New Delhi: Amid a campaign by Team Anna for polls reforms, the Election Commission has disfavoured any proposal to include the 'Right to Reject' or `Right to Recall' clauses in election rules, saying they may not work in a large country like India. (Agencies)
Opposing the proposal to have a `Right to Recall' as in many developed countries, Chief Election Commission S Y Quraishi has held that it will "destabilise" the country, especially in areas where "people already feel alienated".
On the proposal of introducing a clause on Right to Reject, Quraishi said even though the EC has supported introduction of 49-O (rule) button in EVMs for voters to express their displeasure over candidates, the proposal will lead to more frequent elections.
49-O rule of The Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961 describes the procedure to be followed when a valid voter decides not to cast his vote, and decides to record this fact.
"Our main fear is that if we start rejecting all the candidates, we will have another election and people already complain of election fatigue," Quraishi said in an interview to a private TV channel.
The CEC, is however, open to discussion with activist Anna Hazare who has suggested that if all candidates spending crores in elections are rejected by the voters, it will discourage them from overspending and would control election expenditure.
"We have an open mind on this. If a proposal leads to that larger good, then we must consider it. I would like to discuss this interesting point and see what are its implications," said Quraishi, disclosing that he has scheduled a meeting with Hazare later this month on the issue.
The inclusion of right to reject proposal in voting, said Quraishi, could be misused to put out an unintended political message, especially in places like Kashmir and North-Eastern states where people already feel alienated.
"We have to see the implication of everything for the country," said the CEC advocating 49-O button in EVMs instead, which helps voters express their unhappiness over the candidates.
He said, "Instead of a negative force of right to reject, who don't you select a good candidate instead."
The CEC said the Commission had recommended for having 49-O button in EVMs to guard the privacy of voters. "Because if you do not go to vote, one could be intimidated. Secondly, somebody may go in your place to vote instead of you. To guard against this, we have suggested having 49-O button," Quraishi said.
He clarified that the button did not imply or mean the right to reject. "It will only mean that you will be able to express your opinion against a candidate. It will not count in your votes."
On the right to recall proposal, the Chief Election Commissioner said, "It is not possible at all in India, which is a large country. It is there in smaller countries like Switzerland. It can be there in a panchayat election, but not in bigger elections."
He said, "Every loser will start the right to reject from the day he loses", and suggested that voter education as a good solution to it.
"We can instead educate the voters to come out in large numbers and vote for a good candidate." Talking about electoral reforms, the CEC said it has sought debarring such tainted candidates, who have serious criminal cases pending against them and where the court has already framed charges against them, in a bid to cleanse the system.
He admitted that all political parties had opposed the proposal of debarring such candidates, saying false cases are often framed against politicians.
"We are only saying that at least those candidates be debarred who have serious charges like rape, kidnapping, murder and dacoity against them which would lead to imprisonment of more than five years and cases against whom are pending for more than six months prior to elections and against whom charges have already been framed by the court," said Quraishi.
On the point that many innocents will be denied the right to contest polls, the CEC said, "The larger public good is better than individual good."
He supported his viewpoint by saying that the right to contest was not even a fundamental right, but the government was denying four fundamental rights to inmates of prisons, as 70 percent of them were undertrials.
"Are you not denying the right to freedom, right to dignity, freedom of movement and freedom of occupation to most inmates lodged in jails who are yet to be convicted and may be innocent," he countered, stating that "I hope the government is very seriously considering a proposal to debar candidates with heinous crimes pending against them."
The CEC also sought more direct powers to derecognize political parties for violation of guidelines in order to have tighter control on electoral system and help bring in inner-party democracy in political parties, besides appointment of ECs through a collegium to enhance the credibility of the Election Commission.
He favoured making Election Commission a more powerful and stronger body by providing protection to the two other members of EC on the lines provided to CEC.
He favoured the senior-most EC automatically becoming the CEC on his retirement, besides providing it with budget that is charged directly to the Consolidated Fund of India and providing it with powers to have an independent secretariat like that of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
New Delhi: Amid a campaign by Team Anna for polls reforms, the Election Commission has disfavoured any proposal to include the 'Right to Reject' or `Right to Recall' clauses in election rules, saying they may not work in a large country like India.