The Election Commission on Thursday told the Supreme Court that though its powers under Article 324 of the Constitution were wide enough, it could not take recourse to them for electoral reforms due to existing laws.
The Election Commission told a bench of Justice J. Chelameswar and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer that the plenary powers under Article 324 were limited by laws already in operation, and this inhibited it from pushing reforms so that voter made a more informed choice during voting.
Article 324 vests in the Election Commission the powers of superintendence, direction and control over elections in the country.
The commission pointed to 43 proposals it had sent to the Centre at different points of time since 2004 and more after 2010 for amending laws for pushing electoral reforms.
As the bench said that the commission would have to do whatever was necessary and incidental to its mandate of superintendence, direction, and control of elections, its senior counsel Meenakshi Arora said: “We will be more than happy to do it. We feel we are stultified by the laws already occupying the area.”
In response, the court said not all the area was occupied.
Responding to the Election Commission’s stand, Association for Democratic Reforms counsel Kamini Jaiswal said: “The right of voter to exercise his franchise is part of Article 324 and it has to be given a wider definition in the given context.”
Jaiswal said after the Presidential notification for elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies, it was incumbent upon the Election Commission to conduct the polls in a free and fair manner with level playing field.
The court was hearing a PIL filed by NGO Lok Prahari to seek wide ranging directions, including disclosure of sources of income of candidates, their spouses and dependent children and subsisting contracts with the government, so that voters could make an informed choice.