ECI can probe poll-time bribery charges, says Meena

Action can be recommended if complaints are found true

The Election Commission of India (EC) can probe allegations of bribe payment to persons to contest or not to contest the elections, according to Teeka Ram Meena, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Kerala.

The commission can seek a report on such complaints either from the police or from the District Collector concerned. If found true, action can be recommended against the persons concerned under the Representation of People’s Act and the Indian Penal Code (IPC), Mr. Meena told The Hindu.

The allegations

The stand of the CEO becomes relevant in the wake of the allegations that BJP State president K. Surendran had paid ₹10 lakh to tribal leader C.K. Janu to contest the Assembly election from Sulthan Bathery. In another development, former BSP leader K. Sundara had gone on record that the BJP leaders had paid him ₹2.5 lakh and a mobile phone not to contest from the Manjeswaram against Mr. Surendran. Mr. Surendran has denied the allegations.

Section 123 of the Act defines bribery as any gift, offer or promise by a candidate or his agent or by any other person with the consent of a candidate to any person to induce him to contests or not to contest, or to withdraw or not to withdraw candidature in an election. The receipt of, or agreement to receive, any gratification for contesting or not contesting, or for withdrawal or non withdrawal of candidature would also amount to bribery.

Imprisonment, fine

T. Asaf Ali, former Director General of Prosecution, says Section 171 F of the IPC prescribes imprisonment up to one year or fine or both to a person convicted of the offence of bribery under the sections dealing with offences related to elections. The code defines electoral right as the right of a person to contest or not to contest an election or to withdraw or not to withdraw candidature or to vote or refrain from voting in an election. Any gratification offered as an inducement to exercise or not to exercise a person’s electoral right would be considered as bribe, he said.

The complaints submitted to the Election Commission of India would normally forwarded to the office of the Chief Electoral Officer concerned. Till now the office has not received any such complaints, Mr. Meena said.

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