Report No. 170
Views of Political Parties and Interested Persons obtained in Seminar
2.1 The working paper prepared by the Law Commission was communicated to all the recognised political parties, both at the national and State level, the Houses of Parliament, the State Legislatures, to the High courts, bar associations, Election Commission, prominent media personalities, associations and organisations interested in electoral reform and many other public-minded persons. A large number of responses have been received from parties, persons, organisations, associations and individuals which have been duly collated.
In addition to circulating the working paper, the Law Commission also held four seminars to elicit informed opinions and views of the political parties and the responsible members of the public. The first seminar was held on 14th November 1998 at the India International Centre. It was a one-day seminar comprising two sessions. The morning session was devoted to introduction of list system and amendment of Tenth Schedule while the second session was devoted to proposals for curtailing expenditure on elections and the measures to curb the entry and influence of criminal elements.
Certain political parties viz., BJP, CPI(M), CPI, DMK and Shiromani Akali Dal were represented by their spokesmen S/Shri Jana Krishnamurthy, Sitaram Yechury, A.B. Bardhan, T.R. Balu and Manjeet Singh Khera, respectively. Shri Shivraj Patil, MP (former Speaker of Lok Sabha) and Shri Kapil Sibal, MP (a senior advocate) who are members of Congress-I, also participated but in their individual capacity.
Besides the above, senior journalists S/Shri H. K. Dua, C.R. Irani, Inderjit, N.Ram and S.Sahay and senior advocates Shri Shanti Bhushan (former Minister for Law, Government of India), Shri Soli Sorabjee (Attorney General), Shri Rajinder Sachhar (former Chief Justice Delhi High Court), Shri T. R. Andhyarujina (former Solicitor General of India), Shri P. P. Rao, Shri Jitender Sharma and Shri M.C.Bhandare participated. Shri Ram Jethmalani, the Hon'ble Minister for Urban Development participated in both the sessions.
Dr.K.C.Sivaramakrishnan, from the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, Shri V.K.Samayak, President, Voters' Forum, New Delhi, and Shri N.N.Vohra, Director, India International Centre, also participated. The participants put forward several valuable suggestions, observations and comments all of which have been duly recorded in the minutes of the seminar prepared by the Law Commission.
2.2 The second seminar was held at Thiruvananthapuram in the auditorium of the Bar Council of Kerala. Several senior advocates and members of Bar Council of Kerala participated therein which was also addressed by Shri Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer, former Judge Supreme Court of India and an eminent public figure. The minutes of this seminar have also been prepared by the Law Commission.
2.3 The third seminar was held at Bangalore in the premises of the National Law School of India University. Several academicians and professors of law participated in this seminar. The minutes of this seminar have also been prepared by the Law Commission.
2.4 Finally, a National Seminar on Electoral Reforms was held, at New Delhi on 23-24th January, 1999 at Vigyan Bhawan, in association with the Bar Council of India. It was inaugurated by the Hon'ble Prime Minister of India Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee and was presided over by the then Minister for Law, Justice & Company Affairs Dr. M. Thambi Durai. Shri Justice M.N. Venkatachaliah, Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission was the Chief Guest at the inaugural session which was addressed by the Chairman and Members of the Law Commission and of the Bar Council of India.
In his inaugural address, the Prime Minister of India supported the proposals of the Law Commission with respect to introduction of list system, amendment of the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution and amendments to curtail the expenditure on elections and regulation of receipts and expenditure by the political parties. With respect to list system, however, the Hon'ble Prime Minister opined that the suggestions in that behalf may required deeper consideration.
So far as the amendment of section 8 of the Act is concerned, the Hon'ble Prime Minister expressed his agreement while clarifying that mere filing of charges should not be the basis for disqualification. The then Law Minister expressed the anxiety of the Government to bring about reform of electoral law in the interest of a transparent, fair and clean electoral process. Shri Justice M. N. Venkatachaliah commended the initiative taken by the Law Commission in the matter of electoral reform and called for serious and prompt legislative action by Parliament to remove the distortions and defects in the system.
2.5 The National Seminar was divided into five working sessions besides the inaugural and the valedictory sessions. The first session dealt with the amendment of Tenth Schedule to the Constitution. It was presided over by Shri I. K. Gujral, former Prime Minister of India and the main speakers were Shri Shivraj Patil, former Speaker of Lok Sabha and Shri Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer. The second session was presided over by Shri S. Jaipal Reddy, MP (Janata Dal). This session was devoted to introduction of list system.
The main speakers were Shri Justice B.P.Jeevan Reddy, Chairman, Law Commission of India, Dr. N. M. Ghatate, Member, Law Commission of India and Shri D.V. Subba Rao, Member, Bar Council of India. The third session on the morning of 24th January was devoted to curtailing of election expenditure and regulation of income and expenditure of political parties. This session was to be presided over by Shri Inderjit Gupta, MP (former Home Minister) but on account of the delay in the flights, he could not reach Delhi in time. Shri Somnath Chaterjee, MP [CPI(M)] presided over this session.
The main speaker at this session was Shri K. K. Venugopal, senior advocate. The next session pertained to the problems concerning hung Parliament. It was presided over by Shri Arun Mishra, Chairman, Bar Council of India and the main speakers were Shri K. L. Sharma, Vice President of BJP, Shri Justice K. N. Saikia, former Judge Supreme Court of India and Shri T. P. Singh, senior advocate and Member, bar Council of India.
The last session discussed the criminalisation of politics including the proposed amendment of section 8 of the Act. It was presided over by Shri P. A. Sangma, MP (former Speaker of Lok Sabha). The main speakers at this session were Shri Dileep Padgaonker, Executive Editor, The Times of India and Shri V. R. Reddy, senior advocate and former Additional Solicitor General of India.
2.6. In all the above sessions, a large number of persons from political parties, Bar Council of India, bar associations and other public bodies and organisations also spoke.
2.7. The concluding/valedictory session was presided over by Shri George Fernandes, the Hon'ble Defence Minister. The valedictory address was delivered by Shri Justice V.R.Krishna Iyer, former Judge, Supreme Court of India.
2.8. The entire proceedings of this two-day National Seminar were tape recorded.
2.9. The Law Commission has looked into the vast amount of literature on the subject of electoral reforms, in particular, the opinions expressed therein touching the issues considered in this Report.