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Election Commission Plans Fast Track Courts to Expedite Voter Bribery Cases

Tamil Nadu has registered the highest number of cases at 10,354, out of which 7,865 have been charge-sheeted. The southern state is followed by Punjab with 2,471 cases, Uttar Pradesh with 1,838 cases and Karnataka with 1,599 cases, respectively.

Sakshi Khanna | CNN-News18

Updated:January 8, 2018, 12:43 PM IST
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Election Commission Plans Fast Track Courts to Expedite Voter Bribery Cases
Women voters in a queue show their voter identity card as they wait to cast their vote at a polling booth. (PTI)
Hyderabad: Taking a strong note of money power being flexed during polls, the Election Commission of India plans to write to Union Ministry for Law and Justice to set up fast-track courts for quicker resolution of cases under this ambit.

According to data collected by the EC in response to an RTI, over 18,000 cases have been lodged across 18 states under Section 171 of IPC, in the last five years. Under Section 171-B of IPC, distributing money to voters is bribery and as per section 171-E, the person shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of one year or with a fine or both.

In its response to the Forum of Good Governance petition, ECI chief public information officer replied, "For quick disposal or for logical conclusion of cases booked under Section 171 IPC during various elections, it has been decided to collect information, statistics from the chief electoral officers of all states, Union territories about the number of cases filed, disposed of and pending during the last five years before writing to Ministry of Law & Justice, Govt of India for setting up of fast-track courts. Till now only 18 states/UT replied."

Tamil Nadu has registered the highest number of cases at 10,354, out of which 7,865 have been charge-sheeted. The southern state is followed by Punjab with 2,471 cases, Uttar Pradesh with 1,838 cases and Karnataka with 1,599 cases, respectively.

Demanding action before next 2019 Lok Sabha Elections, Padmanabha Reddy, Secretary of Forum for Good Governance told News18, "During every election, cases of voter bribing are registered, still, not a single politician has been punished till now. Despite FIR's against them, most of the cases are either pending in Courts or the charges are yet to be framed. Candidates without any fear of law continue the criminal act. To ensure fair elections, this trend must stop."

As per data gathered by the forum from various police stations across Telangana, 543 cases were found registered during 2014 general elections under Section 171.

In 7 cases, names of sitting MLA's were also mentioned in the FIR. This includes prominent names of Telangana Congress chief Uttam Kumar Reddy and even Assembly Speaker S Madhusudhana Chary. While these cases await trial, the complaint against Telangana Forest Minister Jogu Ramanna, which was booked with the Adilabad town station, has been closed by the police.

In Hyderabad alone, a whopping Rs 16.73 crore of cash was seized and 94 cases were registered under Section 171.

Mahboobnagar district recorded the highest number of cases (107), with Rs 6.34 crore cash being seized there. This was followed by Nizamabad, where 101 cases were registered and Rs 2.17 crore cash seized. Karimnagar was third with 94 cases and Rs 3.15 crore seized and Medak, where 26 cases were registered with Rs 3.28 crore cash being seized.

"Usually party worker are the ones involved in distribution of money. In some cases where the candidate is present, he is named in the FIR but is shown as A2 or A3. When a case is booked, along with money, party literature and voter list are also seized. This gives enough clues to establish the linkage with the candidate. Police registers case against person distributing money but inquiry to link with contesting candidate is not done. Police fail to produce enough evidence. The problem is that the Election Commission’s power diminishes after the election is over. The cases are then left to the respective state government, who take it slow," added Padmanabha Reddy.

In Telangana alone, Rs 150 crore cash was seized during 2014 elections and more than 10,000 cases were booked for various violations.

According to political analysts, Rs 5-10 crore are spent during elections for an MLA seat, whereas, expenditure for an MP seat may range between Rs 25-50 crores. During the recent Nandyal or RK Nagar by-poll, analysts say over Rs 100 crore was spent, with the value of each vote going up to Rs 6000.

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| Edited by: Aditya Nair
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