EC set to make fresh push for poll reforms

Vastavam web: The Election Commission will make a fresh push for electoral reforms with the government, including making filing of false declaration a ground for disqualification and putting a cap on expenditure by candidates in legislative council polls, in the coming days. While the Law Ministry is the administrative ministry for the Election Commission, the Legislative Department is the nodal unit for issues related to the poll panel.

The President appoints the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners after the Law Ministry initiates the file for their appointment. A Chief Election Commissioner can be removed from the office only through impeachment by Parliament. The President can remove the Election Commissions based on the recommendation of the CEC. The Election Commission had been pushing to extend constitutional protection to the election commissioners. Another proposal that the Election Commission would press for is making electoral law gender neutral for armed forces personnel.

But a bill pending before the Rajya Sabha proposes to replace the term ‘wife’ with ‘spouse’, thus making the provision gender neutral. Members of the armed forces, central armed police forces, personnel of state police forces posted outside their state and employees of the Centre posted outside India are eligible to be enrolled as service voters. “Much depends on Parliament. The bill has been passed by the Lok Sabha… It is a major electoral reform for service voters ahead of the Lok Sabha polls… We want government to get it passed at the earliest,” an Election Commission official said.

Conviction in an electoral offence is a ground for disqualification. “Jail term of six months does not instil fear. Disqualification would,” another official explained. As of now, candidates contesting legislative council elections don’t have a bar on campaigning expenses, which, the Election Commission wants to put a cap on. The expenditure should be half of what is allowed for candidates contesting assembly polls. Every state has a different expenditure limit based on its size, number of voters and assembly seats.