India is a parliamentary democracy. Regular elections are the means by which any parliamentary democracy works. From the highest policy making body to the local administrative bodies, elections take place for all government bodies to determine the people’s representatives who would rule the country.
Elections for most representational bodies take place every five years – Lok Sabha, state assembly, corporation, municipality, panchayat – except unforeseen circumstances, like the dissolution of a government before term.
Elections are conducted according to provisions in the Constitution of India, supplemented by laws made by Parliament. The major laws are Representation of the People Act, 1950, which mainly deals with the preparation and revision of electoral rolls, the Representation of the People Act, 1951 which deals, in detail, with all aspects of conduct of elections and post election disputes.
With the second largest population in the world, the general elections in India involve management of the largest event in the world. The electorate exceeds 670 million electors in about 700,000 polling stations spread across widely varying geographic and climatic zones. Polling stations are located in the snow-clad mountains in the Himalayas, in the deserts of Rajasthan and in sparsely populated islands in the Indian Ocean (Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep).
The next general election is drawing near. It is going to take place in the early part of 2014.
The Election Commission
The body which conducts these huge electoral exercises, at all levels, is an autonomous body called Election Commission of India (ECI). It is headed by a chief election commissioner (CEC) and two other election commissioners. Under this organisation, in every state and union territory, there is a State Election Commission (SEC), which is headed by a Chief Electoral Officer (CEO).
One of the most important duties of the ECI is registration of voters. Through the registration, electoral rolls are created for every constituency, the geographical area from which a candidate is elected. The area of a constituency depends on the population of the area.
What is EPIC?
Registration of voters enables the election commission to create electoral rolls for each constituency. It is a huge and time-consuming process, considering the millions of voters or electors.
To improve the accuracy of the electoral rolls and prevent fraud, the ECI mandated the creation of photo-identity cards, called electors’ photo-identity card (EPIC). This has become compulsory not only for any person wanting to vote in any election, but is also a general identity for anyone proclaiming to be a citizen of India.
Registration of Voters
For voting, India follows the system of universal adult suffrage. That means, according to ECI, ‘any citizen over the age of 18 can vote in an election (before 1989 the age limit was 21). The right to vote is irrespective of caste, creed, religion or gender. Those who are deemed unsound of mind, and people convicted of certain criminal offences are not allowed to vote.’
Only those whose names are on the electoral roll are allowed to vote.
The electoral roll is normally revised every year to…
• add those who have turned 18 on the 1st of January of that year
• add those who have moved into a constituency
• remove those who have moved out of a constituency
• remove those who have died
If a person is eligible to vote yet not on the electoral roll, he/she can apply to the Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) of the constituency, who will update the register.
There operation of registering names for inclusion in electoral rolls is an intensive process.
• Official enumerators of the Election Commission conduct a house-to-house operation to collect information about electors.
• These intensive revisions are done every five years.
• In between, summary revisions are done to include names of those who have been left out for some reason.
• For this, during specified periods, those who are not on the roll should submit their details through Form 6, available at the local office of the Election Commission.
• Now, the Election Commission allows online registration through Form 6, for which the link is http://eci-citizenservices.nic.in/frmForm6New.aspx
• Those who have shifted residence to a new constituency should also submit their details through Form 6. They need not delete their names in their earlier constituency.
That is done by the Commission.
• If a person has died, ideally, a family member should ideally inform the local office of Election Commission that the name has to be deleted
• During the five-yearly revision of electoral rolls, a draft roll is prepared after the house-to-house enumeration and published at every polling booth location for inviting
claims and objections, for which nine types of forms are available.
• The types of voter registration forms are
o Form 6 – for inclusion if names
o Form 6A – for the inclusion of names of overseas electors
o Form 7 – for any objection on inclusion of names (change of constituency, death, etc.)
o Form 8 – for correction of entries
o Form 8A – for transposition of entry (if an elector has changed home from the polling area of one booth to that of another booth in the same Assembly Constituency)
o Form 13F & G – appointment of proxy and revocation of appointment of proxy or appointment of substitute proxy, respectively, by classified service voter to give vote
o Form 18 – for inclusion of names in graduates’ constituency (for election to state legislative councils)
o Form 19 – for inclusion of names in teachers’ constituency (for election to state legislative councils)
• During the yearly summary revisions of electoral rolls, the existing electoral rolls are published at each polling booth, and claims and objections invited to include, delete,
modify or transpose details
• After due enquiry by the Commission, all the claims and objections are decided and a supplementary electoral roll is prepared and published.
• Even after the final publication of electoral rolls the process of continuous updating of electoral rolls goes on and citizens are free to file any application for the addition,
deletion, modification and transposition with the Electoral Registration Officer.
• As per the law, a name can be registered up to the last date of filing of nominations by candidates standing for election that has been notified by the Election Commission.
• To enable the Electoral Registration Officer to take action on your application, you must apply at least ten days before the last date of filing of nominations by candidates
standing for election that has been notified by the Election Commission. This is required as the ERO has to mandatorily invite objections by giving a seven clear days notice
before including your name in the roll.
• If one applies later than ten clear days before the last date for nominations, the name may not be included for the purposes of that particular election.
The updating of the Electoral Roll only stops during an election campaign, after the nominations for candidates have closed.
Participation of voters in the electoral processes is integral to the successful running of any democracy and the very basis of wholesome democratic elections. Initiatives are constantly taken by the SECs as well as by ECI to educate voters on their rights. For this, Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) programmes are held.
For example, in West Bengal, this year, kite festivals were held in many districts and in Kolkata on the day of Vishwakarma Puja on September 17, when kite flying competitions are traditionally held in the state. Messages from ECI and the logo of ECI were prominently displayed on the kites. The Election Commission would also give the Nirvachak Sahayata Samman Award to the two best organising puja committees in some selected districts, which would popularise the ideas of electoral participation, democracy and registration during the days of the Durga Puja.
To highlight the rights of voters and encourage people to utilise their voting rights, January 25 is celebrated every year as National Voters’ Day.
Exercising the right to vote is one of the biggest tools of democracy.
For that registering in the voters’ list is a must.
Team M3.tv hopes this guide was worthwhile in answering all your queries regarding the same.
Written by Anushtup Haldar for Team M3.tv