The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a notice to the Election Commission over Gujarat Congress’s petition against separate bypolls for two Rajya Sabha seats.
The apex court had on Tuesday agreed to hear a plea by the Gujarat Congress seeking direction to the EC to hold simultaneous polls for two Rajya Sabha seats from the state.
Pareshbhai Dhanani, Congress MLA from Amreli and Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, had moved the apex court against the EC decision to conduct separate by-polls.
The EC had already scheduled the elections for the two seats on 5 July.
The seats fell vacant after BJP leaders Amit Shah and Smriti Irani were elected to the Lok Sabha in the recently-held general elections.
In the 182-member Gujarat Assembly, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has 100 MLAs, Congress has 71 while seven seats are vacant.
“Separate elections for the two Rajya Sabha seats in Gujarat would upset the scheme of proportional representation as mandated under the Representation of People’s Act (RPA), 1951,” the petition stated.
It also contended that the representatives of each state in the Council of States (Rajya Sabha) shall be picked by the elected members from the Legislative Assembly of the state “in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of single transferable vote”.
The petition said the basic principle, both under the Constitution and the RPA, was that the elections be held together so that the system of proportional representation by means of single transferable vote can be applied.
Dhanani urged the apex court to quash the poll panel order and declare it “unconstitutional, arbitrary and illegal”.
“Vacancies to the by-election will be considered as separate vacancies and separate notifications are issued and separate poll is taken for each of the vacancies although the programme schedule for the by-elections may be common,” the EC had announced.
In the separate ballot paper system, as announced by the EC this time, elections to two seats will be treated as two separate elections with separate ballot boxes and ballot papers.
A separate ballot paper makes the chances of the ruling party’s candidate winning significantly higher because each MLA will be voting twice as opposed to the preferential ballot system where each MLA’s vote is counted once.
The Election Commission has been asked to reply by June 24. The top court will hear the case again on June 25.