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India is proud to be a socialist, secular and the largest democratic republic country in the world. On 15th August 1947 the nation obtained independence after centuries of colonial rule. Since then, free and fair elections have taken place at regular intervals, in accordance with the principles enshrined in the Constitution, Electoral Laws and Structure.

What are the election laws in India?

The conduct of elections in India follows various rules and regulations. The elections are held differently for both the center and the state but the rules regulating the conduct of parliamentary and state legislature elections are almost the same. They are the following:

  • Presidential and Vice-Presidential Elections Act 1952: This law applies for election to the offices of President and Vice-President of India
  • Presidential and Vice-Presidential Elections Rules 1974: These are the of rules to the Presidential and Vice-Presidential Elections Act 1952
  • Representation of the People Act 1950: This law mainly deals with the preparation of electoral rolls and their revisions or updation
  • The Registration of Electors Rules 1960: These are some important rules relating to the superintendence of the election’s electoral roll and its updating, along with registration and verification of elector details. It provides guidelines for the registration of eligible electors and the issuance of Voter ID cards. This also contains rules on the inclusion of eligible voters, the exclusion of non-eligible voters and card corrections
  • Representation of the People Act 1951: Concerns post-election issues related to disputes arising, acts of malpractice etc. All such disputes shall be brought before the State High Court of the constituency in question
  • Conduct of Elections Rules 1961: Detailed rules established by the Central Government and the Election Commission pursuant to Section 169 of the Act for each level of the conduct of elections. Those include written notice for holding elections, nomination registration, withdrawal of candidates, review of endorsements, holding the polls and counting votes. In addition, the result-based constitution of the houses is also categorized according to these rules
  • Election Symbols Order 1968: This is the order authorizing the Election Commission to recognize and allocate symbols to political parties.
  • Anti-defection Law 1985: This legislation was enacted by the 52nd Constitutional Amendment during Rajiv Gandhi 's rule and is found in the 10th Schedule of the Constitution also known as the Anti-Defection Act. When a member of a House belonging to a specific party willingly gives up his or her political party membership, or votes or discontinues voting, contrary to the course of his or her political party, or if an independent member joins a political party after the election, that particular member will be liable to be defected.

To better understand the election laws in India, we need to have a clear understanding of the structure of democracy, the types of elections and more. Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors.

Structure of the Indian Democracy

Democracy is one of India's constitution's inalienable fundamental characteristics, and is part of its constitutional framework. The concept of democracy as visualized by the Constitution pre-supposes the method of election to represent the people in Parliament and State Legislatures.

The rule of law must prevail for democracy to thrive, and it is important to choose the best available men as representatives of the people for the proper governance of the country. And for the best possible men to be chosen as representatives of the people, elections must be free and fair, and they must be held in an environment where electors can exercise their franchise of their own free will. Free and fair elections thus form the foundation stone of the Indian Democracy.

India is the world 's biggest Democracy. India holds more elections than any other country in the world, with 28 states and 8 Union territories. 911 million people were eligible to vote in the 2019 Elections to the Legislature. This great election was carried out over a period of 40 days in 11 phases.

Structure of the Indian Government

India has a parliamentary form of government and is officially called as the State of the Union. India's President is the Head of State, and exercises his powers directly or through his subordinate officers.

The State legislature comprising Vidhan Sabha and Vidhan Parishad is headed by that particular state's chief minister whose mechanism of election is identical to that of the Prime Minister. The chief minister also has the duty of appointing the state legislature governor. That's the State Government system.

Three Major Types of Elections in India

General Election - General Election is held to constitute the Lok Sabha, electing Members Of Parliament to all the 543 Indian parliamentary constituencies.

Assembly Elections – Elections to the Legislative Assembly (State Elections) are held in India every 5 years during which the Indian electorate elects the members of the Vidhan Sabha who, in turn, elect the Chief Minister of a State (or Legislative / State Assembly).

By-Election - By-Elections (also called by-polls) are used to fill elected offices which have become vacant between General Elections.

Requirements for Free and Fair Elections

Free And Impartial Authority – This authority should be autonomous and free of any political influence in order to hold elections.

Rules And Regulations – The authority designated to administer the elections must possess the set of rules and regulations necessary for regulating the elections.

Redressal Mechanism – When any doubts or disputes occur during elections, a redressal mechanism is required to address such doubts and disputes.

Overview of the Election Commission of India

In order to conduct free and fair elections, a democratic and constitutional body is required. India being the largest democracy, the administration and management of elections is a mammoth effort. All that is taken care of by one statutory body called the Election Commission of India.

The Indian Election Commission is a permanent constitutional body. On 25 January 1950, the Election Commission was created in accordance with the Constitution. The Commission had its Golden Jubilee celebrated in 2001. India 's Election Commission is an independent statutory body in charge of conducting election processes for the Union and the States in India. The body administers elections to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, the Indian State Legislative Assemblies and the country's President and Vice President Offices.

Structure of the Election Commission of India

It consists of a Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners. Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners are appointed by the President. They have a six year term, or up to the age 65, whichever is earlier. They enjoy the same rank and receive salary and benefits similar to the Indian Supreme Court Judges. The Chief Electoral Officer may only be suspended from office by Parliamentary Impeachment.

In a hierarchical set-up, the Commission has a separate Secretariat at New Delhi, composed of about 300 officials. The Commission is assisted by two or three Deputy Election Commissioners and Director-Generals who are the top most Secretariat officers.

At the state level, the election work is supervised by the Chief Electoral Officer of the State, who is appointed by the Commission from among senior civil servants recommended by the State Government concerned, subject to overall superintendence, direction and control of the Commission. He is a full-time officer in most states and has a small staff support team.

The District Election Officers, Electoral Registration Officers, and Returning Officers, who are assisted by a significant number of junior officials, conduct election work at the district and constituency level.

The gigantic task force to conduct a countrywide general election comprises nearly five million polling staff and civil police. This huge election machine is considered to be on the Election Commission's deputation and is subject to its power, superintendence, and supervision during the election cycle, extending from one and a half months to two months.

The Right to Vote

Right to vote is enshrined in Article 326 of the Constitution of India. The right to vote is not a fundamental or constitutional right but is merely a legal or statutory right. The right came into being, thanks to the constitution, and is still enshrined in it, but the right is governed by a law called the 1951 Representation of People Act.

Model code of conduct

This is a set of rules and regulations formulated and enforced by India's Election Commission to be followed during the conduct of elections by the political parties and the candidates. The laws are divided into various subcategories to make it more accessible for both the political parties and the candidates.

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