The Election Commission has asked the government to amend laws to bar people from contesting from two seats or, at least as a deterrent, a candidate who vacates a seat necessitating a bypoll should be asked to deposit an “appropriate” amount in state coffers.
The Representation of the People Act, 1951 allows a person to contest a general election or by-elections or biennial elections from a maximum of two constituencies but the candidate can retain only one. Before a 1996 amendment in the electoral laws, there was no bar on the number of seats a person could contest.
In a compendium of electoral reforms proposed by the poll panel to the Law Ministry, released earlier this month, the Commission said it has proposed amendment to section 33(7) of the Act. In its 2004 proposal, the EC had said that if the law cannot be changed to bar people from contesting on more than one seat, then the winning candidate should bear the cost of the by-election to the seat he or she vacates.
The amount then proposed was Rs 5 lakh for state assembly and state legislative council elections and Rs 10 lakh for Lok Sabha polls.
“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 compendium read.
It said the amount it recommended in 2004 should be increased to “something more appropriate for serving as deterrence to the candidates”.
In its report on electoral reforms a couple of years back, the then Law Commission headed by Justice A P Shah (Retd) had also recommended barring candidates from contesting polls from more than one seat.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had vacated his Vadodara seat and retained the Varanasi seat after the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. In the same elections, SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav had vacated Mainpuri and retained Azamgarh.