Ahead of Assembly polls in five states, the Election Commission has stepped up measures to keep a strict vigil on the election expenditure of candidates in order to check misuse of money power in elections.
In detailed instructions to CEO’s of Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam, Kerala and Puducherry where assembly polls are due sometime in May, EC said that distribution of money, liquor, or any other item to the electors with intent to influence them comes under the definition of bribery and is an offence under the IPC.
“Yet another form of expenditure which is coming to the fore in recent times is on Surrogate Advertisements, Paid News etc,” EC’s Expenditure Monitoring Division said on Monday.
“The systems should be robust enough to catch such expenditure as well, and not only include it in the account of election expenditure, but also take action against the wrongdoers under the relevant provisions of the law, including lodging of complaints before the police/competent magistrate, if required,” the EC said.
Maintenance of the day-to-day account of election expenditure by the candidate is mandatory, it said, adding though the account of election expenditure is required to be submitted within 30 days from the date of the declaration of the result, the monitoring has to be done on a regular basis during the campaign period for it to be of any use.
Elaboraging on the structure of the Expenditure monitoring mechanism, the EC said that whenever a complaint regarding distribution of cash or liquor or any other item is received, the flying squads shall reach the spot immediately.
The squad will gather necessary evidence, seize the items of bribe, gather evidences and record statement of the witnesses and persons and send a report immediately to the RO with a copy to the SP.
The RO will issue notice to the candidate with regard to the incidents of Paid News in consultation with the Expenditure Observer for not showing the expenditure on such publication.
The Expenditure Observer shall send a report of Paid News along with copy to the Election Commission within 24 hours, it said.
Noting that there were frequent complaints of Marriage/ Community halls or other big Halls being utilized in the past for distribution of gift articles like dhotis and sarees and serving of food etc, the EC said that the district electoral machinery should keep a watch so that there was no camouflage of expenses for election purposes.
The EC said representations were made to it alleging that money was being given on the eve of the elections by political parties and candidates to workers over and above the wages due under the government programmes like rural employment scheme, to influence the voters.
“It is to be noted that while poor people are not put to hardship due to the Model Code of Conduct, the disbursement of cash by political parties/candidates in addition to wages to which the workers are entitled under the scheme, is not permissible. This is a corrupt practice and an electoral offence,” the EC said.
In order to curb the liquor menace, the EC said production, offtake, stock limits of licensed stockists, daily receipt and offtake of retail sellers of IMFL/Beer/Country Liquor and opening and closing time of Liquor Vending Shops should be closely monitored with reference to production figures in previous year.
Intensive vigil over inter-state movement of vehicles at RTO check posts and border checkposts by Excise staff should be kept.
All airports in the state, major railway stations, hotels, farm houses, Hawala agents, financial brokers, cash couriers, pawn brokers and other suspicious agencies/persons used for movement of undisclosed cash should be kept under close surveillance and necessary action taken as per the provisions of Income Tax Act, it said.
The Director General of Income Tax (Inv) will open a Central Control Room, preferably in the state capital with 24 x 7 call centre facility and toll free number for receiving complaints or information regarding movement of cash or other items suspected to be used for bribery of votes.
“It is the responsibility of the DEO that the entire expenditure monitoring mechanism runs effectively in the district. The DEO will be assisted by various teams of the Expenditure Monitoring Cell,” the EC said.
Biennial polls to 12 legislative council seats on 17th March
Elections to 12 legislative council seats in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh will be held on 17th March, the Election Commission announced on Monday.
The biennial elections to ten seats in Andhra Pradesh have been necessitated as the term of the members is expiring on 29th March, the EC said in a press note.
The by-elections will be held to one seat each in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh which were needed as the sitting members resigned their seats.
According to the schedule, the notification would be issued on 28th February and the last date for filing nominations would be on 7th March.
While the scrutiny would take place on 8th March, the last date for withdrawal of nominations would be on 10th March.
The counting of votes would take place on 17th March.