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EC debars Koda from contesting elections for three years

The Election Commission of India has debarred former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda from contesting elections for three years charging him with submitting a false account of poll expenses during 2009 general elections.

ranchi Updated: Oct 03, 2017 12:11 IST
Bedanti Saran
Former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda
Former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda (HT File Photo)

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has debarred former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda from contesting elections for three years charging him with submitting a false account of poll expenses during 2009 general elections.

Koda, who was chief minister from September 2006-August 2008, had successfully contested from Singhbhum parliamentary constituency in 2009 Lok Sabha polls.

Trouble gripped Koda the same year when joint teams of income tax department and enforcement directorate (ED) carried out search and seizure operations at 75 locations across the country. Further investigation revealed that Koda and many of his associates had allegedly laundered Rs 3,500 crore tainted money. The income tax department had detected that Koda incurred huge expenditure in excess to the permissible limit in 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

Koda has been facing trial in two cases separately lodged by the ED and the CBI here in Ranchi. As an undertrail prisoner, he had spent nearly four years between 2009-2013 in jail before he was released on bail.

Taking cognizance of the findings of the income tax department, the election commission had initiated a proceeding against Koda in 2010.

Pronouncing its verdict on September 27, the commission found that Koda had furnished a false account of his election expenses showing a total expenditure of Rs 18.92 lakh whereas he had incurred Rs 28.01 lakh on advertisements in print and electronic media only. The maximum limit of expenditure for a candidate was fixed to Rs 25 lakh. It disqualified Koda from contesting elections for three years under Section 10 A of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1951.

“Unfair elections strike at the root of democracy. With a mass media oriented campaign, any candidate can effectively polarise a decidedly large proportion of votes towards him. Undecided voters...fall victim to the bandwagon effect due to the illusion of mass support created by such a candidate. It is unfortunate that voters are exploited by this show of money power...” the commission observed in its 49-page order signed by chief election commissioner AK Joti and election commissioner OP Rawat.

During the course of hearing, the commission had sought the findings of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) and the CBI, which is investigating a disproportionate asset case against Koda, regarding expenses incurred by the former Jharkhand chief minister in 2009 elections.

While the CBDT report and documentary evidences forwarded to the commission indicated that Koda paid Rs 28.01 lakh to different media houses for publication of advertisements, the CBI’s chargesheet clarified that Koda had incurred Rs 7.38 crore in 2009 general elections.

The commission had examined eight witnesses, including six representatives of media houses, on its behalf and five witnesses produced by Koda in his defence.