Topics Covered: Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act and other related issues.
Govt. increases poll spend ceiling by 10%:
The Law Ministry has increased the ceiling on poll expenditure for Assembly and Lok Sabha elections by 10%.
- An amendment to the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961 in this regard has also been notified.
- The last time the expenditure ceiling was enhanced was in 2014 just ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
Significance of the move:
- The move follows a recommendation by the Election Commission in view of curbs imposed during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
- This also comes as a relief for political parties and candidates as they deal with additional expenditure on public rallies and meetings in view of precautions that need to be taken in line with Covid-19 health protocols.
- This included additional expenditure on sanitisers, masks and regulation of crowds so as to adhere to social distancing norms.
As per the changes:
- The limit for all states/UTs where the cap for Lok Sabha poll was Rs 70 lakh, has been raised to Rs 77 lakh; and for states/UTs with Rs 54 lakh as existing limit, to Rs 59.4 lakh.
- For assembly polls, candidates in states/UTs with Rs 28 lakh as the expenditure limit, can now spend up to Rs 30.8 lakh and those with Rs 20 lakh as existing limit, up to Rs 22 lakh.
Measures in place to ensure transparency:
Candidates must mandatorily file a true account of election expenses with the EC.
- An incorrect account, or expenditure beyond the ceiling can attract disqualification for up to three years under Section 10A of The Representation of the People Act, 1951.
Why there is a need for ceiling on expenditures?
- Limits on campaign expenditure are meant to provide a level-playing field for everyone contesting elections. It ensures that a candidate can’t win only because she is rich.
- The 255th Report of the Law Commission on electoral reforms argued that unregulated or under-regulated election financing could lead to “lobbying and capture, where a sort of quid pro quo transpires between big donors and political parties/candidates”.
Cap on party spends:
The EC has asked the government to amend the R P Act and Rule 90 of The Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, to introduce a ceiling on campaign expenditure by political parties in the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls.
- It should be either 50% of or not more than the expenditure ceiling limit provided for the candidate multiplied by the number of candidates of the party contesting the election.
- The limit will ensure level playing field for all political parties and curb the menace of unaccounted money in elections.
- It will also control the money power used by political parties and their allies.
Supreme Court observations:
Supreme Court of India has said that money is bound to play an important part in the successful pursuit of an election campaign in Kanwar Lal Gupta Vs Amarnath Chawla case.
- Voters get influenced by the visibility of a candidate and party and huge election spending thus impacts voter’s choice.
Various Committees and Commissions in this regard:
- Law Commission of India- 170th Report on “Reform of the Electoral Laws” in 1999.
- Election Commission of India- Report in 2004 on “Proposed Electoral Reforms”.
- Goswami Committee on Electoral Reforms in 1990.
- Vohra Committee Report in 1993.
- Indrajeet Gupta Committee on State Funding of Elections in 1998.
- National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution in 2001.
- Second Administrative Reforms Commission in 2008.
Recently, the Law Commission in its 255th Report has also made several recommendations on electoral reforms under 3 categories namely viz:
- Limits on political contribution and party candidate expenditure.
- Disclosure norms and requirements.
- State funding of elections.
These recommendations of the Law Commission are under consideration of the government.
- Overview of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961.
- Revised poll spending limits.
- About election commission.
- Who decides on issues related to poll spending?
- Is there any limit on party spending?
- Various committees and Commissions in this regard.
Money is bound to play an important part in the successful pursuit of an election campaign. Discuss.
Sources: the Hindu.