Economy

EC pushes for law to curb illegal money in polls

Ashwini Phadnis New Delhi | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on May 18, 2016

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Ready to fight for such a law right up to the Supreme Court, says official

The Election Commission is strongly pushing for a law to address the issue of use of illegal money to influence voters.

This follows the postponement of elections in Thanjavur and Arvakurichi assembly constituencies in Tamil Nadu where it found the use of money to influence voters.

A serious issue

The Commission feels this is likely to become a big issue in the years to come. This is the first time that it has taken such a step.

“The law is blank on whether we can defer or countermand an election where there is use of money power, which vitiates the process or influences voters,” said a senior Commission official.

The official told BusinessLine the Commission is ready to fight for such a law right up to the Supreme Court.

“Twenty-seven years down the line since muscle power was contained or minimised through an amendment to the law, it is time to have a similar provision to prevent another menace in terms of money power being used to influence voters,” he added. Section 58 (A) of the Representation of People’s Act was amended in 1989 to address booth capturing and use of muscle power, which were big issues at that time.  The amendment allowed the commission to countermand or adjourn an election in case it found irregularities.  The Commission has also written to the Financial Services Secretary, the RBI Deputy Governor and SBI Chairman to look into the procedures involved following the seizure of ₹570 crore in Tamil Nadu, which is currently in the Coimbatore Chest.

“We reiterate once again this movement of currency is duly authorised by the Reserve Bank of India and has all necessary approvals. The movement is in line with RBI’s Currency Management policy of moving cash from one currency chest to the other where cash is needed,” said SBI, in a statement.

A senior official said the Commission decided to act and postpone the elections in Thanjavur as it has direct evidence linking the money to the votes there. The evidence was in terms of seized handwritten notes, which listed the names of a Coordinator and Assistant Coordinator with the names of 50 voters in each ward to try and influence voting patterns.

Evidence found

The Commission was able to get physical evidence from 10 of the over 60 wards in Thanjavur.

Following the decision to push back elections in two constituencies in Tamil Nadu to May 23, it has received requests from other constituencies as well, calling for postponing polls there.

Published on May 18, 2016
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