RPA amendment: EC seeks legal powers on cases of bribe-for-votes

Section 58A was introduced in the 1980s when booth-capturing was rampant during elections in many parts of the country.

Written by Ritika Chopra | New Delhi | Updated: June 6, 2016 7:24 am
election commission, law ministry, voters bribe, bribed voters, Karnataka sting operation, JDS TV sting, TV sting karnataka, rajya sabha elections, Karnataka Chief Electoral Officer, tamil Nadu assembly seats, india news, latest news Chief Election Commissioner, Nasim Zaidi, at a press conference in New Delhi. (Source: PTI/File)

The Election Commission is set to write to the Law Ministry seeking legal powers to countermand polls in case there is credible evidence of use of money to bribe voters, top sources told The Indian Express.

The move comes against the backdrop of a recent sting operation that purportedly showed a group of MLAs from Karnataka demanding money, in crores, for supporting a candidate in the coming Rajya Sabha elections. The poll panel had sought a report from the Karnataka Chief Electoral Officer on the matter.

Earlier, the EC, in an unprecedented step, was forced to cancel elections to two Tamil Nadu Assembly seats, Aravakurichi and Thanjavur, on the ground of voters being bribed with money during the recent campaign.

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According to sources, the EC is preparing a proposal seeking an amendment to Section 58A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which empowers the poll watchdog to adjourn or cancel elections on the ground of booth-capturing. “We want the government to either tweak this provision or introduce a new one through which the EC can also revoke any election (Assembly, Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha etc) if money has been used to influence voters,” said an official, who did not wish to be identified.

Section 58A was introduced in the 1980s when booth-capturing was rampant during elections in many parts of the country. “Booth-capturing has come down drastically with the use of electronic voting machines. But with changing times we are faced with newer challenges that vitiate the polling atmosphere. Misuse of money is the biggest hurdle we face in conducting free and fair elections,” the official added.

According to the EC, the total seizures from the two Tamil Nadu constituencies where elections stand cancelled amounted to Rs 7.12 crore cash, 429.24 litres of liquor and 33.256 kg of silver worth Rs 9 lakh at Aravakurichi, and Rs 75,20,850 cash and 2,145.12 litres of liquor at Thanjavur constituency, up to May 15, apart from one lakh saris and dhotis each by the two parties.

Apart from this, AIADMK candidates are alleged to have gifted Rs 5 lakh-Rs 50 lakh to villages and residential localities to renovate temples. The EC also referred to the use of means such as distribution of tokens to families to purchase home appliances after the polls.

The poll watchdog had to resort to Article 324 of the Constitution, which is the source of its extraordinary powers, to cancel elections in the two seats. “Instead to resorting to extraordinary powers repeatedly to take such a step, the EC would like to have it as part of the RP Act. Having said that, it doesn’t mean that the Commission will not use Article 324 again to countermand polls, until the proposal is accepted and executed by the government,” another EC source told The Indian Express.

While EC officials did not give a deadline to send the above proposal to the Law Ministry, they said it will be done before the Assembly elections next year.

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  1. A
    Jun 6, 2016 at 12:46 am
    A MUST. Otherwise this is a banana republic. Also the Rajya Sabha is required or not should be debated. At this juncture the biggest hurdle to a democratic India are the quality of our elected representatives. When the top is rotten what do you expect from everyone else. This must be done fast. This includes the Lok sabha, MLA/MLC and Panchayats. While Modi is talking about black money - he should look in his back and front yard first.
    1. Mayur Panghaal
      Jun 6, 2016 at 3:32 am
      Ec expects bjp cong well oiled machinery to bite the very hand that feeds it ? First feku shd tell delhi univ to comply w cic order on fekus fake degrees instead of doing self approved press conf.Nautanki bandh karo.
      1. Mayur Panghaal
        Jun 6, 2016 at 3:26 am
        Ha ha ha...bjp and cong were both convicted by hc for taking foreign funds.Legally they were supposed to be derecognized...but guess what they did ? They changed the law itself and that too with retrospective effect !!! Any media channel covered this news with prominence ? And now its legal for political parties to get funds from foreign coumpanies and countries !!! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.lt;br/gt;..lt;br/gt;Mera desh badal raha hai !!!! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha aha....lt;br/gt;Bjp used to call kejriwal foreign funded....but truth has strange way of coming out ...ha ha ha ha
        1. M
          Jun 6, 2016 at 2:25 am
          Money changed hands in the previous elections alsolt;br/gt;to Rajya Sabha . Every body knew about it but turned a blind eye our country when something comes out in public as sensational news, the notice taken by the authorities and then they think of amending the laws.Although prevention is better than waking up when the problem arises,no body follows this rule.We therefore get into a mess like this.
          1. N
            Nikhil Goyal
            Jun 6, 2016 at 2:59 am
            Absolutely must . . EC is literally one of the pillars of Indian democracy . No one can forget TN Seshan's stellar work.
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