The Supreme Court on Monday quashed a petition seeking a minimum punishment of two years for electoral offences by candidates and political parties, reported PTI. A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice AM Khanwilkar, and Justice DY Chandrachud was hearing a plea filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay that sought to make electoral offences, including bribery, false statement, and undue influence cognisable. This would allow the police to make arrests without a warrant.
“Heard and dismissed,” said the bench.
The petitioner alleged that instances of bribery in all elections had risen. “The change in law has become necessary as there have been increasing incidents of bribery being detected in all elections, from local body polls to Lok Sabha elections,” said Upadhyay. “This is because, currently, bribery is a non-cognisable offence attracting only minimal punishment.”
Under the existing law, bribery and impersonation in elections are are punishable by up to a year in prison, or a fine, or both. Publishing a false statement in connection with elections invites a fine only.
The petitioner cited the Election Commission of India’s recommendation to the government in 2012 that the law be amended to make election bribery, both in cash and in kind, a cognisable offence. This would have enabled the police to arrest the accused without a warrant and to increase punishment up to two years, said the petition.
While the Union Home ministry told the poll panel that the process to amend sections 171B and 171E (both dealing with bribery) of the Indian Penal Code had been initiated, the government has not taken any steps in this regard so far, the petition said.