India is the largest and one of the most vibrant democracies of the world. It is true that we have been able to run a democratic system for more than 6 decades and we should be proud of it because very few developing nations have actually been able to run a democratic system.
But in recent years unfortunately there has been a growing feeling that the Indian Political System was not working very well. The entry of criminal elements in politics, defections of legislators, communalization of politics, minuses of public office by persons in high positions and money power in elections have made it clear that there are deep seated problems in many sectors of Indian Parliamentary System. How and where did we fail? Does the fault lie with the constitution itself or its implementation? A very suitable answer is that it is mainly the political and electoral system, which has completely derailed the social, economic and administrative fabric of the country.
Now time has come to consider whether we were wrong in adopting the present system of parliamentary democracy. Therefore, the only way to remedy the present malady is to make the political system deliver the goods. And it is not only the politicians who are to blame, but also we are all responsible for the present state of affairs.
The prime need of the hour to bring holistic reforms in the election process is to save the nation from the clutches of 3MPs i.e. money power, muscle power and mafia power and 4cs i.e. communalism, casteism, criminalization and corruption. However, to strike as the root of the problems has been a vigorous debate on criminalization of politics and illegitimate use of excessive and unaccounted money power in election. Several sensible and practical suggestion have also been offered but all efforts at reform have been stymied for want of parliamentary action as it is true that our political parties and leaders, clamor for electoral reforms only just before the elections, but as soon as they come to power they turn a deaf ear to them.
Even after 62 years of independence and 13 general election to the Lok Sabha, we have not been able to make any meaningful reforms in our electoral system. Are we really serious and honest about the free and fair elections?
In recent times there have been many exercise aimed at reforming the electoral system. In the last ten years, there have been several exercise by the Government addressed to maintain the purity of elections and particularly to bring about transparency in the process of election. The role of Election Commission of India is praiseworthy and commendable in this direction. The Election Commission over the years enhanced its credibility by fair, fearless and impartial exercise of its constitutional authority in cleansing the Indian electoral system.
In pursuance of the Supreme Court directions, the Election Commission on 28 June 2002 in exercise of power of superintendence, direction and control of elections of Parliament and State Legislatures, conferred on it by Article 324 of the Constitution directed as follows:- (1) Every candidate at the time of filling his nomination paper for any election to the council of states, house of the people, Legislative Council of a State having such a council shall furnish full and complete information regarding criminal record, financial details and educational qualifications etc. as specified by the Hon’ble court in an affidavit. (2) The said affidavit by each candidate shall be duly sworn before a Magistrate of the First Class or a Notary Public or a Commissioner of Oaths appointed by the High Court of the State Government (3) Non-furnishing of the affidavit by any candidate shall be considered the violation of the order of Supreme Court and the nomination shall be liable to rejection by the returning officer at the time of scrutiny (4) Furnishing of any wrong or incomplete information or suppression of any material information by any candidate in or from the said affidavit may also result in the rejection, apart from inviting penal consequences under the Indian Penal Code of furnishing wrong information or suppression of material fact. (5) The information so furnished by each candidate in the aforesaid affidavit shall be disseminated by the respective returning officers by displaying a copy of of the affidavit on the notice board of his office and also by making the copies thereof available freely and liberally to all other candidates and the representatives of the print and electronic media. (6) If any rival candidate furnishes information to the contrary by mean of a duly sworn affidavit, then such affidavit of the rival candidate shall also be disseminated along with the affidavit of the candidate concerned.
To make the electoral process more fair, transparent Y equitable and to reduce the distortions and evils that have crept into it, the Supreme Court delivered the judgment of 13 March 2003 upholding Lok Satta’s contention that section 33B inserted in haste by an act of Parliament in the representation of people Act 1951 violated the people’s fundamental right to know so that they can drive out criminals from the fray by using their right to ballot. However, the key question is how long can we kept the criminals away from the arena of elections? What steps should be taken to reduce the criminals’ entry into political parties? Nevertheless, the judgment has created a ray of hope for better governance in India. Politicians should not resist the voter’s right to know but try and give it a meaning in a constructive way to protect Parliamentary Democracy.