Govt draws up road map for electoral reforms

The exercise will cover issues ranging from criminalisation of politics and funding of elections to auditing and financing of political parties, adjudication of election petitions and review of the anti-defection law.

Union Law Ministry and the Election Commission will hold these confabulations for bringing about comprehensive reforms to electoral laws before the government forwards a proposal before Parliament in the first half of next year.

Among the interesting and far-reaching proposals that the EC would put up for discussion include the oft-demanded option of  “none of the above” (candidates) in electronic voting machines to allow voters to register that they were not in favour of any of the candidates in the fray.

Announcing the programme, Union Law Minister M Veerappa Moily and Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi said here on Friday that there would be a total of seven regional consultations from December 12 to February 5, followed by national-level consultations on April 2 and 3 here. The consultations in Bangalore will be held on January 16.

A 9-member core committee, headed by Additional Solicitor-General Vivek K Tankha, has prepared a background paper, which will form the basis of the discussions. The 42-page document has been put up on the homepage of the Law Ministry’s Legislative Department,   http://lawmin.nic.in/legis.html.

This is the first time an attempt is being made to bring in a comprehensive reform of electoral laws and rules since the Constitution came into force, Moily noted.

“Amendments have been made before. But, they were all piecemeal responses to contingencies. But, a comprehensive reform is being attempted for the first time”.

Other proposals include restricting candidates to contest from only one seat instead of the present practice of more than one, ban on Central and State governments issuing advertisements in any manner for six months prior to the date of expiry of the term of the Lok Sabha, should political parties be required to publicly declare their audited accounts annually and submit a copy to the Election Commission for display on its website etc.

The EC will seek opinion on the composition of the State legislative councils, particularly with regard to special representations for graduates and teachers on the grounds that it was “discriminatory” towards other professions; whether there should be a ceiling on election expenditure for council constituencies; and whether false declarations in connection with elections may be made punishable with imprisonment of up to one year.

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