EC wants electoral law amended, empower it to postpone or countermand polls

  • Smriti Kak Ramachandran, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jun 06, 2016 20:12 IST
File photo of people waiting in a queue to cast their votes for Tamil Nadu Assembly polls in Chennai in May, 2016. (PTI)

The Election Commission has asked the government to amend the electoral law to empower it to allow adjournment or countermand elections on the ground of “bribery of electors”.

In the letter, sent on Monday, the EC has written, that a new section 58 B should be inserted in the Representation of People Act, 1951, on the lines of section 58 A, which allows adjournment of poll or countermanding the election on the ground of booth capturing.

It has requested the government to take “early action” on its proposal.

EC’s decision has been precipitated by the recent sting operation purportedly showing a group of MLAs from Karnataka demanding money for supporting a candidate for the June 11 Rajya Sabha biennial and the unprecedented deferral of assembly polls in two constituencies in Tamil Nadu after evidence emerged of money being used to influence voters.

“Section 58 A was inserted in 1989…At that point of time, booth capturing was considered to be a major malpractice in election. Over a period of time and especially in the recent years, misuse of money power is seen to be having a serious vitiating effect on the conduct of free and fair elections,” the Commission says in its letter.

Flagging the Tamil Nadu case, the EC has written that there could be several cases “that go undetected” where bribes in the form of cash, liquor, narcotics and gifts were used by political parties and their agents.

EC has suggested that section 58 B should be invoked to adjourn or countermand election if “bribery is likely to take place or has taken place” in the polling area. The section can be imposed to declare elections void if evidence of bribery is presented after the conduct of polls. Further, if there is proof of bribery in large number of polling areas, EC can countermand the election in the entire constituency.

On May 27, EC had recommended to the Tamil Nadu Governor to cancel the notification to hold polls to the Arvakurichi and Thanjavur Assembly constituencies following evidence that a large sum of money was used to influence the voters there.

Tamil Nadu had gone for Assembly polls on May 16 after which AIADMK returned to power for a second consecutive term. The EC is yet to announce fresh schedule to hold elections in the two constituencies.

The Commission had used its constitutional powers in March 2012 recommending to the President cancelllation of the notification for a Rajya Sabha biennial election from Jharkhand even after the polling had concluded after it found that money was used to influence voters.

(With inputs from PTI)

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