EC makes a third push for tough anti-bribery law

The CEC, who retires from his post in four months, said the government could have done more to give effect to pending electoral reforms.

Written by Ritika Chopra , Maneesh Chhibber | New Delhi | Updated: March 5, 2017 12:44 pm
 Election commission, anti-bribery law, election, voter bribery, assembly elections, CEC, up, punjab, goa, uttarakhand, india news, indian express The Election Commission of India (File Photo)

Despite being rebuffed twice by the government, the Election Commission of India (ECI) is persisting with its demand for the power to cancel an election in case of voter bribery, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Nasim Zaidi told The Sunday Express in an interview on Friday.

Cash and liquor seizures during the ongoing assembly elections in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur have been over three times the volumes that were seized when these states went to polls the last time in 2012, Zaidi said.

The CEC, who retires from his post in four months, said the government could have done more to give effect to pending electoral reforms. He also called for a separate provision in the Representation of the People (RP) Act to deal exclusively with hate speeches in election campaigns, and time-bound disposal of election petitions by courts.

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As reported by The Indian Express on June 6, 2016, the Election Commission had approached the Law Ministry seeking amendments to the RP Act for permanent legal powers to countermand elections in case there was credible evidence that voters had been bribed.

The proposal was sent after the Tamil Nadu assembly elections, in which the Commission, in an unprecedented step, had used its extraordinary powers under Article 324 of the Constitution to call off polling at two seats for voter bribery.

Although this proposal has already been rejected twice, the EC, in a rare intervention, has approached the Law Ministry for a third time, asking for a review. “Everybody has his or her wisdom. In our wisdom, we feel it should be done. They feel otherwise. They have asked us to continue using Article 324 (to deal with voter bribery), but we have said we need proper legal cover just as in the case of booth capturing,” Zaidi said.

“We have taken up the proposal (with the government) for the third time. The Commission will cancel elections only on the basis of the report of the Returning Officer and Observers, and some credible evidence that there was largescale distribution of money to voters. The investigation will be conducted in the same manner as booth capturing. So, in the Commission’s view, it is incorrect to say that bribery stands on a different footing than booth capturing,” he said.

On the unabated influence of black money in elections, despite demonetisation, Zaidi said, “I would not like to comment on what was or wasn’t intended with the demonetisation decision. I can only quote data. Our seizures are more than three times compared to the assembly polls 2012. A major portion of the Rs 350 crore seized was in cash. So, in this election we found more movement of cash and more distribution of liquor. In Uttar Pradesh alone, liquor worth Rs 60 crore was caught.”

On the government’s repeated public statements urging the Commission to build consensus on having elections simultaneously in the states and at the Centre, Zaidi said the EC had not received any formal communication from the government to this effect.

Asked if he agreed with the criticism that electoral bonds would mask whatever little transparency that exists currently in political funding, the CEC said, “Our stand has always been that any scheme that brings about a reduction in anonymity is welcome.”

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his Budget speech on February 1 had announced introduction of electoral bonds, which a donor can purchase from authorised banks, but can only redeem through registered accounts of a political party. This, he said, was aimed at protecting the identity of donors who fear adverse consequences for contributing to one political party.

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  1. T
    Truth
    Mar 5, 2017 at 4:39 am
    The corrupt political lot including the current one will never allow any law to put a stop to their corruption !
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    1. S
      Sankaran Krishnan
      Mar 5, 2017 at 10:37 am
      The Election Commission has to take up vigorously and if not let our Advocate friends file an PIL and take up the matter at the highest level of Judiciary i.e Supreme Court and once the court pronounce the verdict the Govt. is forced to accept the recommendation and as well Electoral Reforms which are all needed for fair Election to be conducted by the EC and with Social media backing the Govt. can't deny the right or else the people will start questioning !!!
      Reply
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        Mayur Panghaal
        Mar 5, 2017 at 10:23 am
        EC wants Chor parties like cong bjp to kill the golden goose ?lt;br/gt;High hopes !!lt;br/gt;CONG BJP has made foreign donation to parties legal.lt;br/gt;EC shd first try to make cashless donations to cong bjp...just like AAp has done voluntarily.
        Reply
        1. M
          Mahender Goriganti
          Mar 5, 2017 at 5:24 am
          This Jihadi underhanded is sore that he he could not dictate terms to this government. that what this report is all about by Islamic express.
          Reply
          1. M
            M.P.Rao
            Mar 5, 2017 at 6:10 am
            Election Commission finds more movement of cash and more distribution of liquor in these elections.Amajor portion of 350 crores seized was in cash.It only shows how politicians play with money and liquor.Govt instead giving lectures on various issues to the common man should immediately agree to the electoral reforms proposed by EC
            Reply
            1. N
              NPY Raman
              Mar 5, 2017 at 7:22 am
              Modi's repeated statements that demonitisation has made a dent in black money and those with black money have been cut to size ring hollow in the wake of the EC's findings. If the govt. is serious it should work with the EC rather than announcing isolated steps like electoral bonds without any consultation with any stakeholders.
              Reply
              1. P
                Paddy Singh
                Mar 5, 2017 at 7:49 am
                Can the hypocrite Modi, who's only aim is to colour the country saffron, arid the the country's fracas of corruption and dishonesty during elections.? Anyone accused of or has a criminal record should be barred including his family. Can he even have an audit into how the crores that politicians declare, were earned? Can he bring back grace into public appointments like governors where exemplary people are appointed, rather than 'one foot in the grave servile ex politicians'? No, because a common gene - corruption - amongst politicians and a majority of Indians binds them all together. They may yell and shout at each other in the hallowed precincts of Parliament but outside they are thick as thieves.
                Reply
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                  Sujatha Selvam
                  Mar 5, 2017 at 10:30 am
                  You are the dirtiest element in this country who has no morality or decency and you are a number one , calling all muslim names as jihadis. Shame on you.
                  Reply
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