One Candidate, One Seat

 

Relevancy

  • G.S. Paper 2, Polity

What is the context?

  • The Election Commission has told the Supreme Court that it supports the proposal to allow one candidate to contest from only one constituency in an election.
  • The EC expressed this view in an affidavit it filed in the petition over the matter.

Brief background:-

  • The Supreme Court had in December 2017 issued notices seeking replies from the Election Commission and the Centre on the issue.
  • At the time, the Supreme Court had said the practice of one candidate contesting multiple seats was a drain on the exchequer since it necessitated bypolls.
  • A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging Section 33(7) of the Representation of the People Act of 1951 that allows a person to contest elections to Parliament and state assemblies from two constituencies and sought an end to the practice.

What’s the issue?

  • Political parties across the country field senior leaders from more than one seat in a bid to ensure victory.
  • If they win from multiple seats, these leader are then required to vacate other seats and continue to hold only one.
  • This means a general election is usually followed closely by a bye-election to the seats that have been vacated.

What is section 33(7) of RPA?

  • Section 33(7) of the Representation of People’s Act permits a candidate to contest any election (Parliamentary, State Assembly, Biennial Council, or bye-elections) from up to two constituencies.
  • The provision was introduced in 1996 prior to which there was no bar on the number of constituencies from which a candidate could contest.

 Why should candidates be barred from contesting from more than one seat?

  • One person, one vote & one candidate, one constituency is the dictum of democracy.
  • However, as per the law, as it stands today, a person can contest the election for the same office from two constituencies simultaneously.
  • When a candidate contests from two seats, it is imperative that he has to vacate one of the two seats if he wins both.
  • This, apart from the consequent unavoidable financial burden on the public exchequer, government manpower and other resources for holding bye-election is also an injustice to the voters of the constituency which the candidate is quitting from.

 What is the alternative suggested by the Election commission?

  • The ECI has alternatively suggested that if existing provisions are retained then the 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 his/her winning both seats.
  • The amount in such an event could be Rs 5 lakh for assembly election and Rs 10 lakh for parliament election.
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