The Election Commission (EC) agreed in Supreme Court on Monday to amend its ‘instructions’ issued in Gujarat, empowering its officers to search any vehicle and seize unaccounted cash of `2.5 lakh or above in the light of the upcoming Assembly elections in the state.
Senior counsel Ashok Desai who appeared for the EC along with advocate Meenakshi Arora, told a Bench comprising Justice D K Jain and Justice Madan B Lokur that the July 2012 order of the EC would be dropped and the amended one would be included in the instructions on the election expenditure monitoring order. To this, Mukul Rohtagi, appearing for the respondents said that the poll panel should advertise the amended instructions.
Desai said money and muscle power should be kept at bay to have free and fair elections. Not only cash, even gifts, sarees, liquor, watches, spectacles, drugs, arms can also be seized if found along with poll material or along with poll candidates or connected to the poll, he said.
However, Justice Jain pointed out that transport of liquor in Gujarat was already illegal, as it is a dry state. The Bench permitted the EC to amend its instructions and passed the order to incorporate the changed provision. But respondents Bhagyoday Jan Parishad and the Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry later told the court that the amended provision was not clear. So, the Bench posted the matter to Friday for further hearing.
The Bench was hearing a petition by the poll panel challenging the order of the Gujarat High Court wherein it had quashed its orders on cash seizures. The High Court held that the poll panel’s order in this regard was unconstitutional.