The Election Commission of India has written to the Centre seeking amendment to the Representation of the People Act to confer specific powers on the election watchdog to postpone or countermand polls based on evidence that money power was used to influence voters.
The move comes days after the EC rescinded the poll notification for two Tamil Nadu Assembly constituencies, Aravakurichi and Thanjavur, following reports of large-scale distribution of money and gifts to voters by the candidates and political parties. The action was taken under Article 324 of the Constitution. The Commission is yet to announce the fresh dates for elections in the two constituencies.
“However, currently, there is no specific provision in the law to this effect. The Constitutional provisions need to be invoked sparingly. Therefore, we have sought insertion of a clause empowering the ECI to take action in case there is evidence proving that money was used to influence voters,” said an official.
New clause proposed
In a letter to the Legislative Secretary in the Law Ministry, the Commission said a new clause ‘58 B’ be inserted in the Act to allow adjournment or countermanding of election in the affected polling areas on the grounds of use of money power. The provision would also empower the Commission to re-schedule the elections in such areas.
The Commission said in Clause 58 A and the proposed provision 58 B, the expression “countermand the election” would mean ab initio rescinding of the entire electoral process in the constituency.
Clause 58 A empowers the Election Commission to cancel polls only if there is an evidence of booth-capturing or use of muscle power to influence the outcome of elections.