Disqualify candidates for 5 yrs if caught bribing voters: EC to ask govt

Earlier this month, EC had indefinitely cancelled the R K Nagar by poll after it found that money power was used to influence voters.

New Delhi: The Election Commission is set to ask the government to amend laws to disqualify candidates listed in charge sheets for bribing voters, a move which comes days after it cancelled a Tamil Nadu assembly by-poll following allegations of use of money to influence electors.

The poll watchdog has decided to write to the Law Ministry seeking changes in the Representation of the People Act to ensure that candidates contesting Lok Sabha and assembly polls are disqualified for up to five years once they are charge sheeted by a court, sources in the poll panel said.

Earlier this month, the commission had indefinitely cancelled the R K Nagar assembly by poll after it found that money power was used to influence voters.

The by-poll was to be held on April 12. It was necessitated following the demise of J Jayalalithaa.

In its lengthy order, the commission had pointed out that political parties and their top leaders used "innovative ways" in bribing voters in the RK Nagar Assembly seat to outwit law enforcement authorities mandated with keeping an eye on poll expenditure.

Many complaints were received by the commission on possibilities of inducement of electors by distributing cash and gifts in innovative forms like tokens, prepaid phone recharge coupons, newspaper subscription, milk tokens, money transfer in no-frill accounts in banks and even mobile wallet payment to mobile numbers.

Earlier, the poll panel had asked the government to give it power under the election law to countermand an election where money power is used. At present, the EC can countermand an election following use of muscle power.

It can use its constitutional powers under Article 324 to countermand a poll over use of money power, but it wants the power to be vested to it under law. The logic is that it does not want to use its constitutional powers too frequently.

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