TWO SEAT RULE: PUTTING POLITICAL INTEREST ABOVE PUBLIC INTEREST


Introduction
In the political system of our country, it has become a game plan for the political leader to contest from two different electoral seats at the same time to safeguard their victory. The Two Seat rule does not serve any purpose in the electoral system but only protects the political risk of the candidate. It majorly affects the public exchequer. When the public chooses a candidate so that he can develop the constituency during his term period, but it cannot be allowed to abandon the seat as soon as he wins the seat. The abandon takes place because as per the People Representation Act, a candidate can only be allowed to represent one seat in parliament. This seems as cheating with the people of the constituency as soon as the candidate vacates the seat and election is to be organized again at that constituency. 

Indian Laws Backing the Provision
Under Section 33 of the Representation of People Act[1] says that a person can contest the polls from more than one seat but to the maximum of two seats. Section 33 was amended in the year 1996 which inserts the sub - Section (7)[2], prior to which there was no restriction on the candidate to contest from any number of constituencies. The amendment limited the number of seats to a maximum of two. Although, it can be seen that the amendment was not able to justify to contest from two seats in the election. However, Section 70 lay down that the candidate who has won the two seats in the election has to vacate it within a period of ten days.[3] Thus, the one seat will be vacated again, and the election commission has to conduct bye-election again on that seat. It will harass the electorate and the voter turnout will be very less due to the election fatigue.  
It can be seen that both the provision is contrary to each other. One is giving the person the right to contest and the other is to restrict the contested person to keep both the seat. It looks irrational. It simply allows the candidate to misuse the electoral system of our country.

The Opinion of the Different Organizations
The election commission is the regulatory body which conducts election in the country. The body in their report recommended that the provision to contest from the two seats should be amended and made it to the one seat.[4] But the proposal was not accepted by the government.
The report additional mentions that “One leader one constituency should be the rule adopted by the electoral system in India. As like the one person one vote rule in India.” 
Moreover, the law commission in its report[5] agreed with the election commission proposal[6] about the amending Section 33[7] to make it confined to one seat only. It was also been proposed by the Goswami Committee in 1990[8], the 170th law commission report in 1999[9] and the Background Paper on Electoral Reforms prepared by the Legislative Department of the Law Ministry in 2010.[10] The amount which was suggested by the election commission was Rs 5 lakh for assembly election and Rs 10 lakh for parliament election.

The Benefit to the Political Leaders
The trend from contesting from the two seats can be seen from the time of independence. Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi contested from two parliamentary constituencies which were Medak in Andhra Pradesh and Rae Bareli in UP in the year in 1980. Then in 1999, Congress president Sonia Gandhi contested from Bellary in Karnataka and Amethi in UP. There are many other leaders like Rahul Gandhi (Amethi and Wayanad) and Narendra Modi (Varanasi and Vadodara) etc.
The main reason for these leaders contesting from two seats can be seen as because they may not be confident of winning from one seat. They keep the second seat as the backup.  
The other reason can be that the leader wants to show its influence on the public by contesting two seats from different regions of the country.  Like we can take the case of the 2014 election when the prime minister candidate Nagendra Modi contested from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and Vadodara in Gujarat. 

Public Interest Affected by the Rule
The proposal recommended by the election commission[11] was elapsed after the period of time as the government was not inclined to change the rule to serve their political interest above the inserts to the public.  Even, the form chief T.R. Krishnamurthy election commissioner stated that there is no rational explanation for allowing a candidate to contest from more than one constituency in the election.
Some scholar mentions that depositing money by the candidate from two seats may not be the way out. The deposition of money cannot be considered as an issue for the candidate fighting from two constituencies. The candidate will not have any problem to pay a minimal amount of five to ten lacs for contesting from two seats. It can be seen that not only the election commission has to spend the money in the re-election but the person who is casting the vote will also spend some amount in traveling or other things leading into crores of rupees altogether. 
Moreover, the cost of conducting the election cannot be neglected. In the 2019 election, it is been reported that approximately $7 billion money was spent on 543 constituencies.[12]  
Some scholar suggests that when the person vacates a seat after winning, then the better alternative option will be to declare the candidate who secured the second-highest vote as a winner than going for the election of that seat. If we look at the suggestion, it does contrary to the very fundamental principle of the democratic election that is the person with the highest vote to win the seat. It cannot be a feasible option to go for. Just for saving the money, the constitution of India's basic principle cannot be compromised. 

Conclusion
As the government has failed to amend this Two-seat rule which is contrary to the interest of the public and basic norms of the constitution. After the recommendation of the election commission report[13],  the government has not taken anything to look into its amendment. It is the right time for the Supreme Court of India to look into the matter and decide the issue in favor of public interest. Moreover, it can be seen that the two-seat rule is the same as the issue of bigamy in India. The laws of India punish the bigamy committed by the person. When the person in India is not allowed to marry twice when having one spouse. Then, the candidate should not be allowed to marry more than one seat and divorce the other seat as soon as winning the case. 
Further, recently the government has proposed one country one election in the parliament. The proposal will not be fulfilled in the real sense until the one candidate one constituency is been made. So, it is time to amend the section and remove the two-seat rule for the laws of India.

References
[1] Section 33, Representation of People Act, 1951.
[2] Section 33 (7), Representation of People Act, 1951.
[3] Section 70, Representation of People Act, 1951.
[4] Chapter 4, Proposed Electoral Reforms, Election Commission of India, 2004.
[5] 244h Report, Electoral Disqualifications, Government of India, February 2014.
[6] Chapter 4, Proposed Electoral Reforms, Election Commission of India, 2004.
[7] Section 33, Representation of People Act, 1951.
[8] Electoral Reforms, Goswami Committee, Committee on Electoral Reform, Government of India, (1990) available here.
[9] 170th Report, Reform of Electoral Laws, Law Commission of India, Government of India, 1999.
[10] Background Paper, Electoral Reforms, Legislative Department, Law Ministry, 2010 available here. 
[11] Chapter 4, Proposed Electoral Reforms, Election Commission of India, 2004.
[12] Why India’s election is among the world’s most expensive: available here.
[13] Chapter 4, Proposed Electoral Reforms, Election Commission of India, 2004.

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