Elections for 57 Rajya Sabha seats across 15 states are being held recently,
Elections of Rajya Sabha Members
- Members of the Rajya Sabha are elected through single transferable votes via an open ballot.
- Members of a state’s Legislative Assembly vote in the Rajya Sabha elections in what is called proportional representation with the single transferable vote (STV) system.
- Each MLA’s vote is counted only once.
- There have been multiple instances in the past where the votes of MPs and MLAs have been rejected due to violation of rules.
When the Election Commission turned to Article 324
- In 2017, with the high-stakes Rajya Sabha election in Gujarat touching a nerve-racking finishing, the counting was delayed in three seats after the Congress asked the Election Commission (EC) to reject the votes of two of its rebels, who allegedly showed their ballot papers to unauthorised persons in the polling booth in Gandhinagar.
- The commission had invoked its constitutional powers to overrule the returning officer, who had declared the votes valid, and by doing so maintained the panel’s neutrality.
- The commission turned to Article 324 of the Constitution, which gives the panel unprecedented powers to hold free-and-fair polls in situations not covered by the Representation of People’s Act, the law governing the election process in India.
How can votes be rejected in an open ballot system?
- Open ballot voting applies in elections to Council of States only. Every political party which has MLAs can appoint an authorised agent to verify whom its members have voted for.
Can an authorised agent represent two parties simultaneously?
- No. The spirit behind Rule 39AA of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961 is that MLAs belonging to a political party shall show their ballot papers (after marking their vote) to the authorised agent of that party only and not to the authorised agent of other parties. As such, the same person cannot be appointed as the authorised agent of more than one party.
Can an MLA or minister be appointed as an authorized agent?
- There is no such restriction imposed by the EC in elections to the Council of States and State Legislative Council by MLAs.
Can an Independent MLA show his marked ballot paper to the authorised agent of any party?
- No, Independent MLAs are required to insert the marked ballot paper in the ballot box without showing the marked ballot to any agent.
What action is taken by the Presiding Officer/Returning Officer in case an elector belonging to a political party refuses to show his/her marked ballot paper to the authorised agent?
- In such a case, the ballot paper issued to the elector will be taken back by the Presiding Officer, or a polling officer under the direction of the Presiding Officer, and the ballot paper will be kept in a separate envelope after recording on the reverse side of the ballot paper “Cancelled-voting procedure violates”. A provision in sub-rules (6) to (8) of rule 39A of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, shall apply in such cases.
- According to the EC, if the elector drops the ballot paper in the box without showing it to the authorised agent, then at the time of counting, the RO should first separate this concerned ballot paper and it shall not be counted.
Can votes be rejected if a ballot paper is marked with another pen?
- Yes, in the ballot paper, a MLA has to mark his or her choice of candidates by ranking them and they also have to use a special pen provided by the EC. If they use any other pen, or if their ballot papers remain incomplete, the vote would be regarded as invalid.
Back to Basics
How many members are there in the Rajya Sabha?
- The Constitution permits a maximum of 250 members in the Upper House, out of which 238 are elected.
- In addition to elected members, there are 12 members nominated by the President of India from amongst persons having special knowledge or practical experience in literature, science, art, and social service.
Who is eligible to stand for the Rajya Sabha elections?
- In order to be eligible for Rajya Sabha elections, the candidate “should be a citizen of India above 30 years of age and possessing such other qualifications as may be prescribed by law of Parliament,” as per the website of the Upper House.
- The member does not need to be a domicile of the state from which he stands to be elected to the Rajya Sabha. They can be an elector in a parliamentary constituency anywhere in India.
Who can vote in the Rajya Sabha elections?
- Only the members of the Assemblies of states and Union territories can vote for the election of persons to the Rajya Sabha.
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