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- Context (IE): The Bombay HC directed the Election Commission of India (ECI) to immediately conduct a by-poll for the Pune Lok Sabha constituency.
- A plea was filed against a certificate issued by the ECI to not hold a by-poll to the constituency.
- ECI argued that the complainant had no locus standi (legal standing) to file a writ petition and instead should have filed a PIL.
- In case by-polls are held, the returned candidate would hardly have three months to work as an MP.
- It had a “genuine difficulty” in conducting the by-poll as its whole machinery was far too busy with preparations for Lok Sabha elections 2024.
- Petitioner had a locus to file a writ petition being a voter of the said constituency.
- ECI’s powers were never ‘unbridled or exempted’ from judicial review.
- Constituencies cannot remain unrepresented beyond a defined period and the same is “wholly unconstitutional”.
- ECI should only function within a principle of “right to representation”.
- Bypolls, or special elections, refer to elections held to fill vacant seats in the legislative bodies of India.
- The primary objective of by-polls is to ensure the timely filing of vacant seats, enabling the representation of the affected constituency or district in the legislative body.
- Bypolls are conducted when a seat in the legislature becomes vacant due to reasons such as the
- Disqualification, or
- Expulsion of a sitting member.
RPA, 1951 on By-Elections
- Section 151A of RPA prescribes that the by-elections shall be held within six months from the date of the occurrence of the vacancy.
- Section 151A (a): Six-month rule will not apply when the remainder of the Parliament term is less than one year.
- Section 151A (b): To not hold by-polls is a consultation between EC and the Central government, certifying ‘difficulty’ to hold the same within six months.
Impact of By-Polls
- Bypolls serve as a significant indicator of the popularity and strength of political parties.
- Political parties can use bypolls to measure public sentiment and assess their support base.
- The outcomes of by-elections can have an impact on the ruling government’s majority.
- If the ruling party loses a substantial number of bypoll seats, it may lead to a loss of the government’s stability and decision-making.
- Bypolls offer a platform for political parties to experiment with their electoral strategies and refine their campaign approaches.
- Parties can test various aspects such as candidate selection, campaign themes, and messaging during by-polls that can influence their strategies in subsequent elections.