New Delhi, May 1 : The Election Commission of India will soon ask the Government
to disqualify candidates named in charge sheets for bribing voters for up to five years,a move which comes after it found that “innovative ways” were used to lure people in a Tamil Nadu by-poll. Sources in the ECI said that the Commission has decided to write to the Law Ministry seeking changes in the Representation of the People Act to ensure that candidates contesting Lok Sabha and Assembly polls are disqualified for up to five years once they are charge sheeted by a court.
Earlier this month, the Commission had indefinitely put off the RK Nagar Assembly by poll after it found that money power was used to influence voters. The by-poll was to be held on April 12. It was necessitated following the demise of J Jayalalithaa. In its lengthy order, the Commission had pointed out that political parties and their top leaders used “innovative ways” in bribing voters in the RK Nagar Assembly seat to outwit law enforcement authorities mandated with keeping an eye on poll expenditure. Many complaints were received by the commission on inducements given to voters by distributing money and gifts in innovative forms like tokens including for milk, prepaid phone recharge coupons, newspaper subscription, money transfer in no frill accounts in banks and even mobile wallet payment. At present, bribing of voters is a non-cognizable offence under the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr PC) and is punishable by imprisonment for a term of up to one year, or with fine, or both, under Sections 17 1B and 17 1E of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The proposal of the Election Commission to make electoral bribery a cognisable offence under Section 17 1B of the Indian Penal Code has been under consideration of the Government since 2011. A cognisable offence is one for which police can carry out an arrest without a warrant and initiate investigations. Majority of the States have supported a proposal to make bribery during elections a cognisable offence which the Election Commission feels would check use of money power in polls. Earlier, the poll panel had asked the Government to give it power under the election law to countermand an election where money is misused. At present, the ECI can countermand an election following use of muscle power.