Reviving a nearly two-decade-old proposal, the Election Commission has made a fresh push for amending law to bar people from contesting from more than one seat and has said that if it cannot be done, then a hefty fine should be imposed on those vacating one of the constituencies and forcing a bypoll. In a recent interaction with the Legislative Secretary in the Law Ministry, Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar made this push for the reform first proposed in 2004.
The Legislative Department is the nodal agency in the government to deal with issues related to the EC.
As electoral law stands today, a candidate is permitted to contest an election from two different constituencies in a general election or a group of bye-elections or biennial elections. If a person is elected from more than one seat, then the person can only hold on to one of the seats that he or she won.
In 1996, the Representation of the People Act was amended to restrict a person from contesting polls from, more than two seats. Before the amendment, there was no bar on the number of constituencies from which a candidate could contest.
The poll panel proposed amendment to certain sections in the RP Act in 2004 to provide that a person cannot contest from more than one constituency at a time.
“However, in case the existing provisions are to be retained, a candidate contesting from two seats should bear the cost of the bye-election to the seat that the contestant decides to vacate in the event of him or her winning both seats,” a functionary said citing the proposal.
The amount of fine then was proposed at Rs 5 lakh for state assembly and legislative council election and Rs 10 lakh for Lok Sabha election. The poll panel believes the amount should be appropriately revised.
The Commission believes that when a candidate contests from two seats, it is imperative that he has to vacate one of the two seats should he win both. This, apart from the consequent unavoidable financial burden on the public exchequer and the manpower and other resources for holding by-election against the resultant vacancy, would be an injustice to the voters of the constituency which the candidate is quitting from.
The Law Commission, which advices government on complex legal issues, had supported the proposal of restricting candidates from more than one seat. However, it had not endorsed the Commission’s alternative proposal to require winning candidates to deposit an appropriate amount of money being the expenditure for conducting the elections.