Electoral Reforms in India

Author: Ritika Gupta, studying Law at the Institute of Law, Kurukshetra University kurukshetra.

This article deals with the electoral reforms in India and the main problems that lead to the reforms in the electoral system of India. This article also delves into the reforms in the past as well as the current reforms in the electoral system of the India.


India is the world’s largest democracy and elections are the most integral part in the democratic form of government. India has an electoral system is both a beacon of democratic system as well a subject of the hindrance in the democratic process due to the malpractices. The India has the huge populations, so conducting free and fair elections is not a small task. The reforms are essential to maintain the transparency and integrity in the electoral  process. In our Indian Constitution, the Election Commission is vested with the power to direct, supervise and control of election process of the country.

*Election Commission of India

The Election Commission of India (ECI) is an constitutional body that administers the election processes in India. It plays an important role in strengthing the democracy of India and made sures that elections to be conducted in the free and fair manner and avoid any type of malpractices.

• Establishment: The Election Commission of India was established on 25 January, 1950 and the provision was made in the Article 324 of the Constitution of India for its establishment.

• Composition: Election Commission of India is a three member body that includes the Chief Election Commissioner and two other election commissioners.

• Tenure: It has tenure of six years or until the age of 65 years, which is earlier applies.

•  1st Chief Election Commissioner: Mr.

  Sukumar Sen

• Current Election Commission Body:

(Chief Election Commissioner)

Shri. Rajiv Kumar

(Two Election Commissioner)

Shri. Gyanesh Kumar

Dr. Sukhbir Singh Sandhu

*Reasons for the Electoral Reforms

• Use of Money Power: The influence of the money in the elections have become a significant concern in the elections. Candidates spends alot of money for publicity, campaigns to compel people to vote in the elections. Sometimes, parties exceed the permissible amount to display the party power.

• Voter Intimidation and malpractices: The other issues in the elections are like voter intimidation, booth capturing, ballot box tampering that undermines the integrity of the electoral process which leads to many electoral reforms.

• Enhancing Transparency and Accountability: There was the need to enhance and ensure transparency in the electoral process, campaigns finance, candidate affidavits and the overall electoral process.

• Casteism and Communalism in Elections: Many parties attract the votes from the people on the basis of the caste and religion which becomes the main issue in the free and fair elections.

• Criminalization of Politics: In elections, the candidates who have criminal backgrounds also get tickets in the elections and sometimes they also won the elections. So many reforms were introduced like disclosure of the criminal records to improve the quality of candidates in the elections.

• Addressing Electoral inequalities:

The reforms also sought to bring down the inequalities and to enhance the representation of women, minorities and marginalized communities in the electoral process.

• To Improve election Management:

The reforms also focused on improving the management in the election process by introducing new technology and also by increasing the independence of the Election Commission of India.

•  To increase Voter Turnout: The reforms are also introduced to increase the participation of people in the elections and especially among the marginalized groups. Many measures like Voter ID cards, Postal ballots and online voter registration have been introduced to resolve the difficulties in accessing polling booths.

• Some Emerging Challenges: Many reforms have been made to tackle with the fake news, social media and ensuring data privacy in elections. Measures like strengthening cybersecurity and political adverting was regulated.

*Electoral Reforms:

There are various electoral reforms with timely needs which are discussed below from time to time:

• Electoral Reforms before 1996

1. Increase in the number of proposers: In 1988, the number of proposers was increased for filing the nomination paper for elections to the Rajya Sabha and State Legislative Council. This was done to prevent the non- serious candidates from contesting the elections.

2. Lowering of Voting Age: The 61st Constitutional Amendment Act of 1988 was introduced which reduced the voting age from 21 years to 18 years for the Lok sabha as well as the assembly elections to make youth a part of the political process.

3. Anti Booth capturing Provisions: In 1989, a provision was made for the adjorunment of pools or countermanding elections in case of booth capturing.

4. Elector’s Photo Identity Card: The Election Commission also started issuing the Elector’s Photo Identity Card (EPIC) for the registerd voters.

5. Electronic Voting Machines(EVM): The use of Electronic Voting Machines were introduced for the voting process. The use of EVMs were first made in the general election in State of Kerala in 1982. In 2004 General elections of the Lok Sabha, EVMs are used in all 543 parliamentary constituencies in the country.

6. Composition of Election Commission changed: The Election Commission was made multi member body for the first time in 1989.But on 1990, the additional election commissioners postiton was abolished. However, again in the 1993, the election commission becomes a three member body which is the structure till date.

7. Transition of Coloured Ballot box to ballot papers: In early years , the coloured ballot boxes were used for each candidate. The voters cast their votes by putting papers into the respective boxes. After that, the ballot papers were introduced in which voters mark their preference on the paper ballots which improved the vote counting accuracy to some extent.

• Electoral Reforms in 1996:

The Dinesh Goswami Committee recommended many reforms for election processes which are mentioned below:

1. Listing of the names of candidates: The candidates that are contesting elections were divided into three categories for the purpose of listing which are recognized political parties candidates,unrecognised political parties candidates and independent candidates.

2. Increase in the Number of Proposers: The nomination of a candidates in the Parliamentary or assembly constituency should be subscribed by 10 registered electors of the constituency as proposers if the candidates is not sponsored by a recognized political party.

3. Disqualification under the Prevention of Insults to the National Honours Act(1971): The reform was made which leads to disqualification of a person for 6 years to contest elections of Parliament and State legislatures if the person is convicted for the offences under this act.

4. Strict Prohibitions introduced: Some strict prohibitions were introduced which leads to the prohibition on the arms and sale of liquor near the polling areas during the elections.

5. Provisions for By-elections: The provision was made which ensures that by- elections were to be held in six months after the vacany.

6. Candidates Restricted to two Constituency: The candidates would not be eligible to contest elections for more than two constituencies.

• Electoral Reforms after 1996 till 2000

1. Postal Ballot Introduced: The postal Ballot system was introduced in 1999 which means that vote can be made through the post. It can only be made under some circumstances by the permission of Election Commission for any class of persons.

2. Increase in the Number of Proposers and Seconders: In 1997, the number of proposers and Seconders for contesting the elections of President and Vice President were increased from 10 to 50(President) and 5 to 20 of (Vice President).

• Electoral Reforms of 2003

1. Declaration of Criminal records, assets etc: In 2003, the Election Commission issued a order which directs every candidate to disclose the information on the matters of conviction, assets, accusation and any liabilities.

2. Parties entitled to accept contribution: The provision was made in 2003, in which the political parties had to report any contribution more than of Rs. 20,000 to the Election Commission for claiming the income tax relief.

3. Free Supply of Electoral Rolls: The Election Commission passed a provision for free supply of electoral rolls and other material to the candidates of recognized political parties for the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections.

4. Introduction of Proxy Voting: The provision was made for voters for armed forces to opt their vote through proxy.

5. Allocation of time on electronic media: In 2003, the provision was also made by the Election Commission to allocate equitable sharing of time on media and cable during the elections to show any matter  to the publish or to address or display to the public.

• Electoral Reforms after 2003 Till 2010:

1. Increase in amount of Security: In 2009, the reform was made to increase the amount of security deposit to be paid by the candidates who are contesting elections to the Lok Sabha. The amount was increased from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 25,000.

2. Restriction on exit polls: Exit polls is an opinion survey regarding how electors have performed with regard to the political party or candidate in the election. A provision was made in 2009, that prohibits conducting exit polls and results publication of exit polls during the elections of Lok Sabha and assembly elections.

3. Time limit for Disqualification: A provision was made in 2009 that added a three month time limit within which the specified authority will have to submit the case of a person who is found guilty of the corrupt practices to the President to determine the question of disqualification.

4. Registration of Indian Citizen Living Abroad: In 2010, a provision was added that every Indian citizen outside the India is entitled to get his name registered in the Parliamentary or assembly constituency near the residence mentioned in the passport of that person and they are entitled to receive their voting rights.

5. Appellate Authority within the district: In 2009, a provision was made for appointment of an appellate authority within the district against the orders of the Electoral Registration Officers instead of the Chief Electoral Officer of the state.

• Electoral Reforms in 2013

1. Immediate Disqualification of Convicted MPs and MLAs: The Supreme Court in the landmark judgement of Lily Thomas held that convicted MLAs and MPs will immediately disqualified as the member of the house of parliament or state legislature without being hu given three months time for appeal.

2. Introduction of VVPAT: The Election Commission in 2013 introduced  the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail god the verification if the voters vote.

3. Addition of NOTA in the EVMs: The Supreme Court of India in 2013 directed the Election Commission of India to add NOTA (None of the Above) option in the EVMs. It means that if any person did not prefer any candidate they can choose NOTA.

4. Online Electoral Rolls: The provision was also made by the Election Commission of India for the online filling of the application forms for enrollment in the electoral rolls.

5. Allowing Persons in Jail and Police Custody to contest elections: In 2013, The Representation of the People Act, 1951 was amended which allows the person in jail or police custody to contest in the elections.

• Electoral Reforms after 2013 till date:

1. Addition of Candidates Pictures on EVMs: In 2015, the Election Commission passed an orders that EVM will carry the symbol of the party,photo of the candidate and his her name to avoid confusion among the common people.

2. Lowered Ceiling on Cash donations: The amount limit on the anonymous cash donations by an individual to the political party was lowered in 2017 from Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 2,000.

3. Lifted the Cap on Corporate Contributions: In 2017, the limit on corporate contributions from 7.5 percent of the net profit of a company’s past three financial years has been removed.

4. Foreign Funding Allowed: The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 was amended and the political parties are allowed to receive foreign funds.

5. Appointment of Election Commissioners: Previously, the Chief Election Commission and other election commissioners were appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Central government but now the new provision made according to which President appoints them based on the recommendations of the Selection Committee comprising the PM, Union Cabinet Minister and the leader of the Opposition party of the Lok sabha.

6. One Nation One Voter ID: To avoid multiple entries and duplicate voter IDs, the Election Commission decided to link the Voter ID cards to Aadhaar numbers. This ensures accuracy of the electoral rolls.

7.Extension of Postal ballots: The Election Commission also extended the Postal ballots to the Non Residents of India (NRIs) and also to the senior citizens above the age of 80 years.

8. Electoral bonds scheme was declared unconstitutional: The Supreme Court in 2024, declared the Electoral bonds scheme unconstitutional because it infringes the right of information of the citizens as the anonymous funding was made to the political parties.

*Case Laws

1. (People’s Union for Civil liberties V. Union of India) 2003

In this case, the Supreme Court held that None of the Above (NOTA) option should be included in the EVMs for voters to express their disapproval to all the candidates.

2. (Lily V. Thomas) 2013

In this case, the Supreme Court of India held that Members of Parliament and Member of State Legislatures who are convicted of a crime or in jail become ineligible to stand in elections or holding the elected seat.


In end, it can be said that India’s electoral system is continuously evolving with needs of the changing time. The journey towards the effective electoral reforms is ongoing and challenging which involves many legislative changes, technological advancements, administrative changes etc. It ensures transparency and fairness in the electoral process which is the soul and heart of the democracy. The continuous reforms are needed for strengthening the democracy and the electoral system.

*Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are electoral reforms?

Electoral reforms means the changes and improvement that are made in the electoral system of the country. This ensures fairness, transparency, accountability in the electoral system.

2. How is the electoral expenditure regulated in India?

Many steps were taken to regulate the electoral expenditure like the limit on the amount that political parties can spend during the time of the election. The candidates also have to gave detailed accounts about their expenses to the Election Commission.

3. What is the model mode of conduct?

The Model Code of Conduct is the set of guidelines that are issued by the Election Commission of India for the political parties and candidates at the time of the election. It prevents the misuse of machinery of the government for electoral gains.



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