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SC notice to EC, govt on plea to control election expenses

Between 2014 Lok Sabha elections and 2018, the Election Commission seized Rs 1000 crore.

india Updated: Nov 06, 2018 23:06 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Supreme Court,Bribery,Election Commission
The petition in Supreme Court argues that effective action on bribery in elections have not been considered by the government .(Sonu Mehta/HT Photo)

The Supreme Court of India issued notices on November 2 to the Election Commission of India and the Union government on a petition that asks for controlling excess expenditure in elections beyond permissible limits of ₹ 70 lakh and ₹ 28 lakh in parliamentary and assembly constituencies.

The petition filed by a former member of the Andhra Pradesh assembly and secretary of the Andhra Pradesh state unit Communist Party of India, Kaka Rama Krishna, raises the issue of the use of black money and excess money in elections by candidates and parties and stresses the need to make offence of bribery in elections as cognisable offence.

A cognisable offence is one in which a police office has power to arrest without a warrant and permission of the court.

The petition filed last month, argues that suggestions made by Election Commission of India to take effective action on bribery in elections have not been considered by the government .

This seriously affects the fundamental object of “free and fair” elections, it adds.

Even though bribery in elections is an electoral offence under section 171B of the Indian Penal Code and is punishable under section 171E with one year imprisonment, the provision lacks teeth as it is a non-cognisable offence and no prosecution or investigation can take place without permission of the court, according to the petition.

Making out a case to make bribery in the election process a cognisable offence, the petition says, “The experience on the ground has shown that even if somebody is caught red handed distributing money to voters openly, the law enforcing authorities feel handicapped in apprehending the culprits because they cannot proceed with the prosecution or investigation”. Due to inaction of the Election Commission of India and the government not a single candidate has been disqualified for spending money in excess to the limit fixed by Election Commission of India.

The petition also seeks investigation on source of money recovered by Election Officials during the elections held between 2014 to till date and fasten liability on individuals for seized money in order to have deterrent effect in future elections.

Between 2014 Lok Sabha elections and 2018, for instance, the Election Commission seized ₹1,000 crore.

“Electoral reform is an ongoing process. The demand to make bribery a cognisable offence is a long standing one —almost 25 years old. Former election commissioners, too, have pointed to the urgent need to make bribery a cognisable offence. But nothing has happened. I believe Supreme Court’s intervention in an issue like this is a welcome step,” said Supreme Court advocate Anil Mishra.

First Published: Nov 06, 2018 23:01 IST