Report No. 255
Restriction on the number of seats from which a candidate may contest
15.1. Section 33(7) of the RPA permits a candidate to contest any election (parliamentary, assembly, biennial council, or bye-elections) from up to two constituencies, presumably to accord greater flexibility to candidates and increase their chances of winning a seat.
Sub-section (7) was introduced through a 1996 amendment, prior to which there was no bar on the number of constituencies from which a candidate could contest; although the amendment did not explain the rationale for restricting the number to two. However, section 70, RPA stipulates that a candidate can hold only one seat at a time, regardless of whether they have been elected to more than one seat.
Thus, if a candidate wins from two seats, section 70 necessitates an unnecessary bye-election at the cost of the exchequer, effort of the ECI, and harassment of the electorate that has to vote again (which might reduced turn out due to election fatigue). Moreover, the cost of conducting a bye-election should not be underestimated. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the ECI estimates that approximately Rs. 10 crore will be spent on each constituency, and bye-elections will probably cost more given the absence of any economies of scale.548
548. Lok Sabha poll cost jumps 80 times from Rs 10 crore to Rs 846 crore since 1952, Economic Times, 8th April 2014,
15.2. Given that a candidate cannot hold two seats at the same time, the Law Commission agrees with the ECI's 2004 proposal that the RPA should be amended to provide that a person cannot contest from more than one seat at a time.549 This proposal has also been endorsed by the Goswami Committee in 1990, the 170th Law Commission Report in 1999, and the Background Paper on Electoral Reforms prepared by the Legislative Department of the Law Ministry in 2010.550
549. ECI 2004 Reforms, supra note 203, at 5
550. Goswami Committee Report, supra note 113, at 21; LCI 170th Report, supra note 108, at para 6.1.1; Background paper, supra note 230, at para 6.5.
15.3. However, the Commission does not endorse the ECI's alternate proposal to require winning candidates to deposit an appropriate amount of money (to the tune of Rs. 5 lakhs for Assembly and Rs. 10 lakhs for Parliamentary elections) being the expenditure for conducting the elections. Such a proposal does not correct the peculiarity in the la.- the exercise of conducting bye-elections will still consume the ECI's time and effort; inconvenience voters, who have to go to the polling station again; and most importantly, not serve as a deterrent to candidates.