Right to Information Act & Electoral System in India
Consequent upon the 77th report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, the Right to Information Act 2005 was enacted. The Act came into operation on October 12, 2005. The Act ensures all the citizens the right to information so to bring about transparency and accountability in the functioning of the public institutions. The Act explains the meaning of the information as any material in any form relating to the administration, operation or decision of a public authority. It is an aspect of the right to free speech and expression (Article 19(1)), and includes the right to receive and collect information. The right to information is a constitutional right. Information, it may be stated, is indispensable for the effective working of a true democracy. It is, therefore, necessary that the people are kept informed about what goes on in the country. Sorabjee says: ï¿½Right to Information (leads) to openness, accountability and integrityï¿½.
Justice Mathew, in State of Uttar Pradesh v Raj Narain, 1975, had said, ï¿½In a government of responsibility like ours, where all the agents of the public must be responsible for their conduct, there can be but few secrets. The people of this country have a right to know every public act, everything that is done in the public by their public functionaries....ï¿½ their right to know is derived from the concept of freedom of speech. The Judges case (i.e. S.P. Gupta v Union of India, 1982) too emphasized on the right to information. Section 3 of the Act provides that all citizens have the right to information. Every public authority is required to appoint public information officers (ï¿½PIOï¿½) for providing information to persons requesting information under the Act (Sec. 5). The Information Officer is supposed to give information sought by the people within a specified period of time. The State and the Central Information Commissions have to supervise and monitor the activities relating to this right. However, it needs to be stated that the Right to Information is not absolute, and the public authorities are not under obligation to disclose certain information in the interest of the security of the Sate. The Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) is supposed to present an annual report containing the information as to how many requests were made and action taken on them.
Electoral System in India
India is a constitutional democracy with a parliamentary system of government, and at the heart of the system is a commitment to hold regular, free and fair elections. The seelections determine the composition of the government, the membership of the two houses of parliament, the state and union territory legislative assemblies, and the Presidency and Vice-presidency. The electoral system is being discussed under the following heads:
Delimitation is the redrawing of the boundaries of parliamentary or assembly constituencies to make sure that there are, as nearly as practicable, the same number of people in each constituency. In India, boundaries are meant to be examined after the ten-yearly census to reflect changes in population, for which Parliament by law establishes an Independent Delimitation Commission, made up of the Chief Election Commissioner and two judges or ex-judges from the Supreme Court or High Court.
Reservation of Seats
The Constitution puts a limit on the size of the Lok Sabha at 550 elected members, apart from two members who can be nominated by the President to represent the Anglo Indian community. There are also provisions to ensure the representation of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, with reserved constituencies where only candidates from these communities can stand for election. 3. Indiaï¿½s Election Commission An independent Election Commission has been established under the Constitution in order to carry out and regulate the holding of elections in India. The Election Commission was established in accordance with the Constitution on 25th January 1950. Originally one Chief Election Commissioner ran the commission, but first in 1989 and later again in 1993 two additional Election Commissioners were appointed.
The Election Commission is responsible for the conduct of elections to parliament and state legislatures and to the offices of the President and Vice-President. The Election Commission prepares, maintains and periodically updates the Electoral Roll, which shows who is entitled to vote, supervises the nomination of candidates, registers political parties, monitors the election campaign, including candidatesï¿½ funding. It also facilitates the coverage of the election process by the media, organises the polling booths where voting takes place, and looks after the counting of votes and announces the declaration of results. All this is done to ensure that elections take place in an orderly and fair manner.
Eligibility of the Voter
The democratic system in India is based on the principle of universal adult suffrage; that any citizen over the age of 18 can vote in an election (before 1989 the age limit was 21). The right to vote is irrespective of caste, creed, religion or gender. Those who are deemed unsound of mind, and people convicted of certain criminal offences are not allowed to vote.
The Electoral Roll
The electoral roll is a list of all people in the constituency who are registered to vote in the Elections. Only those people with their names on the electoral roll are allowed to vote. The electoral roll is normally revised every year to add the names of those who turn 18 on 1st January of that year or have moved into a constituency and to remove the names of those who have died or moved out of a constituency. 6. Photo Identity Cards In an attempt to improve the accuracy of the electoral roll and prevent electoral fraud, the Election Commission has pressed for the introduction of photo identity cards for voters.
Holding 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, if the government can no longer command the confidence of the Lok Sabha, and if there is no alternative government available to take over.
Scheduling the 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.
Contestants and Candidates
Any citizen who is registered as a voter and is over 25 years of age is allowed to contest elections to the Lok Sabha or State Legislative Assemblies. For the Rajya Sabha the age limit is 30 years. Candidates for the Rajya Sabha and Vidhan Sabha should be a resident of the same state as the constituency from which they wish to contest. Every candidate has to make a deposit of a certain amount as fixed by law, except for candidates from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes who pay half of the fixed amount. The deposit is returned if the candidate receives more than one-sixth of the total number of valid votes polled in the constituency. Nominations must be supported at least by one registered elector of the constituency in the case of a candidate sponsored by a registered Party and by ten registered electors from the constituency in the case of other candidates. Returning Officers, appointed by the Election Commission, are put in charge to receive nominations of candidates in each constituency, and oversee the formalities of the election. In a number of seats in the Lok Sabha and the Vidhan Sabha, the candidates can only be from either one of the scheduled castes or scheduled tribes.
The number of these reserved seats is meant to be approximately in proportion to the number of people from scheduled castes or scheduled tribes in each state. There are currently 79 seats reserved for the scheduled castes and 41 reserved for the scheduled tribes in the Lok Sabha.
Written by princy