CHENNAI: A PIL has been filed in the High Court to punish the voters who took bribes for the recently countermanded RK Nagar by-election.
The first Bench of Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sundar, before which the PIL from Arun Natarajan, who belonged to an organisation that campaigned against corrupt poll practices, came up for hearing on Friday, ordered notice to the authorities concerned, returnable by July 11.
A senior advocate Nalini Chidambaram (spouse of former FM P Chidambaram), who appeared for the petitioner, also wanted the Election Commission of India (ECI) pulled up for its failure to lodge complaints against the voters who accepted bribes and freebies for votes.
Sec. 171(b) of the IPC holds both bribe givers and takers equally guilty, she argued. During the RK Nagar by-election, which stands cancelled now, of the 2.4 lakh eligible voters, at least 2 lakh were given `4,000 each. Referring to ECI reports and complaints, Nalini said they talked only about bribe givers and not about bribe takers.
Some complaints mentioned door numbers where cash, sarees and household articles were distributed, but no voter has been mentioned. The ECI, its field officers and flying squads knew the identity of these voters who had taken bribes, but they chose not to slap bribery charges against them. The ECI must have booked cases against at least 10,000 bribe-taking voters, she asserted, adding that it showed the constitutional body’s ignorance of law.
The ECI counsel Niranjan Rajagopal said the constitutional body was mandated to hold elections and it watched only the contestants’ conduct during the polls. While not denying the fact that the collusion of voters in bribery too could have been attended to, Niranjan said there were practical difficulties as the commission could neither identify nor slap cases on two lakh voters.