Highlights of the Bill
- The Bill seeks to amend the Representation of the People Act, 1950 and the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
- The Bill bans conducting exit polls and publishing these results from the time the polls start until all phases of the election are completed.
- Candidates are prohibited from seeking assistance from government employees to further their candidacy. The Bill extends this restriction to other persons who are engaged in the conduct of elections.
- Currently, appeals regarding names on the electoral rolls are submitted to the state chief electoral officer. The Bill allows appeals to be filed with the district magistrate or additional district magistrate.
- If the High Court finds a person guilty of corrupt practices, its order is sent to the President for a decision on disqualification. The Bill requires this communication to be sent within three months.
The Bill reverses the Delimitation Commission's order that reduced the seats reserved for Scheduled Tribes in Mizoram's Assembly from 39 to 38.
Key Issues and Analysis
- Previous attempts by the Election Commission to restrict the publication of opinion and exit polls have been overturned by the Supreme Court. In 2004, the Attorney General of India opined that prohibiting the publication of opinion and exit polls would be a breach of Article 19(1).
- Several other democracies restrict the publication of exit polls during the election period. However, they do not ban the conduct of exit polls.
- In cases where general elections for several state assemblies are held together, it is unclear whether each state would be required to follow exit poll restrictions until elections have been completed for all other states.
- Designating the district magistrate rather than the district election officer as the appellate body for petitions related to electoral rolls may affect the independence of the election process.
- Several recommendations of the Election Commission related to campaigning and criminalization of politics have not been addressed.
The Bill does not explain the reasons for reversing the order of the Delimitation Commission for reservations in Mizoram.