Mumbai: Stressing the need to reform the electoral system, both Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily and Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on Sunday said that perhaps voting should be made compulsory.
The two leaders, speaking at a seminar on electoral reforms here, also agreed that the number of political parties should be "regulated".
"Elections should reflect the voice of the common man. However, when less than 50 per cent of the population of over 700 million exercise their right to vote, shouldn't voting be made compulsory", Moily asked.
Taking the same line, Chief Minister Chavan said, "Whether voting should be made compulsory in our country needs to be seriously considered."
Moily said that though India has emerged as a victorious democracy, there are deficiencies in the electoral system and the time has come to think of "out of the box" solutions.
The Law Minister said his ministry would see to it that courts hear and decide all the criminal cases, especially corruption cases, within three years.
"Our judiciary takes a lot of time to punish the guilty. This will be changed. All the requisite infrastructure and manpower would be made available to the courts to see to it that cases are decided within three years. Heinous crime cases would be assigned to fast track courts so that they can be decided within a year," Moily said.
Chief Minister Chavan said, "It is a shame we cannot decide election petitions within the prescribed five-year period." Such petitions must be decided within six months, he said.
The Chief Minister also said that the number of political parties registered with the Election Commission should be reduced drastically.
"We need to have fewer parties. Now there are more than a thousand parties. Western countries have a single-digit registered political parties. India should also bring down this number which would make it easier to regulate them," Chavan said.
Earlier, Moily too said that political parties were needed to be regulated.
Chavan also said that "whether political parties should be brought under the gambit of RTI" is worth considering, as it will result in more transparency.
Speaking on this occasion, Election Commissioner V S Sampath said, "Today those candidates who have been convicted in a criminal case are not allowed to contest. But a proposal should be passed to disqualify even those who have a criminal case that attracts punishment of five years against them."
He also sought more powers for the Election Commission. "We can only register a political party but do not have power to de-register them."
First Published: Sunday, January 16, 2011, 17:50