Poll panel seeks to bar candidates from contesting polls from 2 seats

Reviving a 2-decade-old proposal, the poll panel also seeks hefty penalties if a bypoll is forced by candidates winning two seats in a poll

Almost twenty years ago, the Election Commission of India (ECI) had put forth an immensely significant proposal to the government of India. The proposal has as its essence intervention from the part of the administration to halt the practice of leaders contesting elections from two constituencies. Nothing concrete had happened even though it was submitted by the ECI.

Leaders continued with the practice of contesting from more than one seat. The result has been that it is imperative that one of the seats is to be vacated, and thus, bypolls are forced on the nation. It has become a habit among political leaders to file nominations for elections from two different seats or constituencies. And, in the event of the leaders winning from both the seats they contest, they go ahead and vacate one of them. Such instances automatically force on the nation yet another bypoll.

Bypolls are a highly expensive affair, not to mention the other costly stuff like logistics and the tough terrain it puts the administrative and election panel affairs in.  As the trend goes on unhindered, the Election Commission of India has revived its proposal that dates back 20 years seeking to amend legislation and ban people from contesting polls in two seats.

Poll panel calls for amendment of law

The ECI has called for amending the law so as to bring in a ban on people contesting from more than one seat. The poll panel has also mooted that, in case a ban is not possible, at least a hefty fine should be imposed on those vacating one of the constituencies and forcing a bypoll. Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar brought this to the fore at a meeting with the Legislative Secretary in the Law Ministry, said a report.

Issues relating to the poll panel are dealt with by the Legislative Department, which functions as a nodal agency in the government. Going by the current electoral law, it is permissible for a candidate to contest polls from two different constituencies. This is allowed for a general election or a group of bye-elections or biennial elections, the report added.

And, if a candidate gets elected from more than one seat, he / she is permitted to retain only one of the seats won. However, the Representation of the People Act was amended in 1996, so as to restrict a person from standing for the elections in more than two seats. That also means, candidates were allowed to contest from more number of constituencies before this amendment came into effect.

Come 2004, and the ECI put forward a proposal seeking amendment to certain sections in the Representation of the People Act calling for a halt in the practice of candidates contesting from more than one constituency at a time. It was also suggested that a candidate who contests from two different seats will have to bear the expenses incurred for the conduct of a bypoll to the seat that the candidate vacates if he /she is declared winner in both.

Penalty mooted if a bypoll is forced

The proposal also called for a penalty of Rs 5 lakh for State Assembly and Legislative Council elections, and Rs 10 lakh for Lok Sabha polls. The ECI has now mooted revision of the penalties and amendment of the law to bring about a ban on candidates contesting in two different constituencies.

The proposal comes as part of finding means to tide over the extra financial burden on the public exchequer and the manpower and other resources for holding by-elections in such a scenario. The latest we hear on this is that the Law Commission, has come out in support of the proposal that restricts candidates from contesting from more than one seat. But then, the commission is against the suggestion that winning candidates need to deposit an amount that would bear the cost of conducting a bypoll in the event of such a situation.

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