The Election Commission has so much credit for so many years but sometimes it takes decisions in over-anxiety, the Supreme Court on Friday said while referring to the panel’s order on cash seizure above Rs 2.5 lakh in transit ahead of Gujarat Assembly elections
The Supreme Court on Friday rapped the Election Commission (EC) when its petition challenging the order of the Gujarat High Court came up for hearing.
A Bench comprising Justice D K Jain and Justice Madan B Lokur said, “We can’t give you the power to determine the unexplained cash. You have so much credit for so many years, but you should not show over anxiety,” the Bench remarked. The High Court had held that the instructions issued by the Election Commission empowering its officers to randomly and indiscriminately search any vehicle on the road and seize unaccounted cash amounting to Rs 2.5 lakh or above as ultra vires being violative of Article 21 (No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law) of the Constitution and also beyond the powers conferred on the Election Commission.
The Bench further said, “It is a laudable objective, but this is not the way you should do. This will impinge on not only Article 21, but also Article 19 (g) (All citizens shall have the right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business).
The stand of the EC is that it has to take vigilant measures to ensure that illicit money does not a play pernicious role in the conduct of free and fair elections.
The EC, in its petition, submitted that large sums of unaccounted money have been seized where it is apprehended that such money will be used for bribing the voters either directly or through indirect use of the same through material benefits. Wherever it has been found that the money is legitimate, the same has been returned to the owners, the EC averred.
The Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Bhagyoday Janparishad moved the High Court challenging the instructions and said that issuing such instructions and guidelines amounted to legislating beyond the jurisdiction of the EC.