"I realise that some of my criticisms may be mistaken; but to refuse to criticize judgements for fear of being mistaken is to abandon criticism altogether... If any of my criticisms are found to be correct, the cause is served; and if any are found to be incorrect the very process of finding out my mistakes must lead to the discovery of the right reasons, or better reasons than I have been able to give, and the cause is served just as well."

-Mr. HM Seervai, Preface to the 1st ed., Constitutional Law of India.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Primer on Election Laws

This is an effort to chart the major legislations and important judicial decisions of a period in a series for the benefits of the students of Election Laws.
Legislations and Orders – Election – Part I
1. The Representation of the People Act, 1950

This Act deals with:

a. Allocation of seats and delimitation of constituencies (Sections 3 to 13)
b. Establishes posts - election officers (Sections 13A to 13 CC)
c. Provides for the maintenance of the Electoral Rolls (Sections 13D to 27)
d. Deals with the design of filling of seats of Council of States by the representatives of Union Territories (Sections 27 A to 27 K)

One of the basic legislative bulwarks of the conduct of elections to both Parliament and Legislative Assemblies, along with the Representation of the People Act, 1951

Some of the Important Issues

1. The very issue of delimitation and the potential of gerrymandering.

The legislative framework in India – The Delimitation Commission Acts
So far, there have been four Commissions 1952, 1963, 1973 and 2002. The 2002 Commission was established after the 2001 census under the Chairmanship of Justice Kuldip Singh (Delimitation Act, 2002). The recommendations of the Commission were not acted upon till a notice from the SC in 2007 in pursuance of a petition. Later, on 19 Feb 2008, the President approved the recommendations. The conduct of the 2009 general elections was done on the basis of the redrawn constituencies.

2. The issue relating to the conditions to be registered as a voter

a. Qualifications

-Not less than 18 years
-Ordinarily resident (This was one of the issue in Election Commission of India v. Manmohan Singh (2000) 1 SCC 591. This case prompted the 2003 Amendment to Section 3 of the Representation of People Act, 1951, which later gave rise to the Kuldip Nayar decision)

b. Disqualifications

-Not a citizen of India
-Unsoundness of mind – (There is a debate in the disability law circle that this provision amounts to disenfranchisement of a group)
-Disqualified from voting due to corrupt practices or offences in connection with elections

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