One Candidate, One Seat
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.
- 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.