CHENNAI : As many as 4,690 First Information Reports (FIRs) have been filed against political functionaries during the past month for violating the model code of conduct. The charges include bribing of voters and making hate speeches. The figures were released by TN’s Chief Electoral Officer Satyabrata Sahoo on Saturday.
Of the 4,690 cases, 3,732 relate to the defacement of property while 565 cases relate to charges such as bribing voters with money and offering them freebies, which are to be pursued by the police. A person convicted of bribing voters, cannot vote or contest in elections for six years.
Meanwhile, as far as the seizure of unaccounted cash, gold, silver, freebies, liquor, etc, is concerned, since the notification of the Lok Sabha elections, Tamil Nadu registered a record seizure of cash and materials worth Rs 933.34 crore till April 19.
Of the Rs 213.18 crore of unaccounted cash seized, Rs 70.19 crore has been returned to the owners after verifying the documents. A whopping 3,048 kgs of gold, silver and other precious metals worth `708.48 crore were seized by Election Commission squads. The details of how much of these precious metals have been returned are awaited from district authorities. Nationally, Gujarat comes second with unaccounted cash and materials worth Rs 544.31 crore having been seized till April 19 in the State.
Will FIRs over code breach see action?
AS many as 4,690 FIRs have been registered over poll code violations in Tamil Nadu over the past month. But will all these cases reach their logical end? Going by past experiences, it seems unlikely. Most of such cases have been dragging on in courts and in some cases, even after conviction, follow-up action has not been taken. Some experts are of the view that the Election Commission should track these cases till the end while others believe it is the responsibility of the police.
“The EC comes into the picture just ahead of the polls and moves away once the elections are completed. So, it is the duty of the police department to pursue the cases seriously. In many incidents, the electoral offence cases are being dragged on for many years. As per the present Constitution, the EC cannot punish the errant on its own. So, to ensure punishment, special courts should be constituted for trying the cases relating to the electoral offences, within a time frame. If that happens, these cases will reach the logical end,” said Sudarshan Padmanabhan, coordinator, TN Election Watch (Association of Democratic Reforms).
“The office of the CEO can follow up the cases filed on serious charges and check whether they reached the logical end. The Election Commission cannot pursue thousands of cases filed in this regard. It is the duty of the police department to investigate the cases properly and see that the errant are punished,” said former Chief Election Commissioner R Gopalaswami.
Gopalaswami recalled that during his tenure as the CEC, he made it mandatory that none of the cases relating to the electoral offences, should be withdrawn without the permission of the Election Commission.
“Even though persons are convicted in these cases by the courts, the details about the convicted persons do not go to the district election officers who are authorised to remove the errant from the electoral rolls, which would eventually debar the convicted persons from exercising their franchise for six years. To rectify this lacunae, the EC should seriously follow up on these cases,” said Advocate M Loganathan from Coimbatore, who has been pursuing electoral offence cases.
TN at the top
Tamil Nadu registered a record seizure of cash and materials worth Rs 933.34 crore till April 19. A whopping 3,048 kg of gold, silver and other precious metals worth Rs 708.48 crore were seized. Gujarat came second with unaccounted cash and materials worth Rs 544.31 crore being seized till April 19.