Rajya Sabha candidates' eligibility
This refers to the news reports on the comments by the Chief Election Commissioner, Mr. M. S. Gill on Rajya Sabha election candidature. It is with anguish that Mr. Gill has brought out the fact that no party has been faithful to the law made by themselves that the candidate for a Rajya Sabha seat shall be the ordinary resident of the state from which he contests. Section 3 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 read with 19(b) of 1950 Act lays down this law. It is out of frustration that Mr. Gill has suggested that if you cannot adhere to the law, better scrape it. The reports do not reflect this anguish of the Chief Election Commissioner.
While I was in the US in Aug.-Nov. 1998, there was debate going on about a law requiring documents from the Canadians and others who cross the borders into the US. For the Canadians and US citizens, an identity card such as a driving licence is enough to cross the border between the two countries. The visa type requirement was mooted to curb illegal immigrants from other countries. The law was found to be impracticable, that its enforcement would put honest people to greater unnecessary hardship than check illegal immigration. The Congress (i. e. Parliament) had at the time suspended operation of the law for two and a half years.
The Detroit Free Press on October 10, 1998, wrote on the subject :
"...But the net effect would be to hamper trade and tourism or encourage smuggling by making it cumbersome to do things legally.
'....The requirement was enacted as a little-known part of the 1996 Illegal Immigrant Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. The INS estimates that if it had a system to process all the information the law seems to want, the data collected would, within a year, be larger than everything in the Library of Congress.
'...So what we have here is a law that should not have been enacted and cannot be enforced."
(There are more than a billion documents and volumes in the Library of Congress. Canada is just across the river from Detroit.)
Is there any doubt that it is our string of impracticable laws that has earned us a place amongst the most corrupt nations of the world? This attitude towards oppressive impractical laws now extends towards even sensible and practical laws, like the requirement for a Rajya Sabha seat and the simplest of traffic rules which are ignored for individual convenience.
Topmost amongst the first kind are laws imposing indirect taxes with the sole purpose that taxes should not influence elections. Very high rates of these taxes have no justifiable relationship with capacity of the citizens to pay. That is why we hear so much about the expenditure side of the governments but very little of the revenue side with which as if people, the taxpayers have nothing to do. Easy money from such taxes is the root cause of the casual attitude of the high and mighty towards the law, while others just cannot afford to abide by the law. We have the distinction of having the largest slum in Asia. Hasn't it come up despite the law?
And then, if we can regularise unauthorised layouts post facto, can't we regularise irregular Rajya Sabha elections? Why amend a sensible law that needs just a few persons out of the whole population of the state to represent that state in the assembly, said to be the Council of States?
By Vithaldas Purushottam Divecha,