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Excessive election expense: Supreme Court issues notice to Election Commission

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The Supreme Court has sought response from the Election Commission of India (ECI) on a PIL seeking directions to curb the excess expenses spent by various political parties and candidates during polls.

The Bench of Justice Ajay Rastogi and Justice B.V. Nagarathna on Tuesday issued notice on the PIL, which sought directions to the ECI to take stringent and effective action against the erring candidates and political parties, which indulged in such wasteful expenditure.

Filed by one Prabhakar Deshpande through Advocate Arup Banerjee, the PIL cited a report by the Centre for Media Studies, Delhi, which alleged that Rs 60,000 crore was spent by various political parties and candidates during the Lok Sabha elections in 2019.

It said had the CMS report been false, the political parties would not have shied away from taking legal action against it for defaming them. Their silence proves that the report was true, added the PIL.

Calling the Election Commission a ‘paper tiger,’ the petitioner alleged that the Commission had failed to take action against the erring parties for spending above the poll limits. He further said that expecting those elected through the same process to prosecute those responsible, would be ‘naive and unrealistic’.

The PIL termed such electoral malpractices as a ‘crime’ against the nation and said the wrong use of money, muscle and mind had put the democracy of the country in a dangerous situation.

It cited Section 90 of the Conduct of Election Rule, 1961, which said that the maximum amount to be spent by/for a candidate in a Lok Sabha Election should not exceed Rs 90 lakh for bigger states and Rs 54 lakh for smaller states.

The petitioner said the onus was on the Commission to maintain a ceiling to keep the election maladies in control and sustain the democracy in good stead.

He added that though the candidates were not given a free hand to spend as much as they wanted in elections, it appeared that a rockslide of money was hazardously obstructing the conduct of free and fair elections.

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