With political parties, election contestants and stakeholders considerably digitalising their election campaigns and advertisements, a new trend has developed over the last decade. Consequently, there is immense scope to reimagine the traditional legal framework that regulates these aspects. Is there a necessity to create a new legal framework uniquely to monitor electoral activities on social media apart from the current rules that discipline print and broadcast media? What should be the nature of that alternate legal system for effective regulation of speech and expenditure by parties/candidates on social media which are powered by big data analytics and management teams? These questions can be addressed from the perspective of maintenance and promotion of electoral integrity in the digital space. Alternatively, essays can adopt a rights-based discourse to deal with them, as any regulation of campaigns and advertisements on social media will obviously prompt concerns about freedom of speech and constitutional sustainability. Additionally, legal issues surrounding the intermediary liability of social media companies in this structure could play a role in the discussions. Besides, potential practical challenges like enforcement of electoral silence periods for campaigns on social media and controlling publication of fake and unauthorised exit poll results before the polling finishes that any future legal framework must consider and pay attention could also be discussed. In fact, all these sub-themes could be studied comparatively to justify legal arguments and proposals.
This topic may be viewed from several perspectives. Essays could consider the ECI’s role in protecting the integrity of our electoral democracy. How can the ECI play a role in the decriminalisation of politics? What should be the road ahead for ensuring transparency in fundraising and regulating illegal and unregulated expenditures by political parties during elections? Further, participants may discuss how the legal framework around the Model Code of Conduct could be reworked to ensure that ECI is able to effectively keep politicians and parties in check with regard to violations of the Code. This may be done apart from analysing whether the ECI should be conferred the power to deregister political parties for grievous violations of the rules, and principles of inner party democracy. Besides, one can assess how the ECI may enhance the democratic quotient of this electoral democracy. Essays on voting rights and facilities for NRI voters, diversification of voter education activities to improve voter turnouts, legal aspects concerning the integrity and verification of votes through EVMs, and prevention of voters’ exclusion from electoral rolls may fall under this wing. Additionally, contributions could also focus on addressing the ECI’s institutional independence as an aspect that may help the ECI to perform its role effectively.