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It was the election day for Delhi Assembly Election- 2020. Hence, Associate to whom I report asked me to take a leave. However, around 10 a.m., I get a text message from my Senior asking if I would be interested in assisting him on a poll duty for a political party. Inherently being an apolitical person, I was hesitant to go. I, however, agreed after giving it a careful thought about my participation and learning involved in the whole process. Since it was near, I reached the place within an hour of confirmation, I was asked to bring my laptop along with a wi-fi dongle.


Once there, we assembled on what looked like a few sets of basic tables and chairs next to a busy by lane of Kasturba Nagar Assembly of Delhi. It was then that I got to know that every Assembly seat has a number viz. Kasturba Nagar was numbered 42. As I am taken through the process by my Senior, the attempt to work while broadening my horizon begins. I was supposed to go through electoral rolls[1] of the electors[2] on the electoral search site (www.electoralsearch.in) by inserting their voter information i.e. Electoral Photo Identity Cards (EPIC)[3] number and other valid id details to ensure their eligibility[4] to vote and to provide them with a voting slip (a document issued by the Election Commission of India carrying details of where the voter is enrolled as a voter, the polling station and serial number.)


The voting day is the apogee for the year-round politics and on this day polling booths are the busiest place. Assisting people with their queries and cooperating with the people can be challenging work and assisting a polling agent can turn out to be tremendously interactive for someone who has not experienced anything more than just be present there to cast vote and leave as soon as done. It is interesting to know that there are rules and regulations that govern the whole voting process to ensure that they run smoothly. The whole process of election is backed by a definite set of laws, rules and regulations. All these Rules fall under the purview of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1951.[5]


Some Rules governed by the Representation of Peoples Act, 1951 play a significant role during the day of voting and to comprehend the gist of the process, the following could be helpful as to why and how things are done.


While searching for electoral roll, the foremost question that one might ask is, if there is a rule for the rolls to be published in the first place for the poll duty officer to easily go through them? After a brief exploration, I got familiarized with some rules, one of them is The Registration of Electors Rules, 1960[6]. Rule 21 and Rule 21A of the Registration of Electors Rules, which provides for the inclusion of names inadvertently omitted during the preparation of the Electoral roll and Deletion of names respectively states that the Registration Officer may take remedial action and rectifying such error or omission. This Rule helped me to understand and explain the reasoning behind the omission or deletion of names from the electoral rolls and explain it to the electors who were distressed by their names not being found in the electoral rolls. Subsequently, Rule 22 provides for the final publication of the electoral roll along with the list of amendments prepared by the registration officer, rectifying any clerical or printing errors or other inaccuracies subsequently discovered in the roll and then publish the roll with the list of amendments by making a complete copy thereof available for inspection and displaying a notice in Form 16 at his office. Subrule (2) states that rectified roll together with the list of amendments shall be called as the electoral roll of the constituency.


If further there needs to be a correction of entries and inclusion of names in electoral rolls, Rule 26 provides that an application in the prescribed form shall be presented to the registration officer and then he would direct that one copy thereof be posted in some conspicuous place in his office together with a notice inviting objections to such application within a period of seven days from the date of such posting[7]. The registration officer shall, as soon as may be after the expiry of the period specified consider the application and objections, if satisfied, direct the inclusion, deletion, correction or transposition of entries in the roll as may be necessary.


I understood the concept behind the electoral rolls by reading the abovementioned Rules but still had uncertainties about what happens after these electoral rolls are finally published. Consequently, Rule 32 provides custody and preservation of rolls and connected papers where after the roll for a constituency has been finally published, the papers like one complete copy of the roll; application in regard to the preparation of rolls, paper relating to appeals, papers relating to claims and objection and other such papers shall be kept until the expiration of one year in the office of the registration officer or at a place specified by the chief electoral officer.


Thereafter, if published rolls are to be inspected, Rule 33 has to be read as it provides for the inspection of electoral rolls and connected papers where every person shall have the right to inspect the election papers referred to in Rule 32 and to get attested copies on payment of a fee fixed by the chief electoral officer.


Besides the Registration of Electors Rules,1960, The Conduct of Elections Rules,1961[8] are also helpful to a novice electoral enthusiast like me for understanding the management of the Elections. To elaborate further on the above-mentioned issue of management, questions might arise regarding the fixing of polling hours[9] and arrangements at the polling stations. Immediate reference to Rule 15 & Rule 31 will help in answering such questions. Rule 15 states that the hours fixed for polling under section 56 shall be published by notification in the Official Gazette and Rule 31 enumerates the specifications viz. area of the polling stations, copy of the electoral roll, a copy of the list of contesting candidates and voting compartments providing privacy to the voters.


We provided the voting slips to the electors and informed them about the polling stations where they had to cast their votes. This made me wonder if there are any rules governing the admissions of electors into the polling stations. With equal contentment and surprise, I found the rules after perusing The Conduct of Election Rules, 1961.


Rule 32 provides that the presiding officer will decide the number of electors, to be admitted at a particular time inside the polling station and shall exclude all others, except polling officers, public servants on duty, persons authorized by the Election Commission, candidates, their election agents and one polling agent of each candidate, a child in arms accompanying an elector, a person accompanying a blind or infirm elector who cannot move without help and such other persons as the returning officer or the presiding officer may employ.

In addition to these abovementioned Rules, Election Commission has also formulated a Model Code of Conduct for the Guidance of Political Parties and Candidates[10] wherein Rules are enumerated regarding the Polling Day. Under the said rules as all Political parties and candidates shall cooperate with the officers on election duty, to ensure peaceful and orderly polling and complete freedom of the voters to exercise their franchise without being subjected to any impediment or vexation. The parties shall also supply to their authorized workers, suitable badges or identity cards which shall be in conformity with the rule regarding the supply of identity slip. The said rule states that all identity slips supplied to voters shall be on plain (white) paper and shall not contain any symbol, name of the candidate or the name of the party. All the parties and candidate shall also mandatorily refrain from serving or distributing liquor on polling day and during the forty-eight hours preceding it.


While we were there at the desk, we had to ensure swift dispersion of gathering around the camps set up by the political parties and candidates near the polling booths so as to avoid unnecessary confrontation and restlessness among the workers and the candidate and sympathizers of the parties. I couldn’t help but notice that the polling desk was not displaying the political parties’ symbols and flags. After a quick research, I read the rule which states that all the political parties have to ensure that the candidate’s camps shall be simple. They shall not display any posters, flags, symbols or any other propaganda material. the rule also enumerates that no edibles shall be served at the camps. All the above-mentioned rules of Model Code Conduct are to be strictly adhered to and complied with.

Apart from the enumerated Election Rules and Model Code of Conduct, EC has also made provisions for electors/voters with disabilities, reduced mobility & reduced functions[11], if they fall under any category of the 21 disabilities mentioned in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. If a person suffers from any of these disabilities, they are facilitated to get registered and to vote as in accordance with the Rules for the same. Every Indian citizen with a disability or reduced mobility/functions, having attained the age of 18 years on the qualifying date i.e. the first day of January of the year of revision of electoral roll, unless otherwise disqualified of crime or unsound mind as declared by a competent court, is eligible to be registered as a voter in the roll of the part/polling area of the constituency of which he/she is a resident. Supposedly, if these voters have any inconvenience and are struggling through the process, there are authorities who are easily approachable at the help desk or a booth level officer or a presiding officer requesting assistance for a voter with a disability at the polling station.


Conclusively my experience at a Polling desk and assisting a polling agent was altogether unanticipated but an informative one. Being unsure of myself and having queries about the whole process turned out to be enhancing and revelatory. It is empowering in a sense where old, young, male, female of all colours, shapes and sizes come to you seeking help and suddenly you have answers to almost all their queries. From feeling the pressure to ensuring that the process goes on uninterrupted, to educate the voters while maintaining the composure and making them aware of the process surely felt like surviving a game. The chaos around the streets, people thronging the booth, seeking answers for their queries from polling agents, with their gestures and whispers hiding their unclear intentions for whom they would cast their vote was an enriching exposure.


[1] Section 5 of The Registration of  Electors Rules, 1960 provides Preparation of roll in parts.—(1)The roll shall be divided into convenient parts which shall be numbered consecutively.

(2) The last part of the roll shall contain the names of every person having a service qualification and of his wife, if any, who are entitled to be included in that roll by virtue of a statement made under rule 7.

(3) The names of any person holding a declared office and of his wife, if any, who are entitled to be included in the roll by virtue of a statement made under rule 7 shall be included in the part of the roll, pertaining to the locality in which they would, according to that statement, have been ordinarily resident.

2[(3A) The name of every overseas elector who is entitled to be included in the roll under section 20A, shall be included in the part of the roll pertaining to the locality in which his place of residence in India as mentioned in his passport is located.]

(4) The number of names included in any part of the roll shall not ordinarily exceed two thousand.

[2] Section 2 (e) of the Representation of the Peoples Act,1951 provides that "elector" in relation to a constituency means a person whose name is entered in the electoral roll of that constituency for the time being in force and not subjected to any of the disqualifications.

[3] Rule 28 of the Registration of Electors Rules, 1960 (Statutory Rules and Order); Identity cards for electors in notified constituencies: The Election Commission may, with a view to prevent impersonation of electors and facilitating their identification at the time of the poll, the registration officer shall arrange for the issue to every elector of an identity card prepared in accordance with the provisions of this rule.

[4] Section 62 of Representation of the People Act, 1951

Provides the Right to vote where no other person except who is entered in the electoral roll of by any constituency and not subjected to any disqualifications shall be entitled to vote in that constituency and cannot vote in more than one constituency of the same class, and if a person votes in more than one such constituency, his votes in all such constituencies shall be void.

[5] The Representation of the People Act, 1951, Act No. 43 OF 1951

[6] The Registration of Electors Rules,1960, Published with the Ministry of Law Notifn. No. S.O. 2750, dated the 10th November 1960, Gazette of India, Extraordinary, Part II, Section 3(ii), page 633.

[7] Subrule 3 of Rule 26, The Registration of Electors Rules, 1960 provides The registration officer shall, immediately on receipt of such application, direct that one copy thereof be posted in some conspicuous place in his office together with a notice inviting objections to such application within a period of seven days from the date of such posting.

[8] The Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, Published with the Ministry of Law Notification. No. S.O. 859, dated  15th April 1961, see Gazette of India, Extraordinary, Part II, Section 3(ii), Page 419.

[9] Section 56 of The Representation of the People Act, 1951 provides Fixing time for a poll.—The [Election Commission] shall fix the hours during which the poll will be taken; and the hours so fixed shall be published in such manner as may be prescribed:

Provided that the total period allotted on any one day for polling at an election in [a Parliamentary or Assembly constituency] shall not be less than eight hours.

[10] https://eci.gov.in/mcc/

[11] https://ecisveep.nic.in/pwd/faqs-for-voters-with-disabilities/faqs-for-voters-with-disabilities-r43/