An Election Commission proposal to amend electoral laws to empower it to either postpone or countermand polls if evidence emerge of use of money to influence voters is under examination of the government, the Lok Sabha was informed today. Against the backdrop of allegation that parties were doling out cash and gifts to woo the electorate, the Commission had on June 6 asked the government to insert a new clause ’58B’ in the Representation of the People Act to allow “adjournment of poll or countermanding of election on the ground of bribery.” “The proposal is under examination of the government,” Minister of State for Law PP Chaudhary said in a written reply.
At present, the Commission has powers under Article 324 of the Constitution to cancel or postpone polls if they have been vitiated due to use of money to get votes. But now the poll panel wants the government to amend the R P Act to make use of money power a ground to cancel or countermand polls. Under the proposed clause, EC wants power to “postpone the poll in the affected polling area or areas to such later date as the Commission may deem appropriate in the facts and circumstances of the case, appoint a fresh date…”
In case where the poll has already taken place in the affected polling area, EC wants authority under law to declare the poll as “void” and decide on a fresh day to hold the elections afresh. Provision 58A in the R P Act, inserted in 1989, allows EC to cancel polls only if muscle power has been used or booths have been captured to influence the outcome of elections.
On May 27, EC had recommended to the Tamil Nadu Governor to cancel the notification to hold polls to the Arvakurichi and Thanjavur Assembly constituencies following evidence that a large sum of money was used to influence the voters there. Tamil Nadu had gone for Assembly polls on May 16 after which AIADMK returned to power for a second consecutive term.
The Commission had used its constitutional powers in March 2012 recommending to the President cancellation of the notification for a Rajya Sabha biennial election from Jharkhand even after the polling had concluded after it found that money was used to influence voters.