House panel softens poll offence penalty for parties

Published On: January 24, 2017 01:20 AM NPT By: Ashok Dahal  | @ashokpillar

-Takes three months to make 'minor change' in election-related bills
-Govt to consult EC in announcing election date 

KATHMANDU, Jan 24: A parliamentary panel revising the bill concerning the jurisdiction of the Election Commission (EC) has weakened a provision that proposes disqualifying any political party or candidate  from contesting any election for six years if found exceeding the election expenditure ceiling set by the commission.

Parliament's State Affairs Committee (SAC) endorsed the revision to the Bill on Duty, Responsibility and Jurisdiction of the EC on Monday, as proposed by a sub-committee formed by the committee to study the government bill. 

Earlier, the government had proposed barring a candidate or a political party from contesting any election for six years if found exceeding the election expenditure ceiling set by the EC or not submitting the election expenditures statement on time.

But the SAC has now revised the bill, stating that a political party or a candidate will be barred only if they didn't submit the fine amount payable and do so within six months after the election. Under the change, the subcommittee gaves six months more time to pay the fine. Clause 26 (1) of the bill states that if any political party or candidate is found to be exceeding the ceiling, the EC could impose a fine of either Rs 500,000 or an amount equal to the expenditure in excess of the ceiling, whichever is higher. 

The EC sets the election expense ceiling ahead of each election. The constitutional body had set a Rs 1 million ceiling for a candidate contesting in the Constituent Assembly (CA) election held in November, 2013. 

With the revision, none of the political parties or candidates may be barred if they managed to pay the fine within six months after the EC determines the fine. The original provision hadn't given them such an opportunity.

Apart from weakening the provision, the parliamentary committee hasn't made any significant change to the bill. 

Though lawmakers had registered an amendment proposal demanding that the EC be given the authority to announce the election date, the committee declined to do so. It has only added a new provision in the bill under which the government should consult the EC before announcing an election date.

Lawmakers expressed ire over the working style of the committee, stating that the SAC took three months just to make a minor change to the bill. “The committee wasted months to just proof-read the language in the bill,” fumed UML lawmaker Yagya Raj Sunuwar at the committee meeting on Monday.

The sub-committee held 16 meetings to finalize the bill, but made no significant changes. 
Likewise, the SAC also endorsed a 'Bill on Voters List' on Monday. The bill hasn't been changed either. 

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