There has been no response from the Centre over the EC’s proposal to insert a new section, 58B, to enable it to take similar action if voters of a constituency are bribed by political parties
Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi has written to Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, asking him to revisit the government’s rejection of the Election Commission’s proposal seeking permanent legal powers to cancel polls in case there is credible evidence of voters being bribed.
On June 6 last year, the commission had sent a proposal, seeking an amendment to Section 58A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which empowers the EC to adjourn or cancel elections in case of booth capturing.
The EC had sought insertion of a new section, 58B, to enable it to take similar action if voters of a constituency are bribed by political parties.
As first reported by The Indian Express on November 21, 2016, the government’s rejection of this proposal was communicated to the EC in a letter dated September 26, 2016, saying that booth-capturing and bribery are not comparable “as the latter would be a matter of investigation and proof”.
This was reiterated on November 18, 2016, in Prasad’s letter to Zaidi on proposed electoral reforms. The Law Minister’s missive had come 10 days after the PM’s announcement of demonetisation. While announcing the move, PM had referred to the role of black money in elections.
Pressing the government to reconsider its stand, Zaidi wrote on November 23, 2016, “…I would point out that even in case of booth capturing, the Commission takes up follow up legal action only after verification of facts and on satisfaction as laid down under relevant law. Same would be the case on the issue of bribery.”
Although the poll panel had cancelled elections to two Tamil Nadu Assembly seats on grounds of bribery, Zaidi argued that it is not desirable for the commission to resort to its emergency powers frequently to deal with a problem as widespread as bribery.
According to sources, the commission hasn’t heard from the Law Ministry on the proposal.