Forfeiture of Security Deposit in Elections in India

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    31st May, 2019

Recently held Lok Sabha (L.S.) elections of 2019 brought ignominy among Left Front candidates in West Bengal, a state which it had ruled continuously for 34 years till 2011, of losing their security deposit.

Context

Recently held Lok Sabha (L.S.) elections of 2019 brought ignominy among Left Front candidates in West Bengal, a state which it had ruled continuously for 34 years till 2011, of losing their security deposit.

About

Bail Amount:

  • As per Section 34 1 (a) of the Representation of the People Act,1951; it is mandatory for general candidates to deposit security of Rs.25,000 in case of Parliamentary constituency and for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe candidates, the amounts are Rs 12,500 and Rs 5,000
  • When a candidate fails to get 1/6th of the total valid votes casted in that constituency then the amount deposited by candidate is seized by the Election Commission of India.
  • In fact, the deposits that candidates forfeit are the only income for the Commission, which otherwise depends on an annual budgetary allocation from the central government to run the organisation and also conduct elections.
  • Apart from the fact that who is winner and who is runner-up, another fact which interests people in elections is that how many contesting candidates could save their security deposits.
  • It is also a matter of pride for the candidates if they save their deposits, whereas forfeiture of deposit is often seen as humiliating.

Security Deposit is returned in the following Circumstances:

  • If the name of the candidate not shown in the list of contesting candidates it means either his/her name is being rejected by the Election Commission or he/she has withdrawn candidature.
  • If the candidate dies before voting starts
  • If the candidate won the election
  • If candidate do not wins but he/she secures more than 1/6th of the total valid votes casted in the constituency.
  • If the candidate wins the election but does not get 1/6th of the total valid votes, then his security deposit is returned.

A relic from the past

  • The law on forfeiting deposits exists in all or most Commonwealth nations and comes to us as a gift from England.
  • In First L.S. Elections in 1951-52, almost 745 out of 1874 candidates forfeited their deposits. Since then, almost all L.S. Elections witnessed northward trend of lost deposits.
  • In 2001, a Union law ministry panel on electoral reforms recommended that the security deposit be doubled progressively at every attempt for those Independent candidates who fail to win and still keep contesting every election.
  • According to panel, 'If any Independent candidate has failed to get at least 5 % of the total number of votes cast in his/her constituency, he/she should not be allowed to contest as an independent candidate for the same office again at least for six years'.
  • It also recommended that any Independent candidate who loses an election to the same office thrice successively should be permanently debarred from that office.
  • Moreover, the panel suggested that an Independent candidate should be nominated by at least 20 elected members of panchayats, municipalities or other local bodies spread out in a majority of the electoral districts in his constituency.
  • It shows that forfeiture of deposit has not been a deterrent for not contesting elections.

Disadvantages of forfeiting deposits:

  • Forfeiture of deposit discourages people from contesting, especially those who are not from the major political parties.
  • The very idea of forfeiture seems to suggest some sort of failure on the part of those who do not get more than 16% of the vote, which is harsh, particularly in a large nation like India.
  • It also punishes small groups and small interests and small coalitions.

Way Ahead:

  • Encourage all Indians to participate in democracy by contesting their votes.
  • Laws that prevent or deter individuals and parties should be relooked at.
  • It is the need of the hour that the Election Commission should increase the amount of security deposit to scrutinise the serious candidates.

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