The Election Commission on Monday asked the government to amend the electoral law to empower it to either postpone or countermand elections if evidence emerge of use of money to influence voters, a move which comes against the backdrop of parties doling out cash and gifts to woo the electorate.
In a letter to the Legislative Secretary in the Law Ministry today, the Commission said a new clause '58 B' be inserted in the Representation of the People Act to allow "adjournment of poll or countermanding of election on the ground of bribery."
It has requested the government to take "early action" on its proposal.
At present, the Commission has powers under Article 324 of the Constitution to cancel or postpone polls if they have been vitiated due to use of money to get votes.
But now the poll panel wants the government to amend the Representation of the People Act to make use of money power a ground to cancel or countermand polls.
EC officials today said it would be better if the provision to cancel polls on the grounds of use of money is incorporated in the law and the Commission does not have to resort to exercising its constitutional power for the same.
Sources in the Law Ministry said under the proposed clause, EC wants power to "postpone the poll in the affected polling area or areas to such later date as the Commission may deem appropriate in the facts and circumstances of the case, appoint a fresh date..."
In case where the poll has already taken place in the affected polling area, EC wants authority under law to declare the poll as "void" and decide on a fresh day to hold the elections afresh.
The proposed clause further provides that "if satisfied that in view of the large number of polling areas involved in the incidents of bribery, the result of the election in the constituency is likely to be affected, (the EC can) countermand the election in that constituency."
The Commission said in Section 58 A and the proposed clause 58 B, the expression 'countermand the election' "shall mean rescinding of the entire electoral process in the constituency ab initio (from the beginning) so that the election in the constituency may be called anew in all respects."
Provision 58 A in the R P Act, inserted in 1989, allows EC to cancel polls only if muscle power has been used or booths have been captured to influence the outcome of elections.
In his letter to the Legislative Secretary, EC's Principal Secretary K F Wilfred noted that "over a period of time and especially in the recent years, misuse of money power is seen to be having a serious vitiating effect on the conduct of free and fair elections."
On May 27, EC had recommended to the Tamil Nadu Governor to cancel the notification to hold polls to the Arvakurichi and Thanjavur Assembly constituencies following evidence that a large sum of money was used to influence the voters there.
Tamil Nadu had gone for Assembly polls on May 16 after which AIADMK returned to power for a second consecutive term.
The EC is yet to announce fresh schedule to hold elections in the two constituencies.
The Commission had used its constitutional powers in March 2012 recommending to the President cancelllation of the notification for a Rajya Sabha biennial election from Jharkhand even after the polling had concluded after it found that money was used to influence voters.
The Commission had on June 3 asked the Chief Electoral Officer of Karnataka to give a factual report of a recent sting operation that purportedly showed a group of MLAs demanding money for supporting a candidate for the June 11 Rajya Sabha polls.