House sub-panel endorses poll offences bill

Kathmandu, January 26

Lawmaker Anand Prasad Dhungana-led Sub-committee of State Affairs Committee of the Parliament today forged consensus on all the provisions of the bill relating to election offences.

Sub-committee member Ganga Lal Tuladhar told THT that the sub-panel had proposed to impose a fine not exceeding Rs 2 lakh or a prison sentence not exceeding two years or both for election offences.

Election offences include the act of preventing voters from casting their votes, intimidating voters, distributing cash and kind to voters to buy their votes,   hosting feasts for voters, capturing election booths, committing disorderly conduct and indulging in character assassination of candidates, according to SAC member Prem Suwal. He said fake voters would also face punishment as per the bill’s provision and employees deputed for election duty would face departmental action for not doing their duty.

“I am still not satisfied with the penalty proposed in the bill. The bill’s provision proposes penalty up to Rs 2 lakh, which means that the judge can impose a fine of Re 1 on the perpetrator. Same applies to the jail sentence, as the provision states jail-term not exceeding two years,” he added.

Tuladhar said the sub-panel had tasked senior government officers of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs and the Election Commission to prepare the final draft of the bill so that the sub-committee could officially endorse it tomorrow.

After the sub-committee endorses the bill tomorrow, the SAC will also endorse it.

Tuladhar said the bill had also proposed to punish political parties for certain election related offences treating them as common people.

He said the bill’s provisions would be a strong deterrent for candidates and parties trying to indulge in  illegal activities during polls. “This bill is sure to control many kinds of election related offences, including the incidents of intimidation and undue influence that were seen in the past elections,” Tuladhar said and added that the bill would help ensure free and fair elections.

The sub-panel had yesterday endorsed a provision in another election related bill proposing that the parties would have to field one female candidate out of the two  candidates they would field for the posts of  chief and deputy chief of local bodies — village council, municipal council and District Coordination Committee.

The constitution ensures that 40 per cent of the ward commissioners — two out of five — will be women. “This is a huge step towards women empowerment,” Election Commissioner Ila Sharma told THT.

The SAC sub-committee also proposed in the bill relating to political parties that the registration of political parties would be cancelled if any party fails to submit its audit report for three years. According to SAC member Prem Suwal, if a party failed to submit audit report, it will be barred from taking part in selection for six years and if the party fails to submit its audit for three consecutive years, its registration will be cancelled.