Elections are the backbone of any healthy democracy. They help in ensuring that the people’s will is represented through the parliament of their country as the people choose their own representatives to carry out the most important tasks of the country such as law making, formation of governments, allocation of funds etc. Elections are held every 5 years by the Election Commission of India (ECI), which is an autonomous body set up under article 324 of the Constitution of India. Its powers, functions and tenures are mentioned from articles 324-329.
Can elections be cancelled?
While the ECI has complete authority over conducting elections, issuing voter ID and setting regulations for the parties contesting in elections, it does not have the power to cancel an election in any way. It is a constitutional mandate that elections be held every 5 years. In the 42nd Constitutional Amendment, the Indira Gandhi government passed the resolution to make the tenure of each office to be 6 years from the 5 years mentioned previously. This however, was struck down by the Supreme Court of India, which held that elections form a basic part of the democratic structure in India and hence, fall under the definition of basic structure doctrine propounded by the Supreme Court itself. This basic structure doctrine contains various other aspects of the constitution that cannot be changed or amended by the Parliament. Any change of aspects in the basic structure doctrine is bound to be struck by the Supreme Court.
Can elections be postponed?
While the ECI cannot cancel elections, they can call for the postponement of them under extraordinary situations. In this case, the commission needs to consult with the central government. This postponement is possible by the use of provisions under article 153 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and Article 324 of the Constitution. According to the provisions, the ECI can postpone the elections for up to 6 months from the scheduled dates. In case of a national or state emergency however, the elections can be put on hold for 1 year. A further postponement period of 6 months after the lifting of such emergency is also allowed.
Other postponements due to natural calamities, terrorist threats etc. have all been used previously to delay elections. In an exceptional case, after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi during his election rally, parliamentary elections were postponed for 3 weeks. Hence, it can be very well said that elections can be postponed by the ECI if they find the need to do so in consultation with the governments of the respective states or the centre.
While elections in the country have made use of digital support, such as electronic voting machines and issuance of voter IDs, it has failed to integrate technology to its fullest into the election system.
The parties can be advised to use virtual methods of campaigning rather than physical campaigns which will help in reducing the spread of the virus during the COVID-19 pandemic period. Virtual campaigns are easy to organize and can reach a wider audience if it is broadcasted through popular channels of communication.
As far as elections are concerned, digital ballots are more or less debatable as they are subject to hacking and other malicious attacks by enemy countries. A faster system of election can be established with as many centers available for elections so that social distancing can be followed and the whole process facilitates everyone’s willful participation.
Although it is the duty of the people to vote during the elections, a portion of the population fails to do so. Awareness must be spread about elections and the importance of the votes of the people. More transparency is to be brought about in the electoral system so that fake votes, manipulated voting machines and propaganda is removed from the system. The election commission must take strict immediate action against those who indulge in such malpractices in order to curb such issues.
While the country undergoes the COVID -19 crisis, the ECI should have postponed the state elections in affected states in order to prevent the growth of the second wave. The ECI should have come up with necessary guidelines to curb or reduce as much as possible the spread of COVID due to the elections. While most parties cancelled their rallies, some of them still continued to carry out rallies with least consideration for taking precautions beforehand. All of these really make us wonder whether the powers and standards of operation of the ECI are really up to those mentioned in the constitution.
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
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