Rajya Sabha Current Affairs
Supreme Court scrapped use of NOTA (none of the above) option for Rajya Sabha elections, saying it defeats fairness in indirect elections, destroys democratic values and serves as Satan of defection and corruption. The ruling was given by three judges bench of SC comprising of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud. It came on petition by Shailesh Parmar, who was Congress chief whip in Gujarat, challenging EC decision to allow NOTA in Rajya Sabha polls.
It quashed June 2014 notification of Election Commission that allowed use of NOTA option in Rajya Sabha elections. It held that NOTA will destroy concept of value of vote and representation, and encourage defection that shall open doors for corruption which is malignant disorder.
It said that introduction of NOTA in indirect elections may on first glance, tempt intellect but on keen scrutiny, as it falls to ground and completely ignores role of elector in such election and fully destroys democratic value. NOTA practical application defeats fairness ingrained in indirect election.
It held that choice of NOTA will have negative impact in voting process of Rajya Sabha where open ballot is permissible and secrecy of voting has no room and discipline of political parties matters. Though elector, in Rajya Sabha has single vote and has quantified value of his vote and transferable surplus votes. But there is existence of formula for determining value of vote which has different connotation.
NOTA was introduced in Lok Sabha polls (direct election) by Election Commission of India (ECI) following 2013 Supreme Court decision. It was extended to Rajya Sabha election (i.e. indirect elections) via notification in January 2014. Thereafter, biennial elections to 76 Rajya Sabha seats across 21 states in 2014, 8 seats across three states in 2015, 70 seats across 21 states in 2016, 10 seats across three states in 2017, and 58 seats across 16 states in 2018 have been held. NOTA option was provided on ballot paper after name of the last candidate in each of these biennial elections held since 2014. Election Commission in apex court had justified its decision of introducing NOTA in Rajya Sabha elections, mentioning that it did not make any distinction between direct and indirect elections.
Rajya Sabha has passed Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013 to amend various provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA), 1988. The amendment to PCA, 1988 was necessitated to its review existing provisions to bring it in line with United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) as agreed by India.
The amendments to PCA, 1988 were first brought by UPA government in 2013. The Bill was then referred to Parliamentary Standing Committee, Law Commission of India (LCI) and then in December 2015 to select committee. The report of select committee was submitted in 2016 and again it was moved in August 2017, but was not be taken up.
Key Features of Bill
Giving bribe made punishable offence: The Bill introduces offence of ‘giving a bribe’ as direct offence. Person who is compelled to give bribe who reports matter to law enforcement authorities within seven days will not be charged with this offence.
Redefines Criminal misconduct: The bill redefines provisions related to criminal misconduct to only cover two types of offences viz. illicit enrichment (such as amassing of assets disproportionate to one’s known income sources) and fraudulent misappropriation of property.
Prior approval for investigation: It makes mandatory for taking prior approval of relevant Government or competent authority to conduct any investigation into offence alleged to have been committed by a public servan. Such approval will be not necessary in cases that involve arrest of person on spot on charge of taking a bribe.
Trial Time limit: The bill set trail time period within two if it is handled by special judge. In case of delays, reasons for it must be recorded for every extension of six months obtained. However, total period for completion of trial may not exceed four years.