elections to Legislatures|
|328.||Power of Legislature of a state to make provision with respect to elections to such Legislature|
|329.||Bar to interference by courts in electoral matters|
|329A.||Special provision as to elections to Parliament in the case of Prime Minister and Speaker (Repealed)|