Thursday, April 18, 2024

Election Commission took effective steps to curb money power during polls, will continue to do so in future: ECI to Supreme Court

The Election Commission of India on Thursday apprised the Supreme Court that it has taken various steps to reduce the influence of ‘money power’ during the polls and will continue to do the same in future.

Vijay Kumar Pandey, Director (Law), ECI, submitted an affidavit before the Apex Court in response to a public interest litigation seeking directions to curb excessive poll spending.

Stating that the Central regulatory body was ‘seriously’ concerned about the increasing poll spending by political parties, the Commission said it had introduced a robust mechanism to keep the election expenditure within the statutory limit prescribed by the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961. 

The affidavit noted that to keep a check on excess or unaccounted expenditure by political parties or their members, the Commission has effectively enforced the Election Expenditure Monitoring mechanism since the General Elections to Bihar Legislative Assembly, 2010.

It said that the mechanism would keep the election expenditure within the statutory limit prescribed under Rule 90 of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 and would also curb excess or unaccounted expenditure.

The Commission said that time and again, ECI has adopted various measures to curb the menace of money power in elections and would continue to do so in future.

The affidavit further said that the components of extant monitoring mechanism included deployment of expenditure observers, assistant expenditure observers, video surveillance teams, video viewing teams, accounting teams, complaint monitoring and call centre, media certification and monitoring committee, flying squads and static surveillance teams.

The ECI added that apart from ‘expenditure sensitive’ constituencies and pockets, which were prone to greater instances of corruption and excessive poll spending, other constituencies were also demarcated and kept under ‘close vigil’ by the Commission.

The affidavit said the accounting teams maintained a shadow observation register for each contesting candidate, and with every such register, a corresponding folder of evidence.

Each candidate was required to open a separate bank account for the sole purpose of election expenditures and maintain their own register in which daily accounts are systematically maintained, it added.

As per the Commission, the election expenditure statements of every aspiring legislator were also uploaded on the website of the Election Commission or the Chief Electoral Officer of the concerned State or Union Territory.

The affidavit further pointed out that the services of Central and State Law Enforcement Agencies were routinely engaged and their teams were deployed to poll-bound states to monitor election expenditure.

The petition filed by one Prabhakar Deshpandey sought appropriate direction on formulating a comprehensive plan of action to curb excess election expenditures with stringent and effective provisions of action against the erring candidates and political parties. 

It further sought direction to the Commission to examine the election expenditure and bring credibility to the poll process, along with democratic reforms. 

The ECI requested the Apex Court to dismiss the petition as unmaintainable, since the prayers sought in it were ‘vague and half-baked’. The Commission further questioned the sincerity and public spiritedness of the petitioner.

(Case title: Prabhakar Deshpande vs The Chief Election Commissioner of India & Ors)


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