Election Commission demands imposition of fine on candidates contesting and winning from 2 seats

New Delhi: The Election Commission (EC) wants to discourage candidates from contesting from multiple constituencies, and has proposed fines for MPs who contest two seats and win both, documents obtained by HT show.

Under the election laws of India, if a legislator wins his election from two seats, he must vacate one of the two seats, where a by-election is to be held within six months.

The proposal – which was submitted to the Union Law Ministry a few weeks ago – states that members of state legislatures who successfully contest from two seats and vacate one later will have to pay Rs 5 lakh. Documents show that the figure for MPs is ₹10 lakh.

A person familiar with the matter said the reason behind the fine was that the MLA had to bear some of the cost of the bypolls, which was necessary for his decision to contest from the two seats.

“When a candidate contests from two seats, it is necessary that he has to vacate one of the two seats, should he win both the seats. This, apart from the consequent unavoidable financial burden on the exchequer and manpower and other resources to conduct the bye-election against the resulting vacancy, would be unfair to the voters of the constituency the candidate is leaving,” it said. The person cited above requested anonymity.

The proposal was part of a number of reforms, including a two-year jail term for candidates filing false affidavits. In a recent meeting, Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar, who took over last month, and Election Commissioner Anoop Chandra Pandey asked the Law Ministry to expedite the reforms.

While the Election Commission can propose reforms, the final approval is given by the government which may have to introduce amendments to the Parliament to update the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

“The reform was first proposed in 2004 to amend existing laws to reflect that, if a candidate contests from two constituencies, he must bear the cost of a by-election in the seat that the contestant vacates. decides to do so,” said the person quoted in the first step.

Indian politicians often contest from multiple seats, either in terms of security or to spread their political influence. In the 2014 general election, Prime Minister Narendra Modi contested from Vadodara and Varanasi, the latter vacating the former. In 2019, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi contested from Wayanad in Kerala and Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, but lost the latter.

It was in 1996 that an amendment to the Representation of the People Act limited the number of seats to two that a candidate could contest in an election.

In the 1957 elections, Atal Bihari Vajpayee contested from three constituencies of Uttar Pradesh – Balrampur, Mathura and Lucknow; LK Advani in 1991 from two constituencies – New Delhi and Gandhinagar; and Sonia Gandhi in 1999 from two constituencies – Bellary and Amethi.

The Election Commission also sought the power to deregister political parties, so that it can check tax evasion by parties that are not contesting elections. Within a month of taking over, Kumar has already issued notices to around 2,100 unregistered political parties for alleged tax evasion. While the Election Commission does not have the power to deregister a political party – a move still pending approval from the government – ​​it can raise the issue of financial irregularities and demand mandatory compliance from parties, including sources and methods of donation, disclosures by companies, details of bank accounts and expense details.

The Election Commission has also urged the government to amend the Representation of the People Act to provide for two years imprisonment for filing false affidavits. The person mentioned above said, “Guilty (then) will automatically lead to disqualification.”

Jagdeep Chhokar of the Association Democratic Reforms said contestants should not be allowed to contest from two seats, but expressed doubts on whether the fine was a sufficient deterrent. “The fines of Rs 10 lakh and Rs 5 lakh are arbitrary and appear to have nothing to do with the expenditure incurred,” he said.