NEW DELHI: Proposal to make bribery during elections a 'cognisable' offence found support from majority of the states. Poll panel is of the view that the initiative would help checking use of money power in polls.
Earlier, the Election Commission had approached it to amend CrPC to make bribery of voters a cognisable offence as amendments to the IPC and the CrPC are the domain of the Union Home Ministry. Based on the proposal of the poll watchdog, the Home Ministry had drawn up the CrPC (Amendment) Bill, 2012. Since amendments in CrPC require the support of 50 percent of the states, their views were sought.
Now, most of the states have supported the proposal. Till January, except Assam, Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, all other states had supported the proposal.
Bribery of voters is a non-cognisable offence under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and is punishable by imprisonment for a term of up to one year, or with fine, or both, under sections 171B and 171E of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Once it becomes a cognizable offence, police would be able to make arrest without a warrant and initiate investigations.
Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi has written to Home Minister Rajnath Singh pushing for an early decision on the draft bill.
"...I would request you to take up the matter for urgent amendment of the relevant provisions of the CrPC as proposed by the Commission," he said in a letter written on December 1, 2016.
The poll panel feels that if the offence of bribery in elections is made cognisable, it will act as a deterrent against attempts to lure voters through cash incentives. It will also help poll machinery take prompt action against those involved in bribery.
"Misuse of money power plays vitiating role in the conduct of free and fair elections, and the most blatant form of such misuse is in bribery of electors," Zaidi told in the letter.
Earlier, the Commission had asked Law Ministry to amend Representation of the People Act to give it powers to countermand elections if proof is found that money power was used to lure voters. It, at present, has powers to countermand polls following use of muscle power. The Commission uses its constitutional powers under Article 324 to countermand polls following use of money power. But the Law Ministry has rejected the proposal. Recently, Zaidi gave the proposal a fresh push recently by writing again to the Law Ministry to reconsider the proposal.