Election Commission strict on use of black money in elections: Shri P.K. Das
Bhopal: Election Commission will curb use of black money strictly for ensuring free and fair elections in Madhya Pradesh. This time, strict watch will be kept on use of black money for elections with a view to strengthening Indian democracy. This was informed by Election Commission of India’s Director General Shri P.K. Das at one-day workshop here today. The workshop held at Academy of Administration was participated by officers of Central income tax and customs officers and nodal officers for keeping watch over poll expenses at district level. The workshop was inaugurated by Madhya Pradesh’s Chief Income Tax Officer Shri A.J. Jain. Chief Electoral Officer Shri Jaideep Govind, commission’s Director Shri B.B. Garg, legal advisor Shri S.K. Mehandiratta and Academy’s Director Shri Rakesh Agrawal were also present on the occasion.
Shri P.K. Das said that after elimination of problems like booth capturing, the issue of keeping watch over election expenses has emerged as a major challenge. Use of money power is highly improper in a developing country like India. It is due to it that agencies like income tax and customs are being involved to control money power. Excessive poll expenses by candidates are also a serious challenge before the commission where maximum poll expenses by a candidate have been fixed at Rs. 16 lakh. He said that even though there is a law to prevent use of money power in elections, nevertheless, all effective measures will have to be taken to monitor elections expenses. Sometimes, helicopters, ambulances, bourses and commercial institutions are also used to transfer black money to be spent in elections, which will have to be monitored. He directed to ensure implementation of monitoring of poll expenses upto lowest level. Shri Das asked officers to strengthen their respective vigilance set-ups to keep watch over poll expenses.
Shri A.K. Jain said that such representatives should be elected who can serve people and not their own interests. Indiscriminate use of money power has been made in previous elections. He expected officers to take monitoring of poll expense seriously as responsible citizens of India and discharge their duties with dedication. Shri Rakesh Agrawal informed that efforts for monitoring poll expenses are being made since 1992 and have been strengthened further.
Shri Jaideep Govind informed that monitoring of poll expenses in Madhya Pradesh is being done through a new method and plan. He described poll expenses monitoring as vital for free and fair polls. For the first time, nodal officers have been appointed for poll expenses monitoring in the state for ensuing elections. Concrete arrangements have been made to impart training to officers for poll expenses monitoring as per module. Director Training Shri A.K. Bisaria proposed a vote of thanks at the conclusion of the first session.
During the second session, Shri B.B. Garg made video display of laws pertaining to poll expenses monitoring, rules & regulations and case studies. In the third session, Shri S.K. Mehandiratta informed about model code of conduct, paid news, MCMC, rules & regulations, election-related laws, case studies, poll expenses monitoring etc.
Meeting with political parties
During a meeting with recognised political parties’ representatives at Chief Electoral Office, Shri P.K. Das informed them about Election Commission’s measures to curb use of muscle and money power during elections. He informed that black money is used much more in India during elections than other countries. Transportation of money upto a limit is not illegal, its excessive use for poll benefits is a crime.
Shri Das urged political parties to prevent use of money power during elections. He said that distribution of cash, liquor and other goods to voters amounts to bribing them, for which there is penal provision also. A candidate not submitting details of poll expenses within time through prescribed method can be debarred from contesting elections for three years. According to Shri Das, expenses limit for candidate for Vidhan Sabha is Rs. 16 lakh and Lok Sabha Rs. 40 lakh. There is no limit on expenses made by parties, but they will have to submit details within time-limit. A separate monitoring department has been constituted at Election Commission. Poll expenses monitoring cell has been set up in every district, comprising deputy district election officer and other teams. The team will comprise video surveillance, video viewing, media monitoring, accounting, surveillance team for unauthorised money, call center, poll expenses monitoring cell and assistant expenses observers.
According to Shri Das, the commission has advised political parties to avoid exchange of cash during elections and candidates/agents not to carry cash exceeding Rs. 50 thousand. He informed that various measures have been initiated by the commission to monitor poll expenses. According to it, candidate will have to open his separate account in a bank or post office a day before filing his nomination papers. The account will be monitored everyday. In every district, 24X7 call centre and complaint monitoring system will be set up. Flying squad, surveillance team and other agencies will start operating soon after announcement for elections. These teams will include officers of Income Tax and other departments. The teams will maintain norms of courteousness and decency while confiscating unauthorised money. Nominations, public meetings, rallies etc. will be videographed. Video surveillance teams will also be constituted in every constituency. Similarly, expenses monitors for districts and assistant expenses supervisors for constituencies will be appointed. An accounting team has been constituted for every district and media certification and monitoring team in every constituency. District poll expenses monitoring committees have also been constituted. Watch will be kept on airports, railway stations, hotels, farmhouses, money touts, courier services etc. for transfer of unauthorised money. Star campaigners will be exempted from expenses. Lists of star campaigners should be sent within 7 days of issuance of election notification by parties’ central headquarters to the commission. If candidate travels with star campaigner, he will have to deposit 50 percent of the travel expenses in his account. Helicopters and aircraft to be used for elections, people boarding them and their belongings will be checked. Information about expenses on pamphlets and banners and printing of posters will have also to be given.
Shri J.P. Dhanopia of Indian National Congress, Shri J.H. Lodha, Shri Govind Arya and Shri Akhilesh Jain of Bharatiya Janata Party, Shri Shailendra Kumar Shaily and Shri Roop Singh of Communist Party of India, Shri Raju Bhatnagar and Smt. Aneesha Kaplish of NCP, Shri Surendra Jain of Communist Party of India (M), Shri Rajaram of BSP etc. were present at the meeting.
Discussions with district collectors: Through videoconferencing, Shri P.K. Das and Shri Jaideep Govind held discussions with district collectors regarding prevention of black money during elections. They directed that flying squads and surveillance teams should be trained before announcement of elections. All districts should keep stationery ready for day-to-day records. They also directed to keep collection of election-related directives and guidelines of the commission with them. Shri Das said that concrete arrangements should be made for pre-poll and post-poll training. Besides, there should be a system to register complaints 24X7. All districts should remain alert against distribution of liquor and use of paid news. He informed that the commission has also instituted a national award for monitoring poll expenses and curbing use of black money. He advised districts to streamline their vigilance systems before elections.
Shri Das directed for constitution of district-level MCMC, appointment of assistant expenses observer, video surveillances & other teams, fixation of rates of vehicles etc. Directives about holding workshops of political parties to monitor poll expenses, review of criminal cases against members of political parties, 24X7 control rooms, call centres etc were also given. Shri B.B. Garg was also present on the occasion.