Contending disparity and inequality in the dates announced for Phase II of Lok Sabha elections, two Maharashtra lawyer-activists have shot off a representation to the Election Commission (EC) contending there is an inodrinate gap of 21 days between the last date for withdrawal of nominations and the polling on April 18, and that this should be corrected.
In a representation to Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora, activist Rana Sarda of Nanded and election law expert Vinod Tiwari of Yavatmal, said that the disparity in Phase II - as compared to the other six phases of the elections - is not only against the EC's rules, but also violates the constitutional rights under Article 14.
"Owing to the time constraints, I have requested the EC to take immediate steps to revise/modify the dates of nominations for Phase II and reduce the gap between date of nomination/withdrawal and the date of polls. In case it is not accepted, I shall be constrained to move Bombay High Court or even the Supreme Court for redressal since it's a matter of extreme public importance," Sarda told IANS.
Sarda intends to contest from Nanded on the ticket of the Prabuddha Republican Party of India (PRPI).
Explaining the issues, Sarda - who is also president of an NGO, the Forum Against Discrimination (FAD), - said that after the issue of notification on March 19 and the last date of withdrawal - March 29 - for Phase II, there is a long gap of 21 days before the election is held on April 18.
"Compared with this, the gaps between the last date for withdrawal of nominations till the elections date is barely 14-17 days for other six phases. This is blatantly discriminatory to all the candidates of big and small political parties and independents intending to contest the Phase II elections in 97 Lok Sabha constituencies across 13 states, including Maharashtra," according to the petitioner.
This inequality has other ramifications like submission of 'AB Forms' on the last day of nomination, which should have been April 2, but now has been preponed to March 26 - seven days earlier.
There is also the issue of increased expenditure on the campaign in order to sustain it for 21 days, for which the EC has not granted an additional ceiling (on expenses), the duo maintained.
"How can there be two different sets of parameters for candidates contesting the same elections under the same poll process, with the overall expenditure limits kept identical despite a full seven days (33 percent) more time for campaign in Phase II," Sarda asked.
In the representation, Sarda and Tiwari raised questions on the very intentions of inequality and disparity which seem to have been perpetrated "deliberately to help a particular set of parties and people" by some EC officials.
Besides, the additional financial burden on the candidates and political parties, it will also impact the election machinery, officials and local security deployed for the Phase II, not to mention the public nuisance due to noise pollution owing to the additional campaigning.
The situation is particularly daunting for independent candidates without sufficient funds, or smaller parties with limited financial or manpower resources, due to the stretching of their campaign period by seven days owing to the faulty Phase II schedules, Sarda maintained.
The Representation of Peoples Act, 1951, Section 30, read along with the relevant rules, which prescribe a minimum gap of only 14 days, does not empower the ECI to create such a huge inequality' in Phase II, compared to the other phases, without changing other criteria like the expenditure limits, Tiwari told IANS.
The duo made it clear in the representation that they are not challenging the seven-phase election schedule, but only seeking a modification in the polling date for Phase II to bring all conditions on par with the other six phases.
"Since the notification has not yet been issued for the Phase II polls, it entails changing/modifying the date of notification for this particular Phase II from March 19 by seven days, and suitable changes in the last date for filing nominations, submission of AB Forms, scrutiny of nominations and last date for withdrawal of nominations, to reduce this extra seven days," Tiwari added.