New Delhi, Sep.12 (ANI): Minister of Law and Justice Dr. M. Veerappa Moily on Sunday appreciated the commendable work done by the Election Commission of India (ECI) over the years since its inception in 1950 despite cynicism and scepticism expressed from various quarters on different occasions.
Speaking during the second National Seminar on Electoral Reforms, Dr. Moily mentioned how at the time of first election, gloomy predictions were abound.
The British Broadcasting Corporation ("BBC") remained skeptical about the event and reported: "The elections are widely seen as a test for India's ability to succeed as a democracy following independence from Britain two years ago...The polling operation is on a massive scale. There are 176 million people eligible to vote, although only 15% can read or write...Voters are not even required to mark their ballot papers - they simply have to put them into a box marked with the symbol of their favoured candidate." (BBC, 10 February 1952)
Others were even more sarcastic, he said.
Moily said yet India, under its enlightened leadership of the time, went ahead with the elections. "The country firmly put its FAITH into its own people. Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians etc., North Indians, South Indians, Dalits and Brahmins, Men and Women went to vote."
He said it was and still is the greatest spectacle of a living democracy ever seen. "Never before in the history of the world had a society so steeped in poverty and illiteracy ever experimented with electoral democracy. As an act of FAITH, the right to vote was granted to every citizen irrespective of his religion, caste, colour, race, gender and status. It had never happened before," said Moily.
He pointed out that since its inception in 1950, the Election Commission of India has set remarkably high standards for itself.
Dr. Moily mentioned that while speaking of the role of the Election Commission within the framework of the Constitution, Dr. Ambedkar once noted: "The House will realize that franchise is a most fundamental thing in a democracy...The whole of the election machinery should be in the hands of a Central Election Commission which alone would be entitled to issue directives to returning officers, polling officers and others engaged in the preparation and revision of electoral rolls so that no injustice may be done to any citizen in India, who under this Constitution is entitled to be brought on the electoral rolls. That alone is, of I may say so, a radical and fundamental departure from the existing provisions of the Draft Constitution."
Moily was all praise for the Election Commission, as he said: "Ultimately, the EC deserves compliments just because of successfully engaging such a vast electoral of over 700 million people in the exercise of democracy. The number of places where these 700 million electors cast their franchise is around one million. These polling booths are managed on Election Day by five million officials. I cannot but stand in amazement and admiration of the EC considering the nature of the task involved. Today, it is an occasion to truly congratulate them."
Stating that the Election Commission has already covered the entire country with the scheme of Elector's Photo Identity Cards and more than 72% of the total electorate is given EPIC, Moily said, "We need to make it 100% and also flawless."
Moily mentioned about an all-party meeting held on 2-8-2002, in which a draft Bill was circulated providing for disqualification of persons against whom charges concerning heinous offences have been framed by competent court in two separate criminal proceedings.
He said that the said proposal had to be given up on account of the absence of consensus among political parties on the proposed provision, however, "the proposal is worthy of being debated."
Moily talked about some of the reforms which have been under consideration of the Government like--(i) to provide reservation of one-third seats to women in Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies; (ii) to increase reservation of seats in the Panchayati Raj Institution and the Municipalities from 33% to 50%; and (iii) simplify procedure (a) for disqualification of a person found guilty of corrupt practices, (b) making provision for appointment of the appellate authority within the district against the orders of the electoral registration officers instead of Chief Electoral Officer, (c) increase security deposit of the candidates, (d) inclusion of all officials appointed in connection with the conduct of elections; and (e) restriction on conducting and publication of results of exit polls conducted during election to Lok Sabha or Legislative Assemblies.
He expressed his delight to inform that except for No. 1 that is pending consideration before the Lok Sabha, most of the amendments have been already affected.
Moily said that criminalization of politics - 'participation of criminals in the electoral process' - is the soft underbelly of our political system.
He said the growth of crime and violence in society (to the point of encouraging 'mafia' in many sectors) is due to a number of root causes.
Stating that flagrant violation of laws, poor quality of services and the corruption in them, protection for law-breakers on political, group, class, communal or caste grounds, partisan interference in investigation of crimes and poor prosecution of cases, inordinate delays lasting over years and high costs in the judicial process, mass withdrawal of cases, indiscriminate grant of parole, etc., were the more important of the causes, Moily said: "We need to adequately deal with them by evolving mechanisms instead of leaving to the polling personnel."
Moily hoped that the deliberations from the most enlightened group like this would provide a background for the National Consultation on Comprehensive Electoral Reforms to be held shortly. (ANI)