Elections 2009 - The Indian Experience Standard Speech

ELECTIONS 2009: THE INDIAN EXPERIENCE

The 2009 General Elections – its challenges and opportunities

The Election Commission of India is an institution vested with the responsibilities of superintendence, direction and control of conduct of elections. It presently consists of a CEC and two ECs. The ECs and the CEC are appointed by the President on the advice of Council of Ministers. It has a small secretariat consisting of about 300 staff in all headed by three Deputy Election Commissioners who are seconded civil servants. It is represented in the States by a small office under Chief Electoral Officer (CEO). The Commission is a lean organisation and has limited staff on a permanent basis. However, during elections State officials are seconded to the Commission for conduct of elections on a temporary basis. The Commission conducts the elections to the President, Vice- President, the Upper House and the Lower House of the Parliament. The Commission derives its authority from the Commission. It also registers and recognizes political parties and adjudicates on the disqualification of elected members. In discharge of its functions, it is independent of the executive. Though appointed by the government, once appointed, the CEC cannot be removed without a cumbersome impeachment procedure. Nor can the terms of the office be modified to the disadvantage of the incumbent. We intend to shortly take up with the Government that the terms of removal of the two Election Commissioners are made the same as those of the Chief Election Commissioner, and we hope Parliament will agree. The Commission is free and indeed is the sole authority to decide the timings of the elections. Once the election process is set in motion by the Commission, the courts cannot interfere with the conduct of elections. Any dispute resolution, till such time as the elections are over, lies with the Commission. Once the elections are over, the Higher courts have the power to entertain election petitions filed by aggrieved parties (candidates) against each other. Normally the Commission or its officials cannot be made party in these cases. Over the years, it has earned the credibility and respect of all stakeholders through impartial, free and fair conduct of parliamentary and state assembly elections conducted on time successively over the years. Even the courts, in various pronouncements have upheld the actions initiated by the Commission to cleanse the electoral system of violence, bribery and other undue attempts to influence the voters and the polls. All the votes cast are counted ion one single day. In this case, the 16th May, 2009, three days after the last phase of polling on 13th May, 2009, the results were announced the same day, and the formal presentation to the President of India of the results was made a the promised time of 06:30 p.m. on 18th May. The General Elections, 2009 to the Lower House of Parliament, recently concluded, has been hailed as a thoroughly successful election both by victor and vanquished. I want to say a little about the preparation of the electoral roll for this election. The fidelity of electoral rolls is the fundamental prerequisite for a free and fair election. An imperfect roll provides scope for both complaint and impersonation and has been a major challenge facing all Election Commissions. In India (ECI), the electoral rolls are revised every year but aware that the General Elections 2009 were due, the Commission started a special drive to cleanse the electoral roll (for elections 2009) beginning in 2008 itself.

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