New Delhi: With the term of President Pranab Mukherjee set to expire on July 24, the Election Commission (EC) on Wednesday, June 7, announced the schedule for the presidential elections. It said voting, if required, will take place on July 17 and counting will take place on July 20.
The president is chosen by an electoral college comprising all the MPs and MLAs in the country, with weighted votes apportioned. The NDA has slightly less than 50% of vote share of the college but is otherwise comfortably placed to get its nominee elected.
The EC said that as per Article 62 of the constitution, an election to fill the vacancy caused by the expiration of the term of office of the outgoing president is required to be completed before the expiration of the term.
Addressing a press conference to announce the schedule, the chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi said that for this election, the commission would issue the notification on June 14. Incidentally, the law provides that the notification for election shall be issued on or after the 60th day before the expiry of term of office of the outgoing president. The EC also announced that the last date for filing nominations would be June 28, the scrutiny of nominations would take place on June 29 and the last date for withdrawal of nominations would be July 1.
Zaidi said the polling hours would be from 10 am to 5 pm and the counting time will be from 11 am till the counting was complete. On completion of counting, the return of election (in form 7 appended to the Presidential and Vice-Presidential Elections Rules, 1974) will be signed and issued by the returning officer declaring the candidate who secures the quota elected. The formal announcement of election of the president will be made thereafter by the commission.
No EVMs, voting by ballot paper only
The chief election commissioner said “since the technology for proportional election and single transferable vote is yet to be developed in our electronic voting machines,” the presidential election would take place through ballot papers.
He said the electors would be allowed to fill the form in any of the recognised Indian languages and would have to mark the preference in figures only. “The elector can have as many preferences as the number of candidates, but the marking of the first preference is compulsory for the ballot to be valid. The other preferences will be optional,” he said.
Marking of votes by special pens only
For marking the votes, the Election Commission will provide special pens. These pens, Zaidi said, will be provided to the electors by the election officer in the polling booth along with the ballot paper. “Only these pens can be used for marking the votes. The use of any other pen would render the ballot invalid.”
Lok Sabha secretary general to be returning officer
Zaidi said the EC, in consultation with the central government, appoints the secretary general of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha as the returning officer (RO) on rotation basis, and accordingly the secretary general of Lok Sabha would be the RO for the current election. The voting, he said, would take place in the parliament house and in the state legislative assemblies, including Delhi and Puducherry. The Election Commission would appoint ROs for these assemblies as well for making logical arrangements including the transportation of ballot boxes.
Every candidate to have 50 proposers, 50 seconders
Another important aspect, Zaidi said, was that every nomination paper of a candidate would have to be subscribed to by at least 50 electors as proposers and by at least another 50 electors as seconders. “An elector can subscribe to only one nomination paper of a candidate as either a proposer or a seconder,” he said, adding that “if an elector subscribes more than one nomination paper, his signature on the nomination papers other than the one first delivered to the returning officer, will be invalid.”
Similarly, the chief election commissioner said it has laid down that a candidate can file a maximum of four nomination papers. “The security deposit for the election is Rs 15,000, which is required to be made along with the nomination paper, or should be deposited in Reserve Bank of India or a government treasury under the relevant head of accounts for the purpose prior to filing of nomination.”
Stating that the constitution has expressly provided that election to the office of president shall be by secret ballot, Zaidi said as such there is no concept of open voting at this election and showing the ballot to anyone under any circumstances in the case of presidential and vice presidential elections is totally prohibited.
Parties cannot issue whip
Zaidi also noted that in these elections, political parties cannot issue any whip to their MPs and MLAs in the matter of voting. He also cautioned that under section 18 of the Presidential and Vice-Presidential Elections Act, 1952, the offence of ‘bribery’ or ‘undue influence’ by the candidate or any person with the consent of the candidate could lead to the election being declared void by the Supreme Court following an election petition.
The chief election commissioner also clarified that while there are 13 vacancies in the electoral college, including MPs and MLAs at present, these would be filled in due course of time after the presidential election. “Our order is very specific that after presidential elections other polls will be held. Our present members are part of this electoral college,” he said, adding that the vacancies that were to arise in July and August will have no impact on this electoral college as the sitting members are part of the current electoral college.
Zaidi also said that between now and July 20, no other electoral college member is retiring.