Panel to modify rule on poll expenditure, SC told


NEW DELHI – The Election Commission Monday agreed in the Supreme Court to modify its instruction on poll expenditure used for random search and seizure of unexplained cash and other illicit articles often used for inducing voters.

The apex court bench of Justice D.K. Jain and Justice Madan B. Lokur accepted the suggestion from senior counsel Ashok Desai, appearing for the poll panel.

The bench accepted the offer of the Election Commission to modify and substitute the Para 4.7.1. of the commission’s instruction on election expenditure after senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi, appearing for one of the respondents, gave his nod.

Desai suggested modifying the existing instruction which said that the officials of the Election Commission could seize “if any cash is found in a vehicles carrying a candidate, or his agent or party worker, or carrying posters or election material and is likely to be used for the inducement of the electors”.

The modified version would, apart from cash and posters, also cover the seizure of any drug, liquor or arms or any other illicit articles or gift items likely to be used for the inducement of the electors.

The court in its order said that in view of the submission nothing survived in the petition by the Election Commission and asked the panel to give its amended instruction the widest possible publicity.

The court later directed the re-listing of the matter Nov 30 after Rohtagi mentioned before the court that the modified instruction did not mention that the unexplained amount of Rs.2.5 lakh or above would be seized.

He expressed the apprehension that existing modified instruction could be used for any amount of money even if it was less than Rs.2.5 lakh.

The Election Commission had moved the apex court challenging the Gujarat High court order holding as ultra vires the panel’s instruction empowering its officers to randomly and indiscriminately search any vehicle and seize cash up to Rs.2.5 lakh.

The apex court Nov 23 said that though the commission was doing laudable work, seizure of money by it during election campaigns could not be accepted.

Holding that such a seizure of money was beyond the powers of the commission, the court said it violated Article 21 of the Constitution. The court had asked the commission as to how it could it modify its instruction allowing the money seizure.

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