Taking cognizance of the fact that money power, bribing the voters and paid news are a big problem in election, the Election Commission has asked the government to take some urgent steps to put an end to these illegal practices in the forthcoming assembly elections. Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Nasim Zaidi has asked the Central Government to take urgent measures including considering an ordinance to designate the malpractices as specific crimes.
The Election Commission has recommended the Centre to make distribution of money among voters by candidates, their agents and supporters an unbailable offence under the Criminal Procedure Code so that offenders could be arrested without bail. He also suggested hiking the jail term for filing a false affidavit from six months to two years which would bar a candidate from contesting for six years.
Chief Election Commissioner said, “If there is a will the changes in the law can be done through ordinance.” Drawing a comparison with booth capturing, which was rampant before 1990, Zaidi said bribery had assumed similar proportions and needed to be dealt with an iron hand. He said the EC was undertaking a clause-by-clause review of the Representation of the People Act.
Chief Election Commissioner said that another major problem in the elections is paid news, where any kind of false news in favour of the candidate or defaming the other candidate is spread by paying the media houses or newspapers. CEC recommended the central government to make paid news also an unbailable offence. “At present, we determine which news item is paid news and add the expenses incurred to the candidates’ expenses, which is Rs 75 lakh for Lok Sabha elections and Rs 28 lakh for assembly elections. But with most candidates reporting poll expenses that are only 50% of the limit, we need to deal with the problem by making it an offence under the Representation of People Act,” Zaidi said.
The third very serious problem that we are facing is false affidavits being filed by the candidates where they wrongly declare their edcucational qualification, wealth & assets, criminal cases against them and other details. “It is a very serious problem. But the maximum punishment for filing a false affidavit is only six months. It should be made two years so as to make the candidate filing false affidavit suffer disqualification,” Zaidi said. The EC has also asked chief electoral officers of states to collect reports from each political party on the contributions received by them.
All the recommendations by the Chief Election Commissioner to the government to clean the election system must be implemented by the central government at the earliest in order to ensure a transparent and clean election. As recommended by the CEC, government must show its will power and take the ordinance route to implement all these changes.