ACHILESE HEEL OF ELECTION COMMISSION
Brigadier(Retd) Chitranjan Sawant,VSM
The Election Commission of India is a constitutional authority. The body is mandated to hold free and fair election to Lok Sabha, Vidhan Sabha, Rajya Sabha and other elective legislative bodies on as required basis as per law of the land. ECI also holds election to the post of the Rashtrapati and the Up-Rashtrapati in accordance with the laid down procedure. At the beginning there used to be just one Election Commissioner but later two more similar posts were created and filled. The senior most Election Commissioner assumes the office of the Chief Election Commissioner when an incumbent demits office. They are appointed by the Executive which means Government of India. Generally speaking retired IAS officers are appointed to the election commission for a fixed tenure; though appointed by the Executive Branch, they cannot be removed by an executive order of the Executive Branch under the Constitution of India.
The action or the inaction of the ECI is subject to a judicial review. In other words the Supreme Court of India is the final authority to decide whether an action or inaction of the ECI was bonafide decision or a malicious one and should be struck down. However, once the election process is set in motion, the judiciary is reluctant to intervene. In any case after the results are declared, an aggrieved party may knock at the door of the Judiciary for redressal of its grievances. The Judiciary may uphold the election result or strike it down if it fings that the winner had used corrupt practices and must be unseated. The party guilty of corrupt practices may be debarred from contesting another election for a period of six years.
It may be recalled that the Allahabad High Court had found Smt Indira Gandhi guilty of indulging in corrupt practices and unseated her besides debarring her from contesting another election for a period of six years. Smt Indiara Gandhi had thereafter imposed an Internal Emergency in the country to undo the decision of the Allahabad High Court. The rest is history. She paid for it through her nose by losing the next general election.
The Election Commission of India has its headquarters in the Nirvachan Bhawan in New Delhi. Its staff has the limited capability of carrying out day to day work but not beyond that.
WHERE ELECTION COMMISSION IS DISABLED
The Election Commission of India is capable of passing high sounding orders but is incapacitated in ensuring their compliance. At the State level, the Chief Electoral Officer downwards all employees are on the rolls of the State governments concerned. It is true that from the date of notification of an impending election right up to the completion of the election process, all State government employees stand transferred to the rolls of the ECI. However, knowing human nature as we do, every employee is loyal to its permanent masters, that is the State government and takes little interest in ensuring free and fair elections as per the constitutional mandate. The Election Commission has neither the will nor the wherewithal to reverse this trend.
ELECTORAL ROLL IS BEDROCK OF ELECTION
It needs no emphasis that the electoral roll is the bedrock of any election. If a citizen’s name figures therein, he or she is entitled to vote at the booth by showing any valid identity paper, never mind the absence of the election identity card. On the other hand, if the ID card issued by the Election Commission is shown by a voter but his or her name is missing from the electoral roll, the vote of that person cannot be cast.
It is a well known fact that some partisan employees of the State government remove names of genuine citizens of India from the electoral rolls suspecting his vote being cast in favour of a party inimical to the party in power in the State concerned. The scenario described here is a true as the True North. The writer of these lines is an eighty year old citizen of India and has voted in many elections heretofore but the name was surreptitiously removed from the electoral rolls. The same misfortune fell on other members of my family and on some neighbours too. Another sufferer told me in confidence that a housemaid in the neighbourhood who is a a Muslim citizen of a neighbouring country had her name interpolated in the electoral roll and cast her vote too. Isn’t that a disgraceful show for which the Election Commission of India is answerable. Are they bothered? Not that I know of. I lodged complaints twice on line with the ECI, got a registration number too, but that was the end of it. If Shri VS Sampat ever cares to read these lines on the Internet, he may curse himself for this unconstitutional act of his staff.
When Sudha, my wife, lodged a similar complaint on line, she got a stock answer from the ECI that her complaint had been referred to the State Electoral Officer concerned. I sympathize with the age-old practice of the British bureaucracy whose descendants the Indian bureaucracy are, that keep the paper moving from one desk to another until the complainant gets tired and the case is buried under the heap of dust that it gathers day after day. The CEC turns Nelson’s eye to a complaint where action is called for but is active on having flimsy complaints investigated. The action taken by the ECI, if any, is drowned by the drumbeat of professional offenders galore.
Is there any logic in referring a complaint to an officer or his colleagues or staff who are actually guilty of the act or omission complained against? Will the election staff who deleted my name confess?
In Mumbai hundreds of thousands of names of genuine citizens of India were deleted maliciously and the affected persons protested. Shri VS Sampath, Chief Election Commissioner knew in the heart of his hearts that not only a mistake but a Himalayan blunder was committed by the government staff of Maharashtra, presently under command and control of the Election Commission of India. The Chief Election Commissioner of India tendered a public apology for this faux pas. Was that sufficient to answer for a constitutional crime committed by the staff of government of Maharashtra? Certainly not. CEC keeps on ordering filing of FIRs here, there and everywhere but fails to take a decisive action where an action is called for.
Is the ECI toothless? Well, may be. Why not ask for a change in the statute so that the Commission takes some decisive action to look effective. Well, it would be worthwhile inviting the citizens of India for a debate in different zones and elicit opinions. The base is formed there and the new Government of India formed after declaration of results of current elections may be requested to take a fresh look at the electoral laws and make amendments where needed.
CEC may please take necessary steps to ensure that bonafide citizens of India are helped to exercise their franchise and illegal immigrants debarred from voting and deported to their country of origin. It is our constitutional right and we demand that the election commission take some positive steps to make electoral rolls flawless and hold free and fair elections as mandated by the Constitution of India.
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