Right to recall

In this article, Raja Reeshav Roy discusses the right to recall – Right to recall – Whether a viable option in the Indian context.

Recall in simple terms is a process through which the electorate has the power to remove the elected officials before the expiry of their usual terms and it traces its origin to the Athenian Democracy. The process of recall actually confers on the electorate’s power to de-elect the representatives from the legislature through a process of voting, when a number of voters registered in the electoral roll sign for such voting.

Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely Lord Acton

Right to recall is basically a system and a tool to ensure greater accountability of our elected representatives and to bring forward the system of good governance by eliminating the corrupt and non-performing officials. It is often said that the right to recall is one of the basic tenets of universal democracy.

State of Madhya Pradesh vs Shri Ram Singh

The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the above case said that a corruption-free government is a basic need of the society; it can be argued that right to recall is undoubtedly one way to achieve it. Currently, India doesn’t have recall provisions except in some local bodies in the state of:

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  • Rajasthan
  • Madhya Pradesh, and
  • Chhattisgarh.[3]

There doesn’t exist any sort of recourse under the Representation of the People Act, 1951 related to this. The closest provision under this act which is related to the removal of elected representatives is on the basis of vacation of office upon the commission of certain offences.[4]

Right to recall is present in various jurisdictions across the world, in countries such as USA, Canada, Venezuela, Switzerland among many other. Along with these countries, many others are trying to bring this provision.

Currently, BJP Member of Parliament, Varun Gandhi raised this issue through a private member bill in the Lok Sabha, five years after social activist Anna Hazare first raised this issue[5].

The bill has sought an amendment to the Representation of the People Act, 1951 to introduce right to recall parliamentarians and legislators if 75% of their voters are dissatisfied with their performance. The legislation proposes that the process to recall an elected representative can be invoked by a constituency voter by approaching the speaker of the house.

Such petition seeking invalidation of the membership of an MP or an MLA should be signed by at least 25% of the total number of electors in that constituency.

Major arguments before deciding whether Right to recall is a viable option or not:

  1. Arguments for Right to Recall
  2. If the people are conferred with power to elect their representatives, they must have the powers to remove them as well.
  3. The right to recall is definitely a democratic tool which ensures a greater accountability in the political system and can be a measure of electoral reforms.
  4. Such kind of right would be a significant check on corruption along with other measures such as the criminalization of politics.
  5. It will deter candidates from spending crores of money while campaigning for the elections because they will have a perpetual fear of being recalled.
  6. Advocates of Right to recall seeing it as an option to correct wrong decisions without waiting for five years.
  7. Arguments against Right to Recall
  8. It will lead excess of democracy where the independence of the representatives will go down due to the continuous threat of being recalled.
  9. To make themselves free from a recall would demand the representatives to always keep their electorates happy, which would eventually force these representatives to succumb to the populist pressure.
  10. Also having a recall system in India would not only create unnecessary chaos due to the recurring recall election but also would unstable the government.
  11. There is always a question related to the practical aspect of conducting a recall which would involve enormous amounts of money along with manpower, time etc.
  12. The introduction of recall would bring down inclusiveness as only politically alert citizens would benefit from it.
  13. Introduction of recall would unnecessarily undermine the role along with the importance of our representatives which in fact would weaken our democracy.


Though the right to recall seems like an attractive idea theoretically, practically this practice is not feasible. Currently, right to recall is definitely not a viable option in India. Even the Law Commission of India, in its 255th report after analyzing that it is not in favor of Right to Recall. Elections are a tedious and complex process and involve millions of people and resources worth crores at the time; hence it is not feasible to hold an election for same the constituency frequently. Moreover, the politically dominant caste which is quite prevalent in India will definitely misuse the provision of the right to recall.

Way Forward

The main arguments of the advocates are revolving around the idea of good governance which can be sought to achieve through other alternate measures such as pre-election. Examples of such pre-election measures would be the provisions relating to the disqualification and expulsion of members and the existing vigilance bodies to check corruption etc. These pre-election measures are said to be comprehensive enough to realize the goal of ‘good governance’ and a step towards the corruption-free government.

However, there is a serious problem with the implementation of the same. Hence, we may conclude that introduction of the post-election measure of recall will be a very ‘premature’ move and hence, the focus instead should be more on better implementation of the pre-election measures.

What needs to be done is to strengthen the other measures as well as finding solutions to eliminate the problems associated with unaccountability of our elected representatives rather than entering a totally new sphere and bringing a new law.


[1] A theory of Universal Democracy: Beyond the source of History, L. Ali Khan, and Page 220.

[2] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/501550/

[3] http://lawcommissionofindia.nic.in/reports/Report255.pdf

[4] Section 8, the Representation of People Act 1951.



[7] http://www.prsindia.org/mptrack/ferozevarungandhi

[8] http://lawcommissionofindia.nic.in/reports/Report255.pdf,Page 208


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