EC to govt: Limit seats a person can contest to one, ban opinion & exit polls

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Soon after taking charge as Chief Election Commissioner, Rajiv Kumar asked the Law Ministry to issue notifications for the linking of Aadhaar with voter IDs, allowing four qualifying dates for eligible people to register as voters, and also renewed the commission’s proposals for banning opinion polls and exit polls as well as limiting the seats from which a candidate can contest to just one, The Indian Express has learnt.

“The EC sent six key proposals to the Law Ministry. We have requested the government to notify the rules for linkage of Aadhaar to voter IDs and also for the four cut-off dates for eligible people to register as voters,” said an EC official who did not want to be named.

In December 2021, Rajya Sabha passed the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 by voice vote, enabling “the linking of electoral roll data with the Aadhaar ecosystem” as the Opposition walked out in protest. Parties had alleged that the government passed the Bill in haste without adequate discussion.

The EC has also sought powers to deregister political parties, a long-standing demand of the poll panel, and sought the modification of Form 24A to mandate the disclosure of all donations above Rs 2,000 instead of Rs 20,000.

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This also comes in the backdrop of the commission’s action against ‘registered unrecognised political parties’ (RUPPs) last month. The EC had announced a clean-up drive initiating “graded action” against more than 2,100 RUPPs for flouting rules, including failure to furnish a contribution report and communicate any change in its name, head office, office bearers and address to the EC.

Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 empowers the commission to register associations and bodies as political parties. However, there is no constitutional or statutory provision that gives power to the EC to deregister parties.

“Many political parties get registered, but never contest election. Such parties exist only on paper. The possibility of forming political parties with an eye on availing the benefit of income tax exemption also cannot be ruled out. It would only be logical that the commission which has the power to register political parties is also empowered to deregister in appropriate cases,” the EC had noted in 2016 in its handbook of proposed electoral reforms.

Renewing another one of its long-standing demands, the EC has sought an amendment of Section 33(7) of the Representation of People Act, 1951 to restrict the number of seats a candidate can contest from. The Act currently allows a person to contest a general election or a group of by-elections or biennial elections from up to two constituencies. In 2004, too, the EC had proposed an amendment of Section 33(7).

It had also recommended a ban on exit polls and opinion polls and said there should be some restriction on conducting and disseminating the results of opinion polls right from the day of the first notification of an election till the completion of the election in all its phases.

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