After NOTA's success, time to consider Right to Recall

This will ensure that those elected representatives who are under performing can be recalled

GN Bureau | December 19, 2017


#Gujarat   #Himachal Pradesh   #NOTA   #Right to recall   #Elections  


With nearly six lakh voters pressing the NOTA button in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh assembly elections, the next logical step for a mature democracy like India would be to introduce right to recall.

The None of The Above (NOTA) option was exercised by 551615 voters in Gujarat, making it 1.8 percent of the votes polled. In Himachal Pradesh, 34232 voters opted for NOTA, making them 0.9 percent of the votes that were polled, showed the assembly election results put up on the election commission website.

NOTA was introduced by the election commission of India on October 11, 2013, following a supreme court order on September 27.

A specific symbol of a big cross on a ballot paper appears at the end of the panel in all elections. The main objective of the NOTA option is to enable electors who do not wish to vote for any of the candidates to exercise their right not to vote for any candidate without violation of the secrecy of their decision.

Read: Why we need ‘right to recall’ the elected

With NOTA gaining traction among the electorate, it is time that right to recall is introduced in the country’s electoral process.

An attempt was made in that direction through the representation of the people (amendment) bill, 2016 by Feroze Varun Gandhi.

Gandhi pointed out that at present there exists no recourse to the electorate if they are unhappy with their elected representative. The Representation of the People Act, 1951 only provides for vacation of office upon the commission of certain offences and does not account for general incompetence of the representatives or dissatisfaction of the electorate as a ground for vacation.

Countries all over the world have experimented with the concept of Right to Recall. The system exists at the state level in many states of the US and at the Cantonal Level in Switzerland as well as at the national level in Venezuela. In India too attempts have been made at the local level to incorporate recall provisions in the cases of mayors, sarpanchs and other local government officials in certain states.

“Whereas it is necessary to ensure that a recall process is not frivolous and does not became a source of harassment to elected representatives by preventing them from exercising their duties, the process for recall has several safeguards incorporated in it such as an initial recall petition to kick start the process and electronic based voting to finally decide its outcome.

“The Bill provides for verification of signatures and first review by the Speaker of the concerned House. Furthermore, to ensure that a representative cannot be recalled by a small margin of voters and that the recall procedure truly represents the mandate of the people, the threshold for success of a recall petition is accordingly high. To ensure transparency and independence, Chief Petition Officers from within the election commission have been designated to supervise and execute the process. Furthermore, the Bill, recognizing the potential for abuse of certain provisions has accordingly provided more than adequate punishment for such abuses,” said Gandhi.

While there was some political effort to have right to recall, the Law Commission was not keen for it.

“The Law Commission is not in favour of introducing the right to recall in any form because it can lead to an excess of democracy, undermines the independence of the elected candidates, ignores minority interests, increases instability and chaos, increases chances of misuse and abuse, is difficult and expensive to implement in practice, especially given that India follows the first past the post system,” said a release.

Writing in the Indian Express in March 2011, MR Madhavan, co-founder of PRS Legislative Research, said that the Nitish Kumar government had proposed that the electorate be given the right to recall corporators.

“The Bihar proposal is a modification of an existing right to recall councillors. Under the current Bihar Municipal Act, a councillor can be removed on a petition signed by two-thirds of his fellow councillors. Under the proposed system, this power is given directly to the electorate — if two-thirds of the registered voters of a constituency sign a petition to the urban development department, the government can take steps for removal of the corporator.

“Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have also permitted recall of corporators. The Chhattisgarh system differs from the Bihar proposal. The process can be initiated against a corporator who has completed two years in office. Three-fourths of fellow councillors have to write to the district collector asking for a recall election. On the recommendation of the district administration, the state election commission holds a "confidence" vote in the constituency. If the majority of the voters vote against the councillor, he is removed. In 2008, three presidents of municipal councils were removed through this procedure,” wrote Madhavan.

The right to recall will be quite an efficient way to ensure that the only those elected representatives continue who are delivering results and the deadwood is weeded out. Checks and balances have to be ensured so that hardworking elected representatives do not face unnecessary pressure. A mid-term review of the work done can also be considered.

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