Electoral Reforms : Two-constituency norm

Context:
  • SC is hearing the petition seeking a declaration that Section 33(7) of the Representation of the People Act of 1951, which allows candidates to contest from two constituencies at a time, as invalid and unconstitutional.
 
Government’s View:
  • The government objected to a plea to stop candidates from contesting from two different constituencies, saying such a limitation infringes on a person’s right to contest the polls and curtails the polity’s choice of candidates.
  • The government told the Supreme Court that one-candidate-one-constituency restriction would require a legislative amendment.
  • The government supported Section 33 (7) of the Representation of the People Act of 1951 which restricts candidates to contesting from two constituencies.
  • Before the amendment, candidates could contest from any number of constituencies.
 
Election Commission View:
  • EC informed the Supreme Court that it had proposed the amendment of Section 33(7) way back in July 2004. It was one of the 22 urgent electoral reforms the Election Commission had suggested to a Rajya Sabha Parliamentary Standing Committee.
  • EC had pointed out that there have been cases where a person contests election from two constituencies, and wins from both. In such a situation he vacates the seat in one of the two constituencies.
  • The consequence is that a by-election would be required from one constituency involving avoidable labour and expenditure on the conduct of that by-election.
  • The EC concluded that the law should be amended to provide that a person cannot contest from more than one constituency at a time.
  • The poll body suggested that a candidate should deposit an amount of ₹ 5 lakh for contesting in two constituencies in an Assembly election or ₹ 10 lakh in a general election.
  • This would be used to conduct a by-election in the eventuality that he or she is victorious in both constituencies and has to relinquish one.