Speech by Mr. Navin Chawla at Mexico October 17-19, 2005

AT MEXICO, October, 17-19, 2005

India’s constitutional and electoral democracy is nearly 55 years old. The people of India, the voters and the political parties, all have played their respective roles in a significant manner in strengthening of democratic roots in the country over these five decades and more. Among the institutions which have played major roles in making Indian democracy a role model for the developing nations, are the Election Commission of India and the national media.

Before I deal in some detail on the roles played by the Election Commission of India and the national media in the electoral process of the country, I would like to flag a very recent development initiated by the Union Government towards the further empowering of its people. The Government of India with the approval of the Indian Parliament has recently enacted the “Right to Information Act” and established the institution of the Information Commission of India under this Act. The Information Commission is aimed to enforcing the rights of citizens to demand and access information on various matters relating to Government, its functioning and decision making. This measure will help in increasing transparency in the functioning of the Government and its institutions on the one hand, and empowering our citizens. This is a step in the direction of making Indian democracy more participative.

It goes without saying that free and fair elections form the bedrock of democracy everywhere. And to ensure that elections in India are free and fair, where all political parties and candidates have a level playing field and the voters can vote in secrecy without fear and according to their free will, the Constitution makers have entrusted the task of conducting elections to Parliament, the Legislature of every State and to the Offices of President and Vice-President of India, to the Election Commission of India. The elections to local bodies are, however, the responsibility State Election Commissions of the States concerned.

The Election Commission of India can, justifiably, take pride in having discharged its constitutional duty and obligation of conducting free and fair elections in the country, which has earned for India a commendable reputation in the international community as one of the most stable democracies in the world.

Elections are conducted according to the constitutional provisions, supplemented by laws made by Parliament. The major laws are the Presidential and Vice-Presidential Elections Act, 1952, which deals with all aspects of conduct of elections to the highest elective offices in India, including settlement of all doubts and disputes relating thereto; the Representation of the People Act, 1950 which mainly deals with the preparation and revision of electoral rolls for Parliamentary and Assembly elections; and the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which deals, in detail, with all aspects of conduct of elections to Parliament and State Legislatures and post election disputes.

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