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CEC says electoral reforms will strengthen democracy

Special Correspondent
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EC for legislative framework to deal with the issues such as paid news

Chief Election Commissioner V. S. Sampath delivering the Jhabarmal Sharma memorial lecture, in Jaipur on Saturday.— Photo: Rohit Jain Paras
Chief Election Commissioner V. S. Sampath delivering the Jhabarmal Sharma memorial lecture, in Jaipur on Saturday.— Photo: Rohit Jain Paras

Chief Election Commissioner V. S. Sampath on Saturday said the electoral reforms recommended by the Election Commission would strengthen democracy and bring about radical changes by ensuring transparency in the functioning of political parties, keeping a check on expenditures and setting in motion decriminalisation of politics.

Delivering the 23rd Jhabarmal Sharma memorial lecture here, Mr. Sampath said he was in favour of a well-defined legislative framework to deal with the issues such as paid news and candidates filing false affidavits with their nomination papers. In this context, he called upon the media to mobilise public opinion for cleansing the political system.

Jaipur-based Hindi daily, Rajasthan Patrika organised the lecture to commemorate noted journalist and historian Jhabarmal Sharma. State Lokayukta Sajjan Singh Kothari presided. Mr. Sampath said he had written to the Union Law Ministry for introducing new provisions for disqualification of candidates and two years’ imprisonment for those furnishing incorrect details in their affidavits. Similarly, the menace of paid news could be addressed through strict monitoring.

The CEC praised the Supreme Court for introducing several new provisions, including the “none of the above” option in the electronic voting machines, through its proactive judgments and said these initiatives required urgent attention of law makers. The apex court also protected the Election Commission’s autonomy, he noted.

Mr. Sampath said while there was scope for more electoral reforms, the view taken by a section of political parties that the EC should only be concerned about free and fair polls was debatable. “It is within our mandate to increase people’s participation [in democracy] by trying to enhance the voting percentage.”

“The higher the participation, the better is the quality of elected representatives,” he said, while pointing out that the recent Assembly elections in five States had witnessed a phenomenal increase in voting percentage. He said the EC would make greater efforts to deal with “urban apathy” and increase the voter turnout in the coming Lok Sabha elections. Mr. Sampath said vesting the Election Commission with more powers would help it carry out proper monitoring of political parties and look into the methods of collection and expenditure of funds by them. “As of now, the Commission does not enjoy powers to derecognise even those parties which do not contest elections.”

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