15th Presidential Election, Election to the Office of President of India, 2017

 June 14, 2017 … The term of office of Shri Pranab Mukherjee, President of India,  is ending on 24th July, 2017.   As per Article 62 of the Constitution,  an election to fill the vacancy caused by the expiration of the term of office of the outgoing President is required to be completed before the expiration of  the term.  The law provides that the notification for election shall be issued on or after  the sixtieth day before the expiry of term of office of the outgoing President.

 Article 324 of the Constitution read with the Presidential and Vice – Presidential Elections Act, 1952, and the Presidential and Vice – Presidential Elections Rules, 1974 vests the superintendence, direction and control of the conduct of election to the office of the President of India in the Election Commission of India.  The Election Commission is mandated to ensure  that the election to the office of the President of India, which is the highest elective office in the nation, must be a free and fair election and the Commission is taking all necessary steps for discharging its constitutional responsibility. 

  The President is elected by the members of the Electoral College consisting of:            (I)        elected members of both Houses of Parliament, and (II)       elected members of the Legislative Assemblies of all States including National Capital Territory of Delhi and the Union Territory of Puducherry.

            Article 55 (3) of the Constitution provides that the election shall be held in accordance with the System of Proportional Representation by means of single transferable vote and the voting at such election shall be by secret ballot.  In this system, the elector has to mark preferences against the names of the candidates. Preference can be marked in the international form of Indian numerals, in Roman form, or in the form in any  recognised Indian languages. Preference has to be marked in figures only. The elector can mark as many preference as the number of candidates. While the marking of the first preference is compulsory for the ballot paper to be valid, other preferences are optional.

  For marking the vote, the Commission will supply particular pens. This pen will be given to the electors  in the polling station by the designated official when the ballot paper is handed over. Electors have to mark the ballot only with this particular pen and not with any other pen. Voting by using any other pen may lead to invalidation of the vote at the time of counting, under Rule 31(1) (d) of the Presidential and Vice-Presidential Elections Rules, 1974

The Election Commission, in consultation with the Central Government,  appoints the Secretary General of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, by rotation, as the Returning Officer. Accordingly, the Secretary General, Lok Sabha will be appointed as the Returning Officer for the present election.  Poll for the election will be taken in the Parliament House and in the premises of the State Legislative Assemblies, including the Legislative Assemblies of NCT of Delhi and Puducherry.  The Commission has also decided to appoint Assistant Returning Officers in all State Capitals, including NCT of Delhi and Union Territory of Puducherry, for making arrangements for conducting the poll and for transportation of the ballot boxes and other important documents to and from the Election Commission.  For meeting any eventuality in case the Assistant Returning Officer is not available for any reason, a second Assistant Returning Officer is also being appointed.

The Assistant Returning Officers appointed for Goa State are Shri N.B. Subhedar, Secretary, Goa Legislature Secretariat and Mrs. Namrata Ulman, Joint Secretary, Goa Legislature Secretariat.

 The Chief Electoral Officers of each State including NCT of Delhi and UT of Puducherry shall supervise and coordinate with the Assistant Returning Officers for the conduct of poll at the respective State Capitals and matters such as transport of the ballot boxes and other important documents from the Election Commission to the respective State Capitals and back to New Delhi after the poll.

            Normally, members of Parliament are expected to cast their votes at the Place pf Poll in the Parliament House, New Delhi, and members of State Legislative Assemblies are expected to vote at the respective State Capital.  However, on account of any exigency or special circumstances, the Members of Parliament can vote in any of the polling stations in the State capital/Delhi/Puducherry.  Similarly, any MLA  may vote at New Delhi instead of voting in the  respective State Capital.  For this purpose, the MPs/MLAs concerned have to apply in advance to the Election Commission in the prescribed format so as to reach the Election Commission at least 10 days before the date of poll. The format for making such application will be available with the Returning Officer and with the Assistant Returning Officers.

The Constitution has expressly provided that election to the office of President shall be by secret ballot.  Therefore, the electors are expected to scrupulously maintain secrecy of vote.  There is no concept of  open voting  at this election and showing the ballot to anyone under any circumstances in the case of Presidential and Vice Presidential elections is totally prohibited. Voting procedure laid down in the 1974 Rules provides that after marking the vote in the Voting Compartment, the elector is required to fold the ballot paper and insert it in the Ballot Box. Any violation of the voting procedure will entail cancellation of the ballot paper by the Presiding Officer. As already mentioned in paragraph 4, marking of vote can be done only with the particular pen supplied to the electors in the polling station.

  In this connection, it is also clarified that political parties cannot issue any whip to their MPs and MLAs in the matter of voting in the Presidential election. It is also clarified that as per Section 18 of the Presidential and Vice-Presidential Elections Act, 1952,  the offence of ‘bribery’ or ‘undue influence’ as defined in Sections 171B and 171C of IPC,  by the  returned candidate or any person with the consent of the returned candidate are among the grounds on which the election can be declared void by the Hon’ble supreme Court in an Election Petition.

Counting of votes will be held in New Delhi under the supervision of the Returning Officer. On completion of counting, Return of Election ( in Form 7 appended to the  Presidential and Vice-Presidential Elections  Rules, 1974) will be signed and issued by the Returning Officer declaring the candidate who secures the quota elected. Formal announcement of election of the President will be made by the Commission.

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